21 free programs and applications to retouch photos
We are going to focus mainly on PC applications, although we are also going to include some web applications to use from any browser and other mobile ones. You will also have some apps for mobile and Windows adapted to the PC, with the common point of having a free cost.
We propose these 21 to you, but as we always say in Xataka Basics, we want to invite you to leave us your preferences and proposals in the comments section. Thus, we can all learn from our xatakeros community and discover some projects or tools that we have overlooked.
Darktable is an open-source program that has been created to aspire to replace other paid programs, also offering all the necessary tools for photo retouching. In addition, another of its great strengths is that it is totally cross-platform * and free, being available for Windows, macOS, FreeBSD, and multiple GNU / Linux distributions.
This application is focused on the treatment of photos that come directly from the camera in RAW format, to act as digital development. However, it also has many other touch-up options that can help you.
This is a slightly different alternative to the rest of the list because it is not an application or program like most that we have discussed, but a web application that you run from the browser. Fotor is not an application that seeks to give you all the options in the world, but it is designed to allow you to make quick touch-ups with a single click.
Therefore, it offers you several quick enhancement options for your photos, which make it a quick tool to use. The bad news is that if you only want to touch up specific parts of a photo, then it may fall short. It has a free version and a paid version, the free version being quite complete with options such as editing groups of photos.
GIMP is possibly one of the best photo editing applications you can find. And not only that, but it is open source and completely free, which means that the entire community can see how it works and help to fix bugs and that you will never have to pay anything to use it.
It is a program designed to be a complete alternative to paid Photoshop, so it will not lack the most advanced options to edit your photos, work with layers, and more. It also offers the simplest options, filters, and many other details to use for both quick edits and more complex creations.
Glimpse is a fork of GIMP, which means that its creators have used the open-source GIMP to create a derived application from it. It is an alternative that seeks to bring its interface closer to Photoshop so that it is more similar, and that users who are used to the Adobe application have an easier jump.
It is a very young program that was born after the disagreements with the GIMP mod called PhotoGIMP, and that precisely sought to photoshop GIMP. If you want to give it a try, it is a project that will grow over the months and with the arrival of new versions.
Changing a little third, inPixio is another excellent free photo editor with which you can make various types of retouching. Despite being free, not only does it offer you a large number of filters, but it also adds many editing options that range from effects like taking the old photo to many other better ones, including cropping, color adjustments, and more.
Krita is an excellent digital painting program designed especially for artists who work with illustration, comics, concept art, painting, and more. It is a free and free software tool, with versions for Windows, Linux, and macOS.
It has an instinctive UI that doesn't hinder your work, with boards that you can move and redo to suit your work style. It also has brush stabilizers, a pop-up palette, brush engines, wrap mode, and a resource manager. And obviously, as you imagine, it will also serve you to retouch photographs, although perhaps not so intuitively.
It is another of the most popular and veteran photo editors on the scene. It was originally sponsored by Microsoft, as part of a project of some university students. And after that, the tool began to fly by itself and continue to evolve on its own within the educational field.
Initially, Paint.NET wanted to be a substitute for Microsoft's mythical Paint, but over the years it has become a much more complete tool with quite advanced options, such as adding layers, special effects, and all kinds of advanced editions.
And we are going to finish with the photographic viewer that comes pre-installed in Windows 10, and that is free for all users of the operating system. Photos have several tools for quick retouching for your photos. They are not very advanced tools, basically filters and some quick adjustments, but for quick fixes, it can be useful to know that you do not need to install anything for the essentials.
In addition to quick edits, Photos also has other functions such as drawing on your photo, adding 3D effects such as rain or confetti, animated text, or the possibility of creating videos with music.
Halfway between a social network and a photo editor for smartphones, VSCO is one of those alternatives that you cannot miss on your mobile, especially if you are a user of networks like Instagram. It is an app specialized in allowing you to make quick edits that you can then quickly share on social networks.
On the one hand, the app offers the classic basic editing tools present in all these types of applications, and on the other, it has a large selection of presets and effects ready to be used. In addition, you can also create templates based on your own custom settings to be able to reuse them quickly. It has a paid version with even more presets and filters.
It is another photographic application focused on mobile devices. In fact, it has been one of the best in this field for years, especially because it offers an easy-to-use gesture interface along with a good range of tools. Everything works by swiping your finger to change settings and change the level of each setting.
With Snapseed you will be able to make simple cuts to advanced adjustments such as modifying the orientation of a face or erasing objects. Its main asset is that it is totally free, without ads or surprises. Therefore, you have here everything you will need to edit photos from the limitations of the size of a mobile screen.
Link: App Store and Google Play
It is an application that seeks to be an alternative to Darktable in the digital development of photos, and that is also free and open-source, having versions for GNU / Linux, and the 64-bit versions of macOS and Windows 10. As its name indicates, it has been designed for editing photos in RAW format, although it is also suitable for other common photographic formats.
With its photographic engine you will be able to carry out complete managements in the color of your photos, and also in elements such as its tonality and its exposure. The tool tries to maintain the balance of offering an interface that works for both expert and first-time users of this type of photo editing.
Polarr is an application that became popular when its web version was among the first to offer support for the digital development of RAW files. But it is also a free program for Windows that you can download in the Microsoft Store, offering you all its power natively so you don't depend on your connection.
It is a fairly complete tool that allows you to edit in layers and has its filter system to make quick adjustments to your photos. It also has advanced editing options, with retouching functions, histogram, effects, and all the basic tools that you would expect in a program like this.
It is another powerful web photo editing tool. On its website you will find two types of products, a Pixlr E focused on the most professional photographic editing and with support up to 4K images, and a Pixlr X for quick edits with simpler options so as not to waste much time.
This tool is an open-source, cross-platform alternative to Paint that is also free. Of course, despite being a direct competition from Paint, which has not entered the list due to its limitations, it has some more options with which you can do some basic photo retouching.
In addition to the classic Paint drawing options, Pinta also incorporates adjustments and effects for photo editing, as well as multiple layers to work with, a complete history of changes, and different visualizations for the interface. It is available for both GNU / Linux and Windows, macOS, and FreeBSD.
PicsArt Photo Editor
It is one of the most popular and complete photo editors for mobile devices, although you can also find it in the Windows application store for your PC. With its free version, you can not only create collages of up to 10 images, but you can also edit videos and photos. For this, you have a gallery of tools that allows you to edit the image with different visual effects, as well as cut them to your liking.
The application has different predesigned proportions to be able to upload them to different social networks and websites. You can choose to use Instagram ratios, but also create them for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or YouTube. Nor is it lacking in basic editing tools. It has a paid version with synchronization between devices and more advanced editing options.
Photoshop Express is the younger brother of Adobe's powerful photo application. It does not have so many advanced options, but it offers many of the necessary options to make good photographic edits, being a totally free application. Of course, with reduced compatibility to plain camera files, and files with JPG and PNG formats.
For the rest, the application has an interface adapted to mobile phones, with touch elements and easy access. Even so, you should not worry, because, in addition to Android and iOS, there is also a version in the Microsoft Store to download it on Windows. In all cases, it is a free application.
Personally, I've been using PhotoScape X in Windows 10 for several years now, and all the captures that you see edited in Engadget Basics have been edited with this application. It is a tool that has many functions, from its photo viewer to its complete editor, focused on the basic functions but also with several advanced ones.
You will be able to apply all kinds of color effects and filters to your photos, cuts, and transformations, add figures, combine them, and create collages. You can also edit multiple photos at once, work with layers, apply frames, or work with RAW images. It is a tool in between the basic and the advanced ones, which tries to make it easy for you.
A tool that has several versions, from the mobile version you have for Android, iOS, or Windows 10 adapted to the desktop, to a free version specially made for Windows. It's an alternative to Snapseed and VSCO for quick and easy edits, with a good collection of easy settings and presets. More focused on sharing photos on social networks, but used for quick touch-ups.
We now continue with another web application. There are a large number of online photo editors, but in this list, we will propose a few to focus on installable applications. However, Photopea is a professional-oriented editor, an alternative to Photoshop and GIMP, so good that it's worth keeping it here.
To do this, it has highlights, for example, having the option to work with layers and covers, mixing modes to consolidate layers, choices, and changes, for example, tint, immersion, foggy spots, or modesty. Everything the big boys offer, along with the rest of the basic options. The difference with other alternatives is that it has an interface very similar to Photoshop, seeking to be an online solution for those used to working with the Adobe editor.
This is a professional program that you can download for free, and that combines several free options with other paid options when it comes to allowing you to retouch your photos. The free tool is sufficient for most simple tweaks, with an interface that seeks simplicity of use so that you do not get lost in the menus as can happen with Photoshop or GIMP.
A good feature of this application is that if despite your efforts it seems very complicated to understand, it also offers an optional design for first-time users, which re-adapts everything to an aesthetic based on filters. The great limitation of this free version is that you can only export your photos at a maximum resolution of 1,024x1,024 pixels.
And as a bonus track, let's finish with Canva, which is a design creation program. However, among its huge number of options and tricks, it also offers the possibility of making small photographic retouching, although it is not a tool strictly created for it. In addition, it has several integrations to complement other online tools.