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15 Free Photoshop Alternatives With Similar Features in 2023

Last Updated on May. 26, 2023 – by Jayed Miah
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Best Alternatives to Photoshop

If you've ever tried to edit a photo with Photoshop, you know how intimidating and complicated the software can be. Many people consider Photoshop the best photo editor, but unless you have experience and dedicated training with this program, you will find it hard to use and cost-prohibitive. 

Content creators and photographers need easy-to-use, free Photoshop alternatives that allow them to navigate tools and features quickly to post more photos in less time. Thankfully, several excellent free alternatives to Photoshop offer similar features without the high price tag and steep learning curve. In addition, most of these offer free stock images, something even paying for a pricey Photoshop or Adobe Creative Cloud subscription won’t get you. 

This article introduces the 15 best free Photoshop alternatives and compares their features, benefits, and drawbacks.

Top 3 Free Photoshop Alternatives Snapshot

PhotoDirector Logo

1. PhotoDirector Essential - Best Overall

PhotoDirector Essential is the best overall free Photoshop alternative on the market because it features advanced Photoshop-like tools such as masks, layers, gradients, path selection tools, and more. However, PhotoDirector’s tools are much more intuitive, making it a quicker free alternative to Photoshop for professionals, and an easier way to edit photos for beginners. Millions of stock images, presets, and templates are also available to give users a jump-start on design - something Photoshop severely lacks. And PhotoDirector Essential is completely free, offering a premium version for a fraction of the cost of the Adobe software. More Info >

Click the link below to download PhotoDirector Essential for free today.

Pixelmator Pro Logo

2. Pixelmator Pro - Best for Mac Users

Pixelmator Pro is a great free Photoshop alternative for Apple products. It is a photo editor and graphic design tool with AI-powered tools and RAW photo processing that is simple enough for beginners. More Info >

Capture One Logo

3. Capture One - Best for Color Adjustments

Capture One is a free alternative to Photoshop that allows professionals to edit photos with true-to-life color processing and accurate masking tools. More Info >

How to Choose the Best Free Photoshop Alternative

With 15 excellent free Photoshop alternatives on our list, how can you choose the right software to edit photos the way you need? Read on for some key things to look for when choosing a free alternative to Photoshop.


The first thing you should decide is whether you want an online option or a downloadable free Photoshop alternative. If you have an older computer or don’t have much space on your hard drive, an online option could be the way to go. It’s also a good choice if you like to edit photos over multiple devices. However, if you have spotty internet, or like to edit while you travel or commute, you will need downloadable software that doesn’t require an internet connection. 

Next, make sure the free Photoshop alternative you want will work on your device. There are options on our list for Windows, Mac, and Linux. There are also some that don’t require a powerful computer, while others need a newer model computer and plenty of available RAM. This information can be found in the System Requirements section of a product’s website. 


Some of the options on our list are not completely free alternatives to Photoshop but offer a free trial. If you are looking to “try before you buy,” this is a good way to make sure you like to edit photos with a product before making a monetary commitment. These options come at very different price points, so don’t even bother trying software that is clearly out of your budget. 

Some options have free-forever versions of the software, with the option to upgrade to a Premium version if you find you want more features. If you are only in the market for a completely free alternative to Photoshop, make sure the free version has all the features you need to edit photos. It’s also a good idea to compare prices of the Premium versions so if you decide to upgrade in the future, price won’t be an issue. Finally, there are some open-source options that offer all tools and features for free. These tend to have a higher learning curve, but since they are free Photoshop alternatives, there’s no harm in trying them out. 


The free alternatives to Photoshop on our list come with a wide range of features. Some cater more towards graphic designers, others towards illustrators, and others towards photographers. Write down a list of must-have features to make sure you have what you need to edit photos (in the version you can afford). 

Ease of Use

Many of you are probably looking for a free alternative to Photoshop because you want something more beginner-friendly. Others may be Photoshop proficient and are simply looking for a more budget-friendly option. Some of the options below match Photoshop feature-to-feature but have a similar learning curve. These are good free alternatives to Photoshop for advanced users or professionals. Some are very beginner-friendly but may lack advanced tools like layer editing. Then there are free alternatives to Photoshop that offer advanced tools but remain beginner-friendly. These are good options for beginners hoping to learn advanced techniques, or for professionals who want a quicker way to edit photos. 

15 Free Photoshop Alternatives With Similar Features in 2023

1. PhotoDirector Essential - Best Overall

PhotoDirector Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

TopTenReviews Rating: 5/5

Price: Free
*Premium subscription available for $3.33/month

Key Features:

  1. Background and sky replacement
  2. 27 blending modes
  3. Advanced color replacement
  4. Light hits and sparkle effects

Who It’s For

PhotoDirector Essential is the best overall free Photoshop alternative on our list because it is a user-friendly, modern photo editor with a range of powerful tools and features. It’s a good fit for first-time editors to seasoned pros and fits any budget. You can create professional-level images in just a few seconds with PhotoDirector's easy-to-learn tools. In addition, this software offers all of the essential importing, editing, and sharing options a photo editor needs, along with several advanced features you won't even find in Photoshop, such as video-to-photo integration, face editing tools and animating still images.

Why We Picked It

In a side-by-side test, we found PhotoDirector’s tools to be far more intuitive than Photoshop’s. For instance, both programs allow you to add text to an image and change the font, size, and color of the text, or add text effects with a single click. However, PhotoDirector adds a text box around the text that can be easily dragged and manipulated to make the text wider, smaller, taller, to move it’s location, to turn it diagonally, etc. With Photoshop, it took us a while to figure out how to simply move the text to where we wanted it on the image. To change all other aspects of the text, you have to use the editing toolbar and fill in numbers using trial-and-error until it looks right. 

Then there’s the matter of stock images. If you are a content creator, stock images are a must-have to create thumbnails, ads, and banners, or to use as layers with your own images. A monthly subscription of only $3.33 gives you access to millions of premium royalty-free images with PhotoDirector. Photoshop costs $20.99 a month and doesn’t include any stock. In fact, a subscription to Adobe Stock, Photoshop’s stock image provider, costs far more than Photoshop itself. 

Bottom Line

Many beginners shy away from layer editing with Photoshop because it seems too complicated. However, this free Photoshop alternative has an easy-to-use interface that makes layer editing a breeze, allowing beginners to add images, text, shapes, and digital objects in perfect cohesion. PhotoDirector makes it easy to use layers to your advantage with express layer templates, frame template packs, and a range of simple selection tools. Achieve hair-splitting detail without spending time learning complicated editing procedures or managing hard-to-use tools. For these reasons, we think PhotoDirector Essential is the best free alternative to Photoshop available today.

  • Beginner-Friendly
  • Professional-Level photo editing tools
  • Stock content only available with a paid subscription

Download the best free Photoshop alternative - PhotoDirector Essential - by clicking the link below and edit photos that look studio-quality today.

2. Pixelmator Pro - Best for Mac Users

Pixelmator Pro Interface

Compatibility: Mac

Capterra Rating: 4.8/5

Price: 15-day free trial, then $49.99

Key Features:

  1. Drawing and painting tools
  2. RAW photo editing
  3. Comparison slider
  4. Nondestructive edits

Who It’s For

Pixelmator Pro is the best free Photoshop alternative for Mac users to edit photos because of its complete macOS integration. Pixelmator supports Side Car, Apple Pencil, Universal Clipboard, Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, macOS Handoff, Apple Script, Spotlight, Quick Look, Apple Fonts, and Apple Color Windows. Pull and share images with other Mac apps like Mail, Messages, AirDrop, Notes, and Photos. You can even pull still images from your FaceTime camera or open photos taken in Portrait mode in masks. This free Photoshop alternative contains all the default macOS menus and shortcuts to make photo editing quick and painless.    

Why We Picked It

If you're looking for a simple, base-level free alternative to Photoshop with graphic design functionality, Pixelmator is a good choice. Simple brushstrokes and AI tools allow you to edit specific areas of an image. Remove unwanted objects, clone parts of a photo, retouch, lighten or darken specific areas, etc. You can also create graphic designs with over 200 vector shapes with Pixelmator. 

Bottom Line

Pixelmator is not an entirely free Photoshop alternative but offers a 15-day free trial. After the trial, the program is pretty affordable. It is easy to use and has a similar UI to Photoshop which makes it an easy transition for long-time Photoshop devotees. However, it lacks some advanced features you would expect in programs of its kind. If you desire more advanced tools, try our #1 choice, PhotoDirector Essential.

  • Beginner-Friendly
  • Flexible user interface
  • Lacks advanced features
  • Not compatible with Windows devices

3. Capture One - Best for Color Adjustments

Capture One Interface

Image from DCFever.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

G2 Rating: 4.6/5

Price: 30-day free trial, then $24/month

Key Features:

  1. RAW image converter
  2. Smart albums
  3. Dehaze
  4. Before and After tool

Who It’s For

Capture One is an alternative to Photoshop that specializes in precise color adjustments. Experience true-to-life color processing and an advanced color editor that is on par with Adobe Photoshop and even Adobe Lightroom. It also offers photo organization and management tools akin to Lightroom, making it a great choice for anyone looking to combine Photoshop and Lightroom into one software.

Why We Picked It

With Capture One, you can edit only specific colors in your image with 8 color ranges (the standard for photo editing software is 6). You can also apply up to 16 layers and incredibly accurate masks with the Refine Mask and Feather Mask tools. There are multi-imaging tools to merge, stitch, and create breathtaking panorama shots. 

Bottom Line

Capture One is the only photo editor on our list that is actually more expensive than Photoshop (it simply has a longer free trial - 30 days to Photoshop’s 7). It also has a similarly high learning curve. However, if you are paying for Photoshop and Lightroom, and need an all-in-one solution that delivers the same high-quality results, then Capture One is for you. If you need a beginner-friendly or free Photoshop alternative, however, we recommend PhotoDirector. 

  • Fast rendering
  • High-Quality output
  • Expensive
  • Steep learning curve

4. Pixlr E - Best for Quick Edits

Pixlr E Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser

Capterra Rating: 4.5/5

Price: Free
*Premium subscriptions available for $4.90/month and $9.91/month for Teams

Key Features:

  1. Pop-Art effects
  2. Precision color adjustments
  3. Layer editing
  4. Painting and drawing tools

Who It’s For

Pixlr E is a free photo editor, graphic design tool, and batch editor for beginners and experienced editors in a time crunch. This free Photoshop alternative is available online, with no registration needed, just edit a photo directly on the site. The interface is streamlined and tools are easy to find. It even has options for different skill levels, so you can choose a quick, automated solution or spend time with manual adjustments. 

Why We Picked It

The program comes with some professional features like advanced cutting tools, customizable brushes, animated elements, and skin retouch tools. This free Photoshop alternative also comes with a large selection of design templates for every kind of social media post, as well as ads, invites, blogs, and even podcast covers. 

Bottom Line

Pixlr E has the same review rating as Photoscape X, but we placed it higher on our list because it is more beginner-friendly and exports to a higher quality. However, rendering was very slow, so although we think this free Photoshop alternative is great for quick edits, be prepared to do other things while you wait for your projects to export. 

  • No need to download software
  • User-Friendly interface
  • Slow rendering
  • Intrusive ads

5. Photoscape X - Best for Batch Editing

Photoscape X Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

TechRadar Rating: 4.5/5

Price: Free
*Pro version available for $39.99

Key Features:

  1. Light Leaks
  2. Stickers, filters and text
  3. Merge/Crop/Combine photos
  4. Spot healing brush

Who It’s For

Photoscape X is a free Photoshop alternative for users who need to edit multiple photos at once. It has several tabs dedicated to batch editing, such as Batch Resize, Batch Rename, and Batch Format Change. We liked that you can convert multiple images into a different format with one click. 

Why We Picked It

This free Photoshop alternative also has an abundance of color tools, similar to what you would find in Photoshop. Point Color will highlight one color and make the rest of the image black and white (similar to PhotoDirector’s Color Splash tool), Selective Color changes the vibrancy of each color you choose, and Replace Color replaces one color with another throughout your photo. There’s also a gradient map to edit photos with precise color changes.

Bottom Line

We found Photoscape X to have a confusing layout which differs greatly from other free Photoshop alternatives, so it may take time to get used to if you are familiar with another program. However, it remains beginner-friendly once you figure out where things are. We found it is lacking in format support, and noticed a big dip in quality when saving files. 

  • Batch edit photos
  • Beginner-Friendly
  • Freezes if handling multiple RAW files
  • Quality decreases when saving files

6. Canva - Best for Marketing

Canva Free Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Web Browser

PCMag Rating: 4.5/5

Price: Free
*Pro version available for $119.99/year or $149.90 for Teams

Key Features:

  1. Background remover
  2. Intuitive text editing
  3. Free cloud storage
  4. Autofocus

Who It’s For

Canva is a free Photoshop alternative for all your marketing and branding needs. It’s a perfect solution for small businesses with no experience in graphic design because it is simple enough for anyone to use. Canva has over 250,000 free templates to help jump-start your designs, or you can start with a blank slate. Create a logo for your brand, or upload your own logos, brand colors, and fonts into the program. 

Why We Picked It

This free alternative to Photoshop also comes with excellent team features, where you can invite members, collaborate, and comment on projects in real-time. Upload your own photos to turn into invites, business cards, ads, social media posts, and many more, or choose from over 100,000 free photos and graphics. 

Bottom Line

While we love Canva for graphic design and marketing, it doesn’t really compare to Photoshop in terms of tools to edit photos. For this reason, we placed it below the other 4.5-rated programs, Pixlr E and Photoscape X because they are more feature-rich in the editing department. However, since it is free, Canva could be a good design tool to use alongside another free Photoshop alternative, such as PhotoDirector. 

  • Team collaboration tools
  • Tons of free templates and design assets
  • Best tools require a subscription
  • Lacks professional tools to edit photos

7. GIMP - Best Open-Source Free Alternative to Photoshop

GIMP Interface

Image from Davies Media Design on Youtube.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux

Capterra Rating: 4.4/5

Price: Free

Key Features:

  1. Graphic design tools
  2. Customizable brushes
  3. Auto image enhancement tools
  4. Original artwork creation

Who It’s For

According to our research, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the best open-source, free Photoshop alternative. It is constantly being improved like other open-source editors, and any bugs are swiftly found and dealt with. GIMP outshines other open-source software through its support for plug-ins (some pre-installed and others downloadable) made accessible by the GIMP online community. GIMP comes loaded with tutorials, and the community is always on hand to answer any questions. GIMP is a wonderful free Photoshop alternative for graphic designers, photographers, or illustrators.

Why We Picked It

It offers high-quality image manipulation with retouching and restoring tools. Other features include cropping, noise reduction, gradients, color adjustment tools, and filters. Professionals will enjoy the more advanced features like bezier curves, layer masks, and animation tools. 

Bottom Line

Like Photoshop, GIMP comes packed with advanced tools, but for free. The program’s interface is cluttered but fully customizable. We placed this free alternative to Photoshop above the other open-source option on our list, Krita, because it has more general photo editing tools. There is a learning curve similar to Photoshop, so beginners should try an easier-to-use option like PhotoDirector or Pixlr E. 

  • Constantly improved
  • Plug-In support
  • Steep learning curve
  • Cluttered interface

8. Krita - Best for Digital Painting

Krita Interface

Image from The Web Factor.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux

G2 Rating: 4.4/5

Price: Free

Key Features:

  1. Color management
  2. Shapes tools
  3. Raster graphics editing tool
  4. Layer management

Who It’s For

Krita is our choice as the best free Photoshop alternative for digital painters, comic book illustrators, and animators because it has over 100 different brush types, and the open-source community is constantly adding more. There are also nine brush engines, a brush stabilizer, and various brush smoothing tools. Krita has erasers for removing an entire character, smoothing thin lines, or fading in or out of a drawing. It comes with drawing assistants and drawing aids to help with specific shapes, and grids to help with perspective.   

Why We Picked It

This free Photoshop alternative is used in various ways such as digital painting, pixel art, 3D texturing, and comic inking. It has built-in vector tools to create comic panels and word bubble templates so that you can give those comics a voice. In addition, there’s a Wrap-Around Mode for creating seamless textures and patterns and a full Animation Studio with onion skinning and an export-to-video option.

Bottom Line

Krita is open-source and completely free. It has a user interface similar to Photoshop but is also entirely customizable, with features such as light and dark themes. While this is an excellent free Photoshop alternative for animators, Krita lacks simple tools to edit photos. If you are looking for a free Photoshop alternative to manipulate photos, try PhotoDirector Essential.

  • Excellent brush options
  • Familiar and flexible interface
  • Lacks options to edit photos
  • No plug-in support

9. Fotor - Best for Collages

Fotor Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser

Capterra Rating: 4.2/5

Price: Free
*Premium subscription available for $8.99/month for Pro and $19.99/month for Pro+

Key Features:

  1. 1-Tap enhance
  2. AI enlarger
  3. Frames
  4. Color splash

Who It’s For

Fotor is an easy-to-use, free Photoshop alternative for anyone who likes to make photo collages. When you first enter the site, you’ll be given a choice to either Edit a Photo, Create a Design, or Make a Collage. With Fotor, it’s easy to make a beautiful collage. Simply click on the number of photos, choose a layout, then add backgrounds, colors, text, and elements as needed. If you are in a hurry and prefer not to work from scratch, there are hundreds of pre-made collage templates in a variety of themes. 

Why We Picked It

Beginners can edit photos with a range of effects and polishes with no experience necessary. Denoise, invert colors, and remove backgrounds with simple, one-click solutions and adjustment sliders. This free alternative to Photoshop also comes with AI art effects and a wide selection of beautification tools. 

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a beginner-friendly free Photoshop alternative, Fotor is a viable option. It is much easier to use and has some fun tools you won’t find in Photoshop, like emojis, stickers, and collage templates. However, it lacks layer editing, so current Photoshop users looking for a cheaper option may find it too simple.  

  • Easy to use
  • AI-Powered tools
  • Poor customer service
  • No layer editing

10. Paintshop Pro - Best for Graphic Design

Paintshop Pro Interface

Compatibility: Windows

G2 Rating: 4.1/5

Price: 30-day free trial, then $79.99

Key Features:

  1. Multiple workspaces
  2. Picture-to-Painting tools
  3. 360-degree editing
  4. Camera RAW lab

Who It’s For

We found Paintshop Pro to be the best free Photoshop alternative for graphic designers because of features such as layers and masks, brushes, intuitive text tools, textures, patterns, drawing, painting, and fill tools. In addition, Paintshop has built-in templates for collages, greeting cards, social media images, web banners, brochures, business cards, etc. It also includes hundreds of effects, preset filters, and a frame tool to place raster objects into shapes quickly. 

Why We Picked It

AI photo enhancement, lens correction tools, a straightening tool for crooked horizons, and perspective correction are all features offered in this free alternative to Photoshop. Restore and repair old photos with scratch remover and fade correction. There are also essential tools to edit photos like crop and resize. We found it easy to crop with composition guides (including the golden ratio and rule of thirds) and we were able to resize images in several ways (by pixels, percentage, or print size).

Bottom Line

Paintshop Pro is a great free Photoshop alternative for graphic design projects, but it lacks some advanced features that professionals will want out of their photo-editing software. And even though its interface is user-friendly, it feels a little crowded, especially if you're new to the program. 

  • Powerful tools and effects
  • User-Friendly
  • Runs slow at times
  • Crowded interface

11. Ashampoo Photo Optimizer - Best for Beginners

Ashampoo Photo Optimizer Interface

Compatibility: Windows

CNET Rating: 4.1/5

Price: Free
*Premium version available for $15

Key Features:

  1. Implosion/Explosion effects
  2. Tonal curve adjustments
  3. Red-Eye removal
  4. Watermarking

Who It’s For

Ashampoo Photo Optimizer is a quick and easy-to-use free alternative to Photoshop for beginners who need to fix and enhance their photos. The user interface is straightforward, and there is no learning curve. No tool is more than 2 clicks away, yet the limited feature set keeps the UI from looking cluttered. There’s also a customizable Favorites menu that grants you even more accessibility by bundling your most used tools in one location. 

Why We Picked It

This free Photoshop alternative still has all the tools a beginner could want. As its name suggests, Ashampoo Photo Optimizer will instantly optimize your photos and fix exposure, colors, and contrasts. You can also manually adjust the color temperature. We liked using this program to fix perspective distortions and straighten horizons, which it achieved in only a few clicks. 

Bottom Line

Ashampoo Photo Optimizer is the easiest of all the free Photoshop alternatives on our list. It also has a completely free version, and the premium version is very affordable. However, it’s also the least like Photoshop of any of the other options. This is a great tool for beginners or anyone who needs to fix colors and perspective in a hurry, but it doesn’t go beyond that. If you are looking for a free alternative to Photoshop that is easy to use, but desire more advanced features such as layer editing, try our top pick PhotoDirector. 

  • Very easy to use
  • Lightweight on computer resources
  • Limited features

12. Affinity Photo - Best for Layer Editing

Affinity Photo Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Digital Camera World Rating: 4/5

Price: 90-day free trial, then $54.99

Key Features:

  1. Noise reduction
  2. RAW editing
  3. 360-degree image editing
  4. Panorama stitching

Who It’s For

Like Photoshop, Affinity Photo is aimed at professional photographers and designers, but unlike Photoshop, it has a low learning curve. Affinity Photo has mask and clipping layers, live blend modes, and unlimited layers, which is why we reviewed it as the best free Photoshop alternative for layer editing. It has non-destructive live filters that can be applied to a single layer or the whole stack, then erased, masked, or reordered after they are applied. 

Why We Picked It

This free alternative to Photoshop is faster, with fewer crashes than its Adobe counterpart. Affinity has a few digital painting options with an extensive library of brushes and Magic Wand, Marquee, or Lasso tools to make ultra-precise selections. You can also edit photos with Portrait retouching tools like skin retouch and blemish removal.  

Bottom Line

Affinity Photo offers fewer tools than Photoshop, but the ones it does have work better. Its user interface looks almost identical to Photoshop, making it a nice free alternative to Photoshop for users wanting a lower price tag. However, it lacks the photo organization tools found in other software such as PhotoDirector and Capture One.  

  • Low learning curve
  • Unlimited layers
  • Lacking photo organization
  • No design templates included

13. DxO PhotoLab - Best for Photo Processing

DxO PhotoLab Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

PCMag Rating: 4/5

Price: 30-day free trial, then $139 for Essential and $219 for Elite

Key Features:

  1. Auto repair tool
  2. Spot removal tools
  3. Smart lighting adjustment options
  4. ClearView Plus dehaze tool

Who It’s For

DxO PhotoLab is another solid free Photoshop alternative because of its superb RAW Photo Processing features. PhotoLab uses a deep learning AI technology called DxO DeepPRIME to demosaic and denoise images at top-notch quality. It’s a great fit for anyone who has old photos thought to be unusable. 

Why We Picked It

Automatic lens corrections are another way DxO PhotoLab is a fantastic free Photoshop alternative. The software compensates for every lens fault imaginable, fixing sharpness, distortion, chromatic aberrations, vignetting, etc. PhotoLab also offers precise handling of control points with adjustable sensitivity levels and local adjustment options.

Bottom Line

DxO PhotoLab has a complex workflow which makes it challenging to find a specific photo at a glance or compare images across a photoshoot. The program offers a free trial of 30 days, but after the trial, it is pretty expensive (although it is just a one-time fee and not a subscription model like Photoshop). And while it has fantastic denoise and auto repair tools, it lacks other photo editing features. 

  • Excellent auto-correction
  • Fast image processing
  • Not user-friendly
  • Lacking a variety of tools to edit photos

14. ON1 Photo Raw - Best for Filters

ON1 Photo Raw Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

PCMag Rating: 3.5/5

Price: 14-day free trial, then $99.99 for a full license

Key Features:

  1. Organizational tools
  2. Time-Lapse creator
  3. Liquify tool
  4. Non-Destructive edits

Who It’s For

ON1 Photo RAW is an excellent free alternative to Photoshop if you like to apply filters to your photos. Filters are easy to find and use on the software and can be applied to only a specific area of your image using a brush tool. ON1 has curated hundreds of the most popular styles of filters, textures, and borders that can be combined, blended, and customized to your liking. 

Why We Picked It

This free alternative to Photoshop offers AI tools like NoNoise, Sky Swap, and Retouching. It is also a RAW image processor, with automatic lens correction and AI Match which will match your photos to the way they looked on your camera’s display. 

Bottom Line

ON1 Photo RAW is a professional and high-quality free alternative to Photoshop, but it is just as difficult to use. It also takes up significant space on your hard drive, which can cause it to run slowly. If you need a free Photoshop alternative that is light on computer resources, try a browser-based solution like Pixlr.

  • Compatible with Photoshop plug-ins
  • Edit photos with maximum control
  • Confusing interface
  • Steep learning curve

15. Exposure X7 - Best for Photo Effects

Exposure X7 Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

PCMag Rating: 3.5/5

Price: 30-day free trial, then $129

Key Features:

  1. Portrait retouch tools
  2. Infrared tools
  3. Noise reduction
  4. Tone curve editing

Who It’s For

Exposure X7 is a beginner-friendly Photoshop effects plug-in that is also a sufficient stand-alone photo editor. Apply effects to only a portion of your image using radial, planar, or half-planar gradients and adjust the opacity. Effects like film grain, bokeh, light hits, vignettes, and overlays can be blended together in a number of ways using this free Photoshop alternative.  

Why We Picked It

We liked the program’s composition guides including golden ratio, golden spiral, golden triangle, and diagonal, which helped with image cropping. This free alternative to Photoshop also includes excellent selection tools, including a polygonal selection tool and various brush tools. 

Bottom Line

Exposure X7 has some fun effects features that Photoshop lacks, however, the quality is not as good. Many of Exposure X7’s essential features are patchy. If you are looking to edit photos with high-quality results worthy of a free alternative to Photoshop, try PhotoDirector, DxO PhotoLab, or Capture One. 

  • User-Friendly interface
  • Nondestructive layer editing and local adjustments
  • Takes a long time to start
  • Some features are poor quality

Best Free Photoshop Alternatives Comparison Chart

Software OS Beginner-Friendly Layers Guided Edits 360-Degree Editing Free Download
PhotoDirector Essential Windows, Mac Yes 27 layer blending modes, simple selection tools, split and combine color layers, group layers, express layer templates, color gradient for borders and much more Yes Yes
Free Download
Secure Download
Pixelmator Pro Mac Yes Non-destructively change layered compositions, create editable shape, text and image layers, 27 blending modes No No Download
Capture One Windows, Mac No Apply up to 16 layers, composition tools, linear gradient masks No No Download
Pixlr E Web Browser Yes Add duplicate layers, AI auto masks No No Download
Photoscape X Windows, Mac Yes Gradient map No No Download
Canva Windows, Mac, Web Browser Yes Rearrange, change, resize and align layers No No Download
GIMP Windows, Mac, Linux No Layer masks and luminosity masks No No Download
Krita Windows, Mac, Linux No Vector, filter, group and file layers No No Download
Fotor Web Browser Yes None No No Download
Paintshop Pro Windows Yes Multiple, nondestructive layers with masks to hide part of a layer or fade between them No Yes Download
Ashampoo Photo Optimizer Windows Yes None No No Download
Affinity Photo Windows, Mac Yes Unlimited, non-destructive live filters, mask and clipping layers No Yes Download
DxO PhotoLab Windows, Mac No None No No Download
ON1 Photo Raw Windows, Mac No Nondestructive layers, powerful masking No No Download
Exposure X7 Windows, Mac Yes Unlimited, nondestructive layer editing, mask selection tools, blending modes No No Download

PhotoDirector Essential vs


Windows, Mac






27 layer blending modes, simple selection tools, split and combine color layers, group layers, express layer templates, color gradient for borders and much more


Guided Edits



360-Degree Editing



How to Edit a Photo With PhotoDirector

Here is a step-by-step guide for how to edit a photo using the best free Photoshop alternative, PhotoDirector.

Download by clicking the link below and follow along:

How to Crop a Photo

  1. Open PhotoDirector, then choose Full Mode. Click the + next to Project, then Import Photos. 
  2. Find the photo you would like to edit and hit Open.
  3. Click Adjustment.
  4. Click on the Crop icon, the first icon under Regional Adjustment Tools.
  5. PhotoDirecter - Aspect Ratio
  6. Choose an aspect ratio from the drop-down menu or enter a custom one.
  7. You can also crop using the box around your image in the preview box.

    PhotoDirecter - Crop Box
  8. Hit Done under Regional Adjustment Tools to save your crop.

How to Rotate a Photo

  1. Add your image to the PhotoDirector Library.
  2. Find the Rotate icon underneath the image preview.
  3. PhotoDirecter - Rotate
  4. Click once to move right 90 degrees. Keep clicking until you are happy with your photo orientation.
  5. Continue editing or hit the Export Selected Photos icon to save and export your rotated photo
  6. PhotoDirecter - Export

How to Add Filters to a Photo

  1. Import your photo into the Photo Library.
  2. Click on Adjustment, then Presets.
  3. Click on a category and view the thumbnails of your photo with different filters. Click the one you like to apply it to the photo.
  4. PhotoDirecter - Presets
  5. Continue editing or click the Export Selected Photos icon to save it.

How to Adjust Colors in a Photo

  1. Import your photo into the Photo Library.
  2. Click Adjustments.
  3. Under the Manual Tab, scroll through the Global Adjustment tools.
  4. PhotoDirecter - Global Adjustment
  5. Make your color adjustments.
  6. For this image, we heightened the red tones by clicking on R in the RBG Curve and pulling up the line on the graph. 

    PhotoDirecter - RBG Curve
  7. When you are done, continue editing or click the Export Selected Photos icon.

For more information on how to edit photos with PhotoDirector, click here.

Download the Best Alternative to Photoshop for Free

Many people mistakenly believe that Photoshop is the only decent software to edit photos. Some may even be surprised to learn how many high-quality free alternatives to Photoshop exist that outperform Photoshop on several fronts.

If you’re looking for a free Photoshop alternative, we recommend PhotoDirector Essential. It is an all-around incredible editing program with a wide range of features and a user-friendly interface. PhotoDirector Essential allows you to create clean, high-quality, professional-level photos at the touch of a button, making it the best free Photoshop alternative on the market. 

Click the link below and download PhotoDirector Essential - the best free Photoshop alternative - and experience how easy professional photo editing can be.

Free Photoshop Alternative FAQ

1. Why choose an alternative to Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop is a photo editing and manipulation software and is the industry standard for digital art. It is used by many professional photographers and graphic designers, but not by many amateurs or hobbyists because of its high price tag and learning curve.

If you are a photo editing or graphic design novice, you may not want to pay big bucks to edit photos. Even professionals or home users on a budget would prefer finding high-quality software with a lower price tag. You also probably want software you can use right out of the box, rather than spending months learning how to use it. 

Fortunately, there are low-price and even free Photoshop alternatives with similar professional features and quality. Many of these options are also beginner-friendly. We recommend PhotoDirector as the best free Photoshop alternative available today. 

2. What features should I look for in a free Photoshop alternative?

The top ten features you should look for in a free Photoshop alternative are 

  1. User-friendliness
  2. Organizational tools
  3. Color correction and filters
  4. AI-powered tools
  5. Content-aware editing
  6. Photo animation
  7. Beauty retouching
  8. Photo effects
  9. Sky replacement
  10. Overlay abilities

If you’re looking to edit photos with a free Photoshop alternative that checks all of these boxes, we recommend PhotoDirector.

3. What are the best free Photoshop alternatives for Mac?

The best free Photoshop alternatives for Macs are 

  1. PhotoDirector Essential
  2. Photoscape X
  3. Pixelmator Pro
  4. Fotor
  5. Pixlr

To learn more about these free Photoshop alternatives, click here

4. How do I edit photos for free if I don’t have Photoshop?

Check out How to Photoshop Pictures Without Photoshop for some great tips and techniques to edit photos with a free alternative to Photoshop.

5. Should I pay for an alternative to Photoshop?

If you’re looking for a true alternative to Photoshop you will benefit from paying for a quality photo editor. Though some free editors offer advanced features, like PhotoDirector Essential, it is rare, and they typically don't create the best results.

6. Is there anything like Photoshop but free?

Yes, our list covers a few completely free alternatives to Photoshop that have similar features. Our top pick is PhotoDirector Essential because it is loaded with advanced layer editing features, but also AI-powered tools and design elements that Photoshop lacks.

7. How can I download Photoshop for free without paying?

You can download Photoshop for free for 7 days, but after that, you have to cancel or get charged $21 a month. Instead, we suggest downloading a free Photoshop alternative, such as PhotoDirector Essential.

8. Is there a free version of Photoshop?

No, Photoshop does not offer a free version. For a free Photoshop alternative, we recommend PhotoDirector Essential.

9. How much does it cost to get Photoshop?

Photoshop costs $20.99 per month on its own, or $54.99 per month as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud (which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, After Effects, and more). These prices are only with an annual subscription, and if you don’t want an annual commitment, the prices rise to $31.49/month and $82.49/month respectively.

Adobe Stock images are also not included, even in the Creative Cloud suite. A subscription to Adobe Stock is an additional $29.99/month for 10 standard assets, $49.99/month for 25 standard assets, and so on.

This is why many photo editors are looking for free alternatives to Photoshop.

10. What is the closest thing to Photoshop that's free?

In our test, we found the closest free alternative to Photoshop was PhotoDirector Essential. And we mean close in terms of features, not in the learning curve, as PhotoDirector Essential is much easier to use.

11. What is a cheap alternative to Photoshop?

A cheap alternative to Photoshop is PhotoDirector, the premium version of PhotoDirector Essential. It costs a fifth of what Photoshop costs for similar features and a much smaller learning curve.

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