Software compare

Five image editors for graphics novices

Today's image editing apps tend to be pretty sophisticated, with more bells and whistles than everyone needs or wants. Here are a few simpler alternatives.

When your users take pictures with a digital camera, they often want to tweak them a bit and perhaps print or post them on the Internet. Occasionally, they may also need a simple graphic design. At the same time, the mainstream graphics editors, like Adobe Photoshop, are simply too difficult (and too expensive) for the novice to use. Here are five applications to consider if your users (or you) need to do simple graphics editing at a lower, even free, cost. Some of them are more advanced than others, so you will want to take a look at each one and see which ones are best suited for the skill level.

1: Adobe Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop Elements is a low-cost, easier-to-use version of the graphics editing powerhouse Photoshop. Photoshop Elements lacks the functionality to cover the full project lifecycle of a professional graphics artist -- for example, it does not have the tools needed to prepare something for a true print shop. But for the amateur photographer or new Webmaster, Photoshop Elements is a good way to get your feet wet with a capable tool at a reasonable price.

2: Paint.NET

Paint.NET is a free application for Windows that offers a good amount of functionality without the complexity of other applications. It supports the creation of plugins in C#, which means that plenty of developers already have the skills needed to extend it to support their creative vision. Like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and most other major graphic editors, Paint.NET uses the layer metaphor.

3: Fatpaint

Fatpaint is a zero-install, free (for noncommercial use), Web-based image editor. While Fatpaint supports both raster and vector image editing, its UI really walks you through concepts that other editors just leave you hanging with. In contrast to most image editors, Fatpaint uses a model where everything is an object to be treated separately, not pixels in a layer, which is a bit easier (I think) for new artists to work with.

4: Picassa

Most people who have never used Picassa know it as a picture-sharing system, but it has basic editing tools as well. While its toolset is limited, someone with very basic needs (cropping, removing redeye, adding text, and similar tasks) and no desire to learn how to use a full-fledged graphics editor will be able to get some miles out of it. From there, they can easily post their pictures for everyone to see.

5: Corel PaintShop Photo Express

Corel PaintShop Photo Express takes many of the more powerful tools you would find in a product like PaintShop Pro and puts them in a More Tools section so that beginners do not have to be confused by overwhelming options. It also has tools to lead you through common projects, like making photo books, and it includes an automated tool for correcting common photo problems.

Other apps?

Have you come across a good image editor for beginners or users who don't need a bunch of sophisticated features? Share your recommendations with other TechRepublic members.

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

31 comments
krefting.fred
krefting.fred

I use iphoto on the mac and it works well and it's comes standard with the mac. It also allows you to process RAW files which gives you more control over the finished product.

Doug719
Doug719

Zoner seems a lot faster than Picassa on my computer and has a fairly good editor for beginners. This thread is for beginners, right? There are several others listed in the comments that I have looked at and are also interesting and good. I don't think there is a shortage of FREE editors for beginners.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

A couple of others have mentioned it, too. Did you consider it too advanced for novices?

DanBubis
DanBubis

Try pixlr.com, a great web based image editor. Pixlr has some great features including layers but easy to use tools like red-eye removal.

ross.smith
ross.smith

Basic editor, free for non-commercial use works well

LorinRicker
LorinRicker

Gimp is the FOSS standard for image/photo editing on Linux, but like PhotoShop (and even Elements), it's feature-rich, and therefore as intimidating as these others for new or casual users. I've recently installed and become impressed with the digiKam photo manager, which includes a simple Image Editor (likely pretty similar to what Picasa can do). digiKam is really a powerful and comprehensive photo manager, with light table features for image comparisons; powerful cataloging, sorting, grouping, finding and tagging; batch queuing; Exif & other metadata editing; import/export to/from PicasaWeb, SmugMug, FB, Flickr, iPod, scanner, etc.; geolocation; print assistant; and more. Linux doesn't get left out in this app-space at all!

soniraptor
soniraptor

I just found this last night by coincidence. From any photo in Picassa, you can click on the "Actions" menu item, and select "Edit in Picnik." Your photo will open in the Picnik interface which includes basic, advanced, and funky features. Most features are free, but the extra funky stuff is "premium."

clebermag
clebermag

I'm Surprised that IrFanView is not mentioned here. The feature Selection -> Ctrl+Y is the master function, but there are many others features. For someone that reads this article, take a look at this graphic editor. You will be surprised too.

Nick@NickOlson.net
Nick@NickOlson.net

I like LView Pro from www.LView.com as it's fast. Wish they would add support for RAW images, though.

Alchemist-Joat
Alchemist-Joat

This is a great image editor. It also (as its name implies) converts from almost any image format to almost any image format. It is less expensive than Photoshop Elements. Find it at www.lemkesoft.com

joethejet
joethejet

Have to say I'm not an expert on the topic, but when I was looking for a free editor, it came up frequently on the lists that I could find. Anyone else using it?

a.portman
a.portman

I have used paint.net for several years. How good is it? I have used it to create entries on worth1000.com

GregorTech
GregorTech

Hello folks, I do a lot of image work for texturing our 3D model textures. Photoshop is certainly the way to go however here are a couple of other options. NeoPaint is a fairly inexpensive option with a fairly good tool set. Many of the common tools you might need. The one draw back is that the app does not use layers. You can get around it with some mask and copy paste tricks. http://www.neosoftware.com/npw.html The second option is Serifs DrawPlus x.4 or later A really good program for working with vector graphics. Produces some very high quality graphics. Excellent tool set! Draw backs...for me it was a steep learning curve to learn the API. Otherwise a great program for its price. http://www.serif.com/free-graphic-design-software/

jmarjr
jmarjr

easy and intuitive to use. has a lot of features. I particularly like the 'stitch' feature.

maj37
maj37

I used to use the Photo Editor that came with Office but the last 2 releases didn't have it, then I found this one it is great, simple, and has the paste as new image feature that I love.

wunderdojo
wunderdojo

http://www.aviary.com is an online image editor that offers nearly the level of functionality of the full version of Photoshop for free. There are options to update to a paid account which gives you additional online storage of your images but the free version will let you do anything you need. Also has a great plugin for Chrome (and probably others) that lets you capture all or part of a screen and easily mark it up in their app., then share the annotated version as a link, emailed image, etc. Been using it for a few weeks now and it really blows me away how well it works.

daviddag
daviddag

MS Picture Manager comes bundled with Office 2003 upwards. While this may not have the bells & whistels, such as vectoring & layers, it can crop, adjust colour, resize/compress and export to other formats. Very easy to use.

rsp
rsp

I use Paint.NET for simple, portable photo-editing; Photoshop for extensive editing; and XnView for portable photo organization, simple editing, etc. Little known XnView (www.xnview.com, from France) is similar to IrfanView and FastStone, but much more flexible and free too.

lawlormj
lawlormj

I second the recommendation for the FastStone product and prefer the viewer to Picasa for organization and renaming files. It has a decent set of tools that make it ideal for quick resizing, light adjustment, cropping, etc. with a preview feature that allows you to continuously see the effect of your changes alongside the original.

kajunmanbr
kajunmanbr

FastStone Image Viewer. It's free for personal and educational use. Has a great Batch Rename or Batch Convert tool. I personally like the Batch Rename tool. It really comes in handy when you've got a large number of pics you want to name and put in order. The browser is great. Just have to try it to see how great it is.

don.lewis
don.lewis

Very interesting and inexpensive image editor that takes a new and intuitive approach to editing.

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north face store

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marcanti
marcanti

A little correction... The Fatpaint ( http://Fatpaint.com ) graphic design software also support layers. So you can choose to work on the object level, layer level and path level.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

You could replace numbers 3,4 and 5 with IrfanView and had a shorter list to post. Make IrfanView your new number 1, with Paint.net #2... let the others fight it out for the crumbs. Although IrfanView is a Windows app, it should run in Wine. You also failed to mention Gimp, multi-platform and free as well.

marcanti
marcanti

FastStone is an image viewer... Can't you guys read? This article is for image editors, not image viewers!

tiredoftechrepublic
tiredoftechrepublic

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marcanti
marcanti

What are you talking about? IrfanView don't belong on this list! Its a graphic viewer not an image editor.

NikonGuy
NikonGuy

While the name indicates it's an image viewer, FastStone is a wonderful image editor. It's not nearly a powerful as some but you can adjust lighting, colors, levels, curves, sharpening and you can apply some effects. You can rotate (in 0.1 degree increment) and crop. As previously mention it has some great batch features. So, it is more than a viewer. I suggest, marcanti, you do at least some little research before making such brash comments. As the saying goes, "you can't judge a book by its cover." Once you open the cover of FastStone you'll find a very helpful tool for light, simple adjustments to images. By the way, the image viewer is very good too.

najwalaylah
najwalaylah

Wrong. I don't believe you're familiar with IrfanView. It has several image editing capabilities available.

seanferd
seanferd

Especially if you load the plugins, even more so if you throw more supported filter sets into it. edit: Note also that "image" != "photograph", if that is what you are thinking, but you'd still be wrong on this basis anyway.