Best Free & Premium Photo Editing Apps, Tools, and Software for Windows, Mac

If you’re a beginner to the world of photo editing, the first thing you need to find is the software that you’ll use to do your editing. Even if you’re more skilled, you may be looking for a step up or perhaps to save some money by switching to cheaper software. Adobe switching to a subscription model has made Photoshop somewhat prohibitive for individuals these days.

Image editing is useful just to add minor adjustments to a picture or to retool completely it for a particular purpose. The key to being a skillful image editor is to find the right software for you and put in the time to learn it. If you don’t, then the software can’t magically help you.

Here, we’ll look at ten different image editing utilities that work for a variety of different needs. Take a look at them and choose the one you think fits you the best.


It is a free app — it also has a desktop web editor — with what seems like endless editing tools in its all-in-one Photo Editor. A Gold premium subscription will get you way more access, but the free stuff is impressive, too. PicsArt’s offerings include but are not limited to trendy effects and filters, millions of stickers (a Sticker Maker, too), easy-to-use templates, a selfie-enhancing tool called Beautify, and a Replay feature to help you recreate complicated edits in a few taps. You can even save edits according to social media sizing for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. To boot, PicsArt boasts one of the largest creative communities in the world.

Adobe Photoshop

Price: $9.99/month

OS: Windows, Mac

Of course, Photoshop is the undisputed king of the image editing world. Photoshop has become a bit prohibitive due to the monthly subscription, but it’s still the king for companies and individuals.

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Price: $59.99

OS: Windows, Mac

Elements is a small step down from the fully-featured Photoshop. The interface is of course very similar, and it’s directed at people who just want to make minor edits to pictures and not professional-level alterations. For most people looking to touch up photos in their personal collections, Elements will more than do the job. Elements will even help you to organize your media and access it from a mobile device.

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Paint Shop Pro X8

Price: $69.99, $99.99 for Ultimate

OS: Windows

Paint Shop Pro used to be the undisputed king of photo editing. Then Photoshop came into its own. Since then, it’s carved out a niche as a sort of budget Photoshop. A lot of the features are similar, but the interface is quite different. That said, it’s a reliable choice. Some of the nice features here include text wrapping, batch processing, raw file editing, and automatic corrections.


Price: Free

OS: Windows, Mac

Picasa is Google’s offering in the world of image editing. For those looking for a simple consumer-level editor, it’s an adamant choice. Most of what Picasa can do is through preset filters and corrections, but it’s still enough for people looking for easy fixes and edits. It has easy sharing and PC photo management capabilities as well.

Cyberlink PhotoDirector 7 Deluxe

Price: $59.99

OS: Windows, Mac

Photodirector 7 is quite honestly a mirror of Lightroom. It provides a wealth of adjustment capabilities as well as some tools aimed at amateurs who are just getting their feet wet in the world of photo editing. Those are the Beautifier and Reshaping tools. It’s a little bit limited compared to Lightroom, though, and it doesn’t have any capability to export to any other image editor.

Serif Affinity Photo

Price: $49.99

OS: Mac

Once seen as a budget app, Serif has stepped up its game to create a powerful Photoshop rival. The marketing has done well for it, directly attacking Adobe’s subscription-based model. The interface is novel and quite intuitive as well.

PhaseOne Capture One Pro 9

Price: $300

OS: Windows, Mac

Capture One Pro is now a powerful full-featured image editing tool that used to be pretty solidly an entry-level to the mid-tier offering. Nondestructive editing is another addition that’s well appreciated.

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DXO Optics Pro 10

Price: $100

OS: Windows, Mac

This tool used to be quite basic, but it has added a lot of functionality over the years. There are now really powerful raw conversion tools, tone, and color adjustments as well. Unfortunately, on its own, it won’t get the job done. You might need to combine it with a free or cheap additional program to get all of the functionality you want, but it does what it does quite well.

GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)

Price: Free

OS: Windows

This free open-source Photoshop alternative is almost as compelling as its premium cousin. The functionality offered by this free app is staggering, and it rivals just about any premium app on the market. There is an enormous amount of learning involved to make this one work for you, and some parts of it aren’t quite as intuitive as they are in more user-friendly premium offerings, but this powerful tool can almost certainly do what you need to be done.

Serif PhotoPlus

Price: $99.99

OS: Windows

Serif PhotoPlus is a powerful tool by renowned developer Serif. There are of course all the basic image editing tools you need, but there are some advanced offerings as well, including touch-up tools, modifying transparency, batch processing, and defringing. It imports just about any file type and can share directly to Facebook and Flickr.

Did you find what you were looking for in any of these tools? Did we miss your favorite one? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author

Ashlyn Fernandes

Ashlyn is a young communications professional with disciplined training and apt exposure. He has been a voice for a number of media houses in the country and overseas. Travel, Technology, Consumer, Real Estate and Healthcare have been his main areas of practice using conventional messaging with effective digital strategies.