Free Alternatives to Photoshop

Anyone who’s ever dabbled in website design has probably needed to use image editing software at one time or another. To many it might appear as if there are only one or two options out there. The primary option being an expensive program from Adobe called Photoshop that costs around $300, and a few others like PaintShop Pro and Pixelmator that range from $50 to $100. However, there are two other powerful options that are completely free.

Gimp

While the name might conjure up thoughts of a Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” Gimp stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program (GNU is free software licensing system). The best feature of Gimp is its price tag…free. This open source software is a powerful alternative to Adobe’s Photoshop featuring the ability to create graphic designs through layering images.

It has an extensive plug-in library that continually grows, offering new features for graphic image manipulation. Some developer or user might create a plug-in that makes a photo look like a velvet painting. You can then download these plug-ins and use them free of charge in your version of Gimp.

Gimp also supports the Adobe Photoshop format for paintbrushes. These are a powerful tool within the application that are generally themed and make it easy to add potent imagery to your work. Paintbrushes may be themed around gardens, Japanese letters, Goth imagery, cars or just about anything you can imagine. They’re a flexible, powerful way to take your logos or website images to the next level.

Find this program at http://www.gimp.org.

Inkscape

Another powerful, free program for creating images is Inkscape. Unlike Gimp, which is a raster-based image manipulation program, Inkscape is a vector drawing program. While Gimp is intended for editing photos in the jpg, png or gif format and best suited to handling photorealistic images, Inkscape’s vector drawing is great for icons, logos and more cartoonish images.

Vector drawing programs are based on building, coloring and manipulation shapes. Raster programs like Gimp are pixel-based and this means that when you scale an image to a larger or smaller size, you run the risk of losing image fidelity. Programs like Inkscape and their expensive cousins (Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw) are the perfect tool when you want to create logos that might be presented in many different dimensions.

Most clip art that is not photography based is created using some sort of vector drawing program. Inkscape uses the Scalable Vector Graphic file extension (.svg) which is open standard and means that your graphics file will easily transfer to other programs and be usable.

Find this program at inkscape.org.

Is Open Source for Everyone?

Of course! It’s free! That’s the whole point. There are downsides to using these applications. While you can find hundreds of books on using Adobe’s Photoshop, you’ll only find a handful on Gimp and Inkscape.

Some people love to buy books to learn, but I say that’s actually a disadvantage because again you’re out another $30-$50 bucks per book.

There are plenty of video tutorials on You Tube that can teach you how to use the programs and become very competent. So the investment you make will be time, not money.

If you’re in need of a program that will help you create images for your website that are compelling, but can’t afford a copy of Adobe’s Photoshop – you’d be wise to take a look at these two amazing open source graphics programs.

Selling Your Freelance Photos Online – Finding a Good Photo Editing Alternative to Photoshop

One of the most important resources a freelance digital photographer can have is a digital editing program like Photoshop. If you are selling your photos online, it definitely helps to edit your photos to a professional quality. If it’s just altering your color scheme, fixing lighting or adding filters, it can all be done by using a program such as Photoshop. A big problem that I get in my inbox from freelance digital photographers is how expensive Adobe Photoshop is for the newest version. If you don’t know, Adobe Photoshop is around $500.00, and although it is a great professional tool, it can be a little absurd and superfluous to have so many tools that aren’t going to be used. You may just want a digital editing program to fix slight changes and aren’t really going to be using the tools for graphic design. You need to find an alternative program that won’t send your wallet to the cleaners.

Your options may be slightly limited, as far as quality and robust digital editing software goes. But there are tons of different options that cut the cost way down. An option that has been getting more popular but can be considered a little bit too gimmicky and not professional enough is online based editing (web based editing). This offers you some basic editing options and a few clever online ideas but falls way short of an Adobe product. What an online based editing program lets you do is; edit everything from the internet without downloading a program. Check out the link at the bottom to see a complete list of sites where you can try out these programs. They are usually free and are very easy to use, but as I said before, they are limited.

If you don’t mind spending some money, then you can get a more basic version of Photoshop called Elements. It’s also by Adobe, and offers you the most comprehensive tools that you can get for the money. This would be your best second option if you are a freelance digital photographer because, it is great for beginners and veterans trying to sell their photos online. Obviously the main downside is that you are still going to be spending a little bit of money. The program cost around $90.00. Still, if you think you want to sell your digital photos to buyers online and you’re in for the long haul, you probably can invest under $100.00 for picture perfectness. You can find the program on Adobe’s site.

Lastly, the only option you have left is to get a find a program online that you can download for free and use whenever you want. These programs are great for beginners, they don’t offer as little as the web based programs and don’t offer as much as Elements or Photoshop would, but still get the job done. The main attraction these programs have is their cost, they are usually free. The downside once again is, they lack a lot of the more professional tools and they don’t have the greatest user friendly interfaces. Some of these programs are a little bit buggy, meaning, they might not work with your hardware, or have they’ll have problems saving files and such. Also, you need to check if they can run on a Mac, if you do indeed own a Mac. You can find a list of the program descriptions and links at the bottom of this page.

There are your Photoshop alternatives, you might need to do some research to find which one best suites you, but I don’t recommend going without any digital editing software. Buyers want to purchase the utmost quality that sometimes your digital camera can’t always master. Read some of my other tutorials to find out more on picture editing.

Free Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is an amazing piece of software, but it comes at quite a high cost.  If you’re a hobbyist or freelancer on a budget, there are several free alternatives image editors out there that might be right for your needs.  Here are several of the options available to you:

GIMP

Often hailed as the cream of the crop, GIMP has amassed a loyal and large user base.  There are those out there that actually prefer GIMP to Photoshop, and its feature set is amazingly robust for a free piece of software.  GIMP is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and a few other operating systems.  

Photoscape

This editor is not as feature rich as GIMP, but arguably has an easier to digest interface and tailors itself to making fun enhancements to photos a snap to execute.  Worth a look if you’re into adding simple effects to your images.

Paint.NET

This is a favorite of pixel artists, as its interface and feature set lend itself well to creating art used in video games and the like.  Far from its only use though, the software includes many commonly used features in Photoshop.  I’ll often open up Paint.NET to perform simple operations such as resizing when I wish to avoid the overhead of opening the resource hungry Photoshop.  

Pixia

Originally developed for a Japanese audience, Pixia shows its roots by offering an impressive array of tools for the graphic artist.  This application is ideal for manga, cartooning, and digital sketching.  The windowed interface similar to GIMP, and is a breeze to use after a moderate intital learning curve.

Those are four of the best free image editing applications available, but there are many more offerings floating around out there.  Some of them may be more specialized to your specific needs, so don’t be afraid to search around and try as many as you want.