Free Options to Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop has long been one of the premier image-editing computer programs available. If you're a graphic designer, professional photographer, or illustrator, this is probably what you use.  But it isn't cheap, it doesn't run on all operating systems; and it probably includes more functionality than is needed for most hobbyists, scientists, or students, adding to its complexity. Fortunately, there are free options to Photoshop, including some that are easy to use.  Below, we review three of the most popular applications we've used. (We should mention that web-based image editing software exists, as well; but we are not covering web-based options in this article.)

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free, open-source image editor available for Windows, OS X, and Linux. It can easily do photo manipulation and touch-up, graphic design, perform scripted image manipulation, or just create art.  It is very similar to Photoshop. GIMP now has third party plugins to further expand its abilities.  It is available for download at

Inkscape is another free, open-source image-editing software package, also available for Windows, OS X, and Linux. It has all the common tools that one needs to edit and retouch photographs. It also has the Spiral tool that allows you to create all sorts of vines and swirls.  It has a large set of extensions (add-ons) to further expand its abilities. It is very similar to other tools such as Adobe Illustrator, Coral Draw, or Freehand.  It is available for download at started off as a more advanced replacement to Microsoft’s Paint tool but has grown to become a widely used image editing package in its own right. The best thing about this software is its very simple user interface, with easily recognizable icons, making it easier to use than most other image editing programs. While it does not have some of the advanced retouching or selection features, it allows plugins to be installed to do more complicated actions.  It only runs on Windows.  You can download it at

While the above are the three most popular software packages we've seen on campus, there are yet others out there.  These include Krita (WIndows, Mac OS X, and Linux), Seashore (Mac OS X only), Pixlr (for Apple or Android phones), and CinePaint (Linux, Mac OS X), among others. 

Written by Eric Rostetter, Senior System Administrator
Questions or comments? The best and easiest way to contact us is via the CNS Help Desk form.

See also: Linux, OS X, Software, Windows