In this visual and social age, pictures are one of fastest means of grabbing attention. And with Facebook clamping down on post reach, marketing your business on social networks almost requires images to be included.

When you need to post images, you’ll probably want to edit them — and you may not want to shell out the coin for the likes of Photoshop. But what photo editing software can you add to your toolbox without have to spend much (or any) of your budget? Luckily, there are plenty of options. Here are my five favorite affordable photo editors.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.


GIMP (Figure A) is my go-to editor on all occasions. It’s powerful, it’s cross-platform (Windows, Linux, Mac), and it’s free and open source. But unlike a lot of free image editors, GIMP doesn’t skimp on features. You’ll find tons of filters, tools, effects, and options — everything you need to create and edit professional-grade images.

Figure A

GIMP also works with layers, masks, and paths, has a customizable interface (even single-window mode), offers photo-enhancement, works with nearly all popular file formats, supports drag and drop (even from online sources), and much more. If you can use Photoshop, you can use GIMP to the same end ─ it’s that powerful. This is the no-compromise image editor for the budget-strapped consumer.

2: Pixlr Editor

Pixlr Editor (Figure B) is the more robust tool in the Pixlr lineup. It offers plenty of features to entice those looking for a powerful editor they can use from anywhere ─ which, in the end, is one of the few caveats to using Pixlr: It’s an online-only tool. But that does not detract from its features and usability. In fact, for an online tool, Pixlr is impressively customizable. Of course, the ability to customize means you must have an account. Like the tool, the account is free. You can save images to an online image library within your account. You can also save images to local storage, Facebook, Flickr, or Picassa. The array of filters included with Pixlr is impressive and can take care of just about any need you have for image manipulation (blurs, Tilt Shift, Night Vision, and much more).

Figure B

3: Photo Editor by Aviary

Photo Editor by Aviary (Figure C) is a solid entry for the Android platform. With the free version you get some quality effects and tools, and from the in-app shop, you can purchase new effects, frames, stickers, and overlays. Don’t let the fact that Photo Editor contains frames and stickers turn you off. For a mobile image editor, it can do what you need to get done.

Figure C

You won’t be working with nearly the power that GIMP and Pixlr Editor offer, but when you need some quick and cheap on-the-go image edits, Photo Editor by Aviary is a solid choice. And if you install the app and sign in with an Adobe ID (free as well), you can grab all the Photo Editor supplies.

4: PicMonkey

PicMonkey (Figure D) is an online editor that offers the same types of features found in mobile apps, but also lets you add text, do minor touchups, resize/rotate, create texture overlays, and more. The interface is incredibly easy to use, but it can’t work on mobile browsers yet (it requires Flash). A mobile app is in the works, but there’s no release date at the moment.

Figure D

One caveat: You can save only in.jpg or .png format. Although those two formats are fine for most applications, if you’re looking to output to a different format, you’ll have to look elsewhere. But you can save locally, to OneDrive, or to Dropbox.

5: PaintShop Pro

PaintShop Pro (Figure E) has often been hailed as the one true alternative to Photoshop. There’s a reason for that. It’s powerful, it offers a more traditional interface and feature set, and it doesn’t cost nearly as much as Photoshop. You can purchase the full version of PaintShop Pro X7 for $63.99 or PaintShop Pro Ultimate for $79.99. Is it worth the cost (especially considering you can gain the same amount of power for free with GIMP)? For those who need support and a company to fall back on when something goes wrong, sure it’s worth the cost. The feature set is very much inline with all professional image editors and makes some of the challenging aspects of power editing (such as using the Magic Fill tool) a bit easier.

Figure E

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Other picks?

There are many options when it comes to image editing, whether you need simple on-the-go tools or a full-blown image-editing suite. If you don’t have the budget for the de facto standard Photoshop, one of these tools can definitely fit your needs.