Tech & Work

A free Photoshop alternative: No, it's not GIMP

Many users don't see the point in purchasing Photoshop when there are free alternatives for photo editing, such as GIMP. But Photopea could be a better choice if you're looking for a free Photoshop alternative.

I know, I know: I come off as a big Adobe fanboy when it comes to photo editing. Yes, I enjoy using Lightroom and Photoshop. Yes, I love how the two applications integrate with each other. Yes, I do understand there are other alternative photo editing apps. But I've considered most of them just "alternatives" for me, not go-to apps. Photopea, on the other hand, might just be the app to find its place in my workflow. Maybe.

What is Photopea?

Over the years I've tried apps such as Pixlr and Snapseed to edit photos. These are pretty good apps, but I didn't see them competing with Photoshop. Just about every free open source software advocate has urged me to try GIMP. And while GIMP definitely competes with Photoshop, I couldn't get used to it. On the other hand, Photopea competes with Photoshop and makes for an easy transition. And it's a web application. Yes, a WEB APP! You can even run it on a Chromebook as a Chrome app offline.

ui.jpg

Screenshot: Ant Pruitt

The user interface is so close to Photoshop's UI, it's uncanny. Even the menus and keyboard shortcuts are almost identical. I took a dive right into Photopea to work on a few images and didn't skip a beat with regard to the apps's navigation. You can open most any image file type, as well as Photoshop project files (.PSD) and GIMP project files. Camera RAW images, such as in the screenshot above, open—but manipulation is a little laggy. I thought this was because of the computer I was using. But even on my "beefy" editing rig, Canon's camera RAW files (.cr) lagged during the editing process. I tried running this app within Google Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. All gave the same performance. but DNG files or JPG files worked without a hitch.

SEE: Getting started with drone photography (free TechRepublic PDF)

Different app, same functions

Photopea and Photoshop's similarity in options and effects is fascinating. I like to use Curves adjustments as well as gradient maps in my Photoshop workflow. Photopea allowed me to follow the exact same workflow with ease. The performance was just as quick as Photoshop. Computational photo editing features, such as spot removal and cloning, aren't as fast, but they're effective. You know I love using a high pass filter as part of my sharpening. This option is readily available.

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Screenshot: Ant Pruitt

Photopea pricing

Photopea is free, but you can opt to buy a license that grants you an ad-free experience for $20 per 90 days or $9 per 30 days. I don't like the fact that you have to log in with your Google, Facebook, or GitHub accounts if you want to sync across devices or have an ad-free experience. I don't mind donating to the cause of the developers, but I don't want them using my Google, Facebook, or GitHub account for authentication.

Conclusion

If you're in a pinch and need to edit RAW files or other image files, this works really well. If you're a Photoshop user but are traveling with a Chromebook, this is a great option to work on your Photoshop files. If you don't want to pay a subscription fee for a solid photo editor, this is the route to take. I'll continue to use my paid Adobe Creative Cloud suite of apps, but I do enjoy the fact that I have options to edit and manipulate images for free.

Your picks

Do you have any Photoshop alternatives to recommend? Share your favorites with fellow TechRepublic members in the discussion below.

About Ant Pruitt

Ant Pruitt is an IT Support Professional with a passion for showing the non-geek how great technology can be. He writes for a variety of tech publications and hosts his own podcast. Ant is also an avid photographer and weight lifter.

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