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7 Best Free Photoshop Alternatives in 2022 [Windows & Mac]

Last Updated on Apr. 29, 2022 – by Jayed Miah
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Best Alternatives to Photoshop

If you've ever tried editing photos 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 fast, easy-to-use editing programs that allow them to navigate tools and features quickly to post more photos in less time. Thankfully, several excellent Photoshop-like programs offer similar features without the high price tag and steep learning curve. In addition, each of these programs features a unique interface and a wide selection of tools. 

This article introduces the seven 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. It features easy-to-use tools like masks, layers, graphic design tools, AI-powered tools, and more for beginners and advanced users alike. Templates, presets, and guided edits make it easy for anyone to make Photoshop-worthy creations for free. More Info >

Paintshop Logo

2. Paintshop Pro - Best for Graphic Design

Paintshop Pro is another free Photoshop alternative because of its intuitive text tools, graphic design templates, drawing, and painting tools. Photo editing features make this a good choice for photographers or graphic designers. More Info >

DxO PhotoLab Logo

3. DxO PhotoLab - Best for Photo Processing

Deep learning AI technology and superb lens correction make DxO PhotoLab a great free Photoshop alternative. The program offers unrivaled denoise and photo processing tools. More Info >

What is Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop is a photo editing and manipulation software and is the industry standard for digital art. Photoshop is a raster graphics editor, which means it edits with pixels and is more photo-realistic than vector graphics software. 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.

7 Best Free Photoshop Alternatives in 2022 [Windows & Mac]

1. PhotoDirector Essential - Best Overall

PhotoDirector Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 10 / 10

Beginner-Friendly Tools: 10 / 10

Key Features:

  1. Background and sky replacement
  2. Beautification tools
  3. Advanced color replacement
  4. Light rays effects

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. 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 an amateur could want, along with several advanced features you won't find in Photoshop.

Many beginners shy away from layer editing with Photoshop because it seems too complicated. However, PhotoDirector's easy-to-use interface makes layer editing a breeze, allowing beginners to add images, text, shapes, and digital objects in perfect cohesion. PhotoDirector makes it easy to learn how to use layers to your advantage with 27 layer-blending modes, express layer templates, frame template packs, and a range of simple selection tools. Achieve hair-splitting detail with layer filtering and masks.

First-time users can jump right into editing with PhotoDirector Essential without spending time learning complicated editing procedures or managing hard-to-use tools. It also includes many features that go above and beyond Photoshop's limited editing options. Unique features such as guided editing, video-to-photo integration, 360-degree editing, and photo animation tools make PhotoDirector Essential the best choice for a free Photoshop alternative.  

Pros
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Professional-level photo editing tools
Cons
  • Takes up a lot of hard drive space

2. Paintshop Pro - Best for Graphic Design

Capture One Interface

Image from TopTenReviews.

Compatibility: Windows

Overall Rating: 9 / 10

Beginner-Friendly Tools: 9 / 10

Key Features:

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

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. 

The software also comes with photo editing features such as AI photo enhancement, lens correction tools, a straighten tool for crooked horizons, and perspective correction to change the angle of an image. Restore and repair old photos with scratch remover and fade correction. There are also essential tools like crop and resize. Easily crop with composition guides, including the golden ratio and rule of thirds. Resize in several ways, either by pixels, percentage, or print size. 

Paintshop Pro 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. Paintshop offers a 30-day free trial, and the paid version is very affordable.

Pros
  • Powerful tools and effects
  • User-friendly
Cons
  • Runs slow at times
  • Crowded interface

3. DxO PhotoLab - Best for Photo Processing

DxO PhotoLab Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 8 / 10

Beginner-Friendly Tools: 7 / 10

Key Features:

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

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. The technology can even fix old photos thought to be unusable. 

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.

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. 

Pros
  • Excellent auto-correction
  • Fast image processing
Cons
  • Not user-friendly
  • Lacking a variety of features

4. Affinity Photo - Best for Layer Editing

Affinity Photo Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 7 / 10

Beginner-Friendly Tools: 8 / 10

Key Features:

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

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. 

Like Photoshop, Affinity Photo is aimed at professional photographers and designers, but unlike Photoshop, it has a low learning curve. It is also 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. There are also Portrait retouching tools like skin retouch and blemish removal.  

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 transition for Photoshop users wanting a lower price tag. Affinity offers a free trial and an affordable price.   

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

5. Pixelmator Pro - Best for Mac Users

Pixelmator Pro Interface

Image from Pixelmator.

Compatibility: Mac

Overall Rating: 7 / 10

Beginner-Friendly Tools: 7 / 10

Key Features:

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

Pixelmator Pro is the best free Photoshop alternative for Mac users 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. The software contains all the default macOS menus and shortcuts to make photo editing quick and painless.    

If you're looking for a simple, base-level image editor 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. 

Pixelmator is not entirely free but offers a 15-day free trial. After the trial, the program is pretty affordable. It is easy to use and offers a broad arsenal of editing tools. However, it lacks some advanced features you would expect in programs of its kind.

Pros
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Flexible user interface
Cons
  • Lacks advanced features
  • Not compatible with Windows devices

6. GIMP - Best Open-Source Photoshop Alternative

Exposure X7 Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux

Overall Rating: 6 / 10

Beginner-Friendly Tools: 7 / 10

Key Features:

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

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, illustrators, or scientists. 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. 

The program’s interface is cluttered, although fully customizable. Like Photoshop, GIMP comes packed with advanced tools but for free. However, there is also a learning curve similar to Photoshop, so beginners might look elsewhere. 

Pros
  • Constantly improved
  • Plug-in support
Cons
  • Steep learning curve
  • Cluttered interface

7. Krita - Best for Digital Painting

Krita Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux

Overall Rating: 5 / 10

Beginner-Friendly Tools: 4 / 10

Key Features:

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

Krita is our choice as the best free Photoshop alternative for digital painting because it has 100 different brush types and more that are constantly being added by the open-source community. 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 drawing specific shapes or creating a grid for drawing perspective.   

Krita is used in various ways such as digital painting, pixel art, 3D texturing, and comic inking, making it a solid free photoshop alternative. 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. 

Krita is open-source and completely free. It has a user interface similar to Photoshop but is also completely customizable, with features such as light and dark themes. While this is an excellent choice for digital painters, comic book illustrators, and animators, Krita lacks simple photo editing options. As a result, this is not the best free Photoshop alternative for photographers or anyone looking to manipulate photos.

Pros
  • Excellent brush options
  • Familiar and flexible interface
Cons
  • Lacks photo editing options
  • No plug-in support

Best Free Photoshop Alternatives Comparison Chart

Software PhotoDirector Essential Paintshop Pro DxO PhotoLab Affinity Photo Pixelmator Pro GIMP Krita
OS Windows, Mac Windows Windows, Mac Windows, Mac Mac Windows, Mac, Linux Windows, Mac, Linux
Beginner-friendly Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
Layers 27 layer blending modes, simple selection tools, split and combine color layers, group layers, express layer templates, color gradient for borders and much more Multiple, nondestructive layers with masks to hide part of a layer or fade between them None Unlimited, non-destructive live filters, mask and clipping layers Non-destructively change layered compositions, create editable shape, text and image layers, 27 blending modes Layer masks and luminosity masks Vector, filter, group and file layers
Guided Edits Yes No No No No No No
360-degree Editing Yes Yes No Yes No No No
Free Download
Free Download
Secure Download
Download Download Download Download Download Download

PhotoDirector Essential vs

OS

Windows, Mac

-

Beginner-friendly

Yes

-

Layers

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

Yes

-

360-degree Editing

Yes

-


How to Edit a Photo With PhotoDirector

Here is a step-by-step guide for editing a Photo using the best free Photoshop alternative, PhotoDirector.

Download it 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 - Crop
  6. Choose an aspect ratio from the drop-down menu or enter a custom one.
  7. PhotoDirecter - Aspect Ratio

    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 on the line on the graph. 

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

For more PhotoDirector tutorials, click here.

Download the Best Photoshop Alternative for Free

Many people mistakenly believe that Photoshop is the only decent photo editor available. Some may even be surprised to learn how many high-quality editing programs 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 the button, making it the best Photoshop equivalent on the market. 

Download PhotoDirector Essential - the best free Photoshop alternative - and experience how easy professional photo editing can be.

Photoshop Alternatives FAQ

1. What are the Best Free Photoshop Alternative Apps?

  1. PhotoDirector App
  2. Pixlr
  3. PicsArt
  4. Snapseed
  5. Adobe Photoshop Camera

To learn more about the best free Photoshop alternatives for mobile, click here.

2. What Features Should I Look For in a Free Photoshop Alternative?

  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 for a free Photoshop Alternative that checks all of these boxes, we recommend PhotoDirector.

2. What Features Should I Look For in a Free Photoshop Alternative?

  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 for a free Photoshop Alternative that checks all of these boxes, we recommend PhotoDirector.

3. What is the best free Photoshop alternative for Macs?

  1. PhotoDirector Essential
  2. GIMP
  3. Fotor Photo Editor
  4. Pixelmator
  5. Photoscape X

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 for editing photos for free.

5. Should I pay for a Photoshop alternative?

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.

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