Best Photoshop free alternatives – our top 5 picks of 2023

Here are some great Photoshop alternatives that you can try out for free

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Today, we’re sketching out our top picks of the best Photoshop free alternatives. Photo editing plays a huge role in the lives of photographers, graphic designers, and video editors, but with tech equipment being so pricey, paying for a software subscription such as Adobe Photoshop can be an unnecessary extra cost. That’s why we’re checking out some of the best free Photoshop alternatives. From those editing on mobile to those using Mac or Windows iOS devices, we’ve outlined a variety of Photoshop-like editing software that you can use for free. Let’s get started!

How we picked the best free alternatives to Photoshop

Picking the best Photoshop alternatives required drawing on our knowledge of creative software and what makes them good. Our research focused on several factors across the apps, selecting the software that was the easiest to use, and had the ability to add graphic elements such as text, as well as advanced elements such as filters, layer masks, and blending modes.

Most importantly, the software has to be open-source, so that a paid subscription won’t be a barrier to the experience of your image editing. Ultimately, we wanted an experience that provided a bit more than just basic photo editing, giving you a taste of the Adobe Photoshop experience without the hefty subscription price.

For more budget software picks, check out our guide to the best free word processors.

Best overall Photoshop free alternative

Gimp

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is up there as one of the best free open-source alternatives to Photoshop for photo and image editing. While not as full-featured as Photoshop, GIMP boasts a robust set of tools for tasks like photo retouching, image composition, and graphic design. It’s available on multiple platforms such as Windows, Mac, and Linux, and similarly to Photoshop, it has an active community of developers continually adding new features and improvements. This includes a Reddit page that hosts over 233,000 members.

For casual users or even professionals on a budget, GIMP represents a powerful option without the cost and licensing restrictions of Photoshop. While the interface and workflow naturally differ a bit from Adobe’s software, with some time and practice, GIMP can handle high levels of image manipulation tasks at no cost. For its combination of professional-grade tools, active development, cross-platform availability, and lack of cost, GIMP stands as the best free alternative to Photoshop for many users. It’s also a strong contender as one of our top picks for the best free drawing software in 2023.

Best Photoshop free alternative for beginners

Pixlr editor

Pixlr is an excellent free online photo editor for beginners looking to learn photo editing. On the whole, Pixlr provides a simple, intuitive interface and a good selection of basic editing tools ideal for new users. Some of the app’s standout features that make it a great introduction to the realm of photo editing include easy cropping and resizing of images, simple filter effects, and automatic one-click enhancements to improve image quality instantly. It also has paint, text, and shape tools for simple image overlays and annotations.

Unlike more complex image editors such as Photoshop, Pixlr has a shallow learning curve, meaning it’s fairly easy to get to grips with using the software and its features. Additionally, it doesn’t require any software installation: everything runs in the browser, making it highly accessible. While more advanced users may want more complex tools, Pixlr is a fantastic free editor for newbies to experiment with core image adjustment skills without getting too overwhelmed. Overall, its ease of use and quick sharing options make Pixlr a top choice for dipping your toes into entry-level photo editing.

Best Photoshop free alternative for professionals

Photopea

Photopea is one of the more advanced online photo editors that provides professional-level tools without requiring the download of desktop software. With an interface similar to Photoshop, it offers many of the same sophisticated capabilities such as working with layers, masks, filters, and advanced selection tools. It includes a variety of tools for comprehensive image editing, retouching, compositing, text and shape editing, as well as manual brush tools for more detailed work. So not only does Photopea have a similar layout to Photoshop, but it also has the functions to back it up.

For professionals who need a somewhat sophisticated image manipulation on the go, without the cost and restrictions of Photoshop, Photopea is an excellent option. Its broad toolset and familiar workflow allow professionals to maintain their graphics and photo editing standards no matter where they are. Conveniently, Photopea supports high-resolution images and all major file types, allowing professionals to work with their existing graphics and photography projects. While not a complete substitute for desktop software, Photopea provides impressive professional-grade functionality; all in the convenience of a web app. If investing in using a free editing software is saving you some money, why not check out our picks of the best laptops for photo editing?

Best Photoshop free alternative for brand consistency

Canva

Out of all the free alternatives to Photoshop, Canva is certainly one that’s become a mainstream choice. It combined an intuitive interface, pre-made templates, and quick simple editing tools, marking itself as one of the easiest and most accessible free design software out there. It features a variety of different fonts and graphics, as well as layers that remain separate so you can move your individual elements around, in front, and behind each other.

However, what makes it stand out from the crowd is its real-time collaboration features and accessibility across devices, making it perfect for maintaining brand consistency across teams. By sharing a link, you can invite team members to share real-time comments and reactions as you work, and add design insights to track the progress of your projects. The ability to share your designs as templates makes Canva perfect for teams that are going for a consistent look or brand aesthetic. Although Photoshop has more advanced capabilities, Canva’s ease of use and speed make it preferable for casual users doing basic design tasks. Naturally, Canva lacks the deep editing functionality of Photoshop, but for most day-to-day design needs, it gets the job done with fewer frills and more convenience.

If you’re wondering about the differences between Canva and Canva Pro, we’ve covered the rundown between Canva free vs paid here.

Best Photoshop free alternative for using custom brushes

Krita

As an open-source raster graphics editor designed primarily for digital art and 2D animation, Krita rivals Photoshop when it comes to the use of custom brushes. Krita provides a powerful and free option for those looking to move away from the cost of subscribing to software such as Photoshop. Krita has an approachable interface that makes the artistic tools easy to use for painting, sketching, and texturing, and on the whole the brush engines and coloring tools rival Photoshop in capabilities. Layers and masks allow for non-destructive editing, and you can still leverage the advantage of easy sharing and exporting of files.

The main downsides are that the photo manipulation tools aren’t as complex as Photoshop’s, and the learning curve may be steeper than beginner-friendly options such as Canva. But for illustrators, concept artists, and texture painters who want sophisticated tools for free, Krita is an excellent alternative to aid creativity without the monthly subscription costs.

PC Guide’s View

So, hopefully this list of some of the best Photoshop free alternatives acts as a starting point for your own journey of creativity. While each individual software excels in its own way, personal preference and needs will naturally play a big part in which one is the right choice for you. Cartoonists and illustrators will benefit more from the features available in Krita, whereas Photopea has many of the more advanced photo editing capabilities that a more skilled photo editor might need. However, GIMP, Pixlr, and Canvaall standout software for different reasons, and are successful software in their own right. If you have the time, it would be worth it to experiment with working across a variety of apps to see which one best suits your individual style.

Marla writes across a wide range of topics across PC Guide, including AI, PC hardware, and news on the latest tech releases. She's a passionate writer that's interested in the future of technology.