Free image editors – Prepare images for your website

If you run a website with updatable content areas, such as an e-commerce platform or content management system, the chances are you’ve been called upon to edit or enhance your own images in order to make them ‘web friendly’. Although Adobe Photoshop has long been the industry standard for image manipulation among professionals, its costly nature and feature-laden interface are generally a turn-off for casual users – however, there are a plethora of free and useful alternatives available for download, a selection of which are outlined in this article.

These free image editors can be divided into two categories:

  • Downloadable Image Editing Software
  • Web-Based Image Editors

Downloadable Image Editing Software

A great deal of image editing software is available on the Internet for free download, with varying levels of functionality – and which you choose will depend largely on your requirements. The programs are all one-time downloads, with an advantage over web based image editors in that they do not rely on an Internet connection for use, and won’t be adversely affected by loading times and similar.

The GIMP

Quite possibly one of the most used and well known ‘free’ image editing software packages, GIMP is short for GNU Image Manipulation Program. First developed in 1995, this open source editing software is available in many guises and is compatible with Apple, Linux and Windows operating systems. The GIMP boasts a wide range of features that enable images to edited or enhanced and can even be set out to mimic the layout of Photoshop. Since The GIMP is open source there are many tutorials to help guide users through the editing process.

Paint.NET

Originally, Paint.NET was developed to be a free alternative to the Windows bundled paint software but over time has grown to be a simple to use but effective image editing tool.  Although only compatible with Microsoft operating systems, this software offers much of the functionality that its paid alternatives. Again, there are many online tutorials to help guide users through image editing.

Picasa 3

As you’d expect from a Google product, Picasa is a lightweight program allowing locating, editing and sharing of images via a single interface. Picasa will automatically search your computer for images, and allows them to be organised with ease. Also, being a Google product, it allows images to be geo tagged with Google maps and ‘one click’ publishing to online photo albums. Picasa also acts as an image viewer too, enabling the user to create slideshows, etc.

Web Based Image Editors

As the name suggests, online photo editors are accessed directly through an Internet browser from any location, and consequently require no software download or installation.  They allow users to upload images, to which adjustments and changes can be made using a variety of built-in tools and filters, and the resulting images subsequently saved to your local machine.

Pixlr

Pixlr has been designed with both professional and non-professional users in mind. Created using flash, this program allows users that only have simple editing needs such as editing web images to be posted on social networks, or for personal use. However, it can also be used by professionals who need to edit images for websites, etc. Since Pixlr is flash based, the speed of your computer will determine how fast this program will run. Also, Pixlr is in constant development therefore not all editing features may be available.

Sumo Paint

Sumo Paint is another flash based, cloud computing image editor and is compatible with Apple, Linux and Windows operating systems. A relative newcomer to the image editing market, this program offers all the usual editing or enhancement options that the other major applications do. Sumo Paint also allows users to sign up for a free account, giving users some storage space and the ability to save image layers, etc.

Image Editor

Image Editor does not boast as many features as the other image editing programs but is quite easy and intuative to use. This program could be used for simple image editing and has some predefined filters to allow users to apply different styles to text. As with the other online programes, Image Editor is flash based and therefore will perform better on faster machines.

All of these image editing programs will allow you to crop and manipulate images as well as provide some interesting features to enhance the apperance of the final images. Each program will have its own quirks and may perform better at handling specific tasks than others. Finding out which one suits your needs best is trial and error but all of the above will give you the freedom to take an existing image and make it shine.