Adobe Photoshop is the most powerful image editor on the planet. Photoshop can do almost everything in the field of graphic designing, agreed. But is it free? Never. It costs a whooping $700 ($699 for US citizens).
If you play intelligently, you might not need Photoshop, there are many freewares which perform various tasks as good as Photoshop. But they don’t do everything.
One tool is good for retouching but you cannot create digital paintings in it. The other is good for adding filters but doesn’t let you create a web layout. So the bottom line is that if you are a professional and you use Photoshop commercially, you might have to stick with it.
But if you are a photographer or an amateur or you use Photoshop for one specific use only, then one of these freewares could be an even better choice. One good thing about freeware is that these are relatively easy to learn.
If there’s anything that can challenge Adobe Photoshop from the freeware category, it is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). This is a powered up program which can work as a full-featured image editor and processor, and you can also work with vector graphics as you do in Adobe Photoshop.
Since GIMP has a different interface compared to Adobe Photoshop the creators of GIMP have now launched GIMPshop. This is still the same free GIMP, but its interface is as much close to Adobe Photoshop as it could be. You can see the screenshots of both the programs below.
Paint.Net is quite an intuitive program, sadly it only runs on Windows yet. This tool does not provide as many functions as GIMP doe,s but I personally feel that Paint.Net is rather more user-friendly and very easy to learn. If you are not a professional, I suggest that you choose this tool instead of Adobe Photoshop.
Seashore is Paint.Net for Apple Macintosh. It does not support Windows yet but if you are using a Mac operating system, then Seashore might be the best option for you. It is easy, simple and powerful. It doesn’t offer as many functions as GIMP, but it does contain the important ones, such as:
- layers and alpha channel support
- gradients and transparency effects
- anti-aliased brushes
- tablet support
- plug-in filters
Photoplus is a paid program while PhotoPlus SE is free. This is a brilliant tool for making basic level editing and finishing touches to photos. This is the best tool if you are an amateur photographer or just a home user.
In Swedish, Krita means crayon. Krita works great for designing illustrations and digital paintings. This tool is meant to create graphics, rather than editing them. So if you want a full-functional editor, you might choose some other program, but if you create graphics, this would be the best freeware tool for you. Krita also has a brilliant set of Vector Tools.
Pixen is another great tool for creating graphics in Mac, it uses a unique left/right tool system. With this system you can assign a different tool to the left and right mouse buttons. This system is very useful for drawing and editing. I personally don’t think this tool is good for everything, but the things it does, it does them greatly.
Artweaver (for Windows) is basically a Photo Filter application program with some good image editing capabilities. It applies artistic effects such as oil paints, acrylics, pastels, pencils, airbrushes, etc. to photos. It supports almost all famous image extensions, including Photoshop’s PSD.
Screenshot Courtesy ImageShack
Pixia was originally designed for creating anime/manga artworks. It has now grown into a vast program and respectable image editor.