Photoshop is the world's go-to photo editing software – so much so that the word has become verbified, like 'Hoover' or 'Google'. This might give the impression that Adobe's photo editing software is the undisputed champion, but that all depends on what you use it for – for your purposes it may be a case of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
There are a wide range of capable alternatives to Photoshop, some of them paid-for and some free, but this list of the best photo editing software wouldn't be complete without the ubiquitous Adobe application as well. Here is a selection of the very best for desktop and browser, and some come with mobile versions, too.
33. Affinity Photo
- Platform: Windows, MacOS, iOS (iPad only)
- Developer: Serif
- Price: $19.99/£19.99 (iPad) / $49.99/£48.99 (desktop)
Affinity Photo is a professional-level tool without the high-end price tag. Digital painting, raw editing, professional retouching and multi-layered compositions are among Affinity Photos impressive toolset. Features also include advanced lens corrections and best-in-class noise reduction, allowing full control and quality over every image.
Affinity Photo is also available as a dedicated iPad app. The first professional photo editing tool to make its way onto the Apple tablet, it took home the title of Apple App of the year 2017. Serif also has a graphic design package, Affinity Designer, which shares the same file format as Affinity Photo, so your all your design tool needs are fully covered.
34. Pixlr X
- Platform: Web/mobile browser
- Developer: Autodesk Inc
- Price: Free
You'll find Pixlr lower down this list, so what is Pixlr X? Well, it's all the goodness of Pixlr but on an all-new platform. No longer reigned in by its Flash architecture, Pixlr X is fast and easy to use, whether that's on your web or mobile browser. Pixlr X allows you to make non-destructive edits to your images, meaning you can change and fine-tune every edit at any time – very useful. Plus you can use it right within Dropbox, which makes it a brilliant addition to your collaboration toolkit. It has the usual adjustments, filters and texts that will be familiar to Pixlr users and delightful to newcomers.
35. Luminar 2018
With a reasonable, one-off price, the latest version of Luminar 2018 is well worth checking out. It's stuffed with tools for quick and easy photo fixes, including fast automatic corrections for lens distortion, chromatic aberration and removing fringes, as well as more than 40 non-destructive filters to enhance your shots.
Luminar 2018 also features a stack of pro tools to help you squeeze the best possible quality out of your images, including including manual lens correction, layers with blending modes, masks and a history panel, and best of all you can use your existing Photoshop plugins and also convert your Lightroom presets to its Lookup Table format.
36. PaintShop Pro
PaintShop Pro has been the budget Photoshop alternative of choice on PC for over 20 years, and it's still holding its own. The new 2018 version promises to be easiest, faster and more creative than ever. It features ready-made project templates, a built-in screenshot function with a smart capture mode that lets you grab part of the screen, a gradient fill option and improved support for graphics tablets and styluses.
On top of the standard version, you can pay a little extra for PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate, which adds professional-grade raw editing, automatic photo corrections and screen recordings to the mix.
37. Photoshop CC
Photoshop CC is head-bangingly brilliant, and has too many features to summarise in this small space – but you can read more in our Photoshop CC 2018 review and explore its capabilities further in our Top Photoshop tutorials article.
There's no doubt that the latest Photoshop is a hugely impressive photo editing application; probably the best out there. But it comes at a monthly cost. Check out our exclusive Creative Cloud discount if you don't already have the package.
Adobe Lightroom allows you to keep all your photography in one place, and organise, edit and share it from anywhere. Many creatives opt to use Lightroom as it can tackle the complex image management jobs Photoshop is not designed for, making light work of day-to-day enhancements and raw files.
With Lightroom you can store images on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android device and even transfer photos automatically from your phone into Lightroom as you shoot them. Syncing takes care of itself, so when you make an edit or flag a favourite in one place, it’s automatically updated everywhere else.
Read our Adobe Creative Cloud review.
Image editing software Acorn debuted back in 2007 and has provided hobbyists and artists on a budget with a great, affordable piece of photo editing software. Features include layer styles, non-destructive filters, curves and levels, blending modes and much more.
Acorn 6 features non-destructive filters, which includes a great interface to chain filters together to create unique effects. You can even save and modify your filters after you've closed and reopened your Acorn image.
This is the basic alternative to Photoshop CC, as reflected in its great Quick and Guided Edit modes, but don't think that means it lacks power under the hood. Also, unlike Photoshop CC, Elements doesn't require a subscription.
It's now on the 2018 version, with better organisational tools, intelligent editing tools such as the ability to open closed eyes, options to print your images and features to make it easier to share images via social media.
Read our Photoshop Elements review.
41. DxO Photolab
- Platform: Windows, MacOS
- Price: $99/£99 for Essential version; /$149/£159 for Elite version
Things get a bit specific with PhotLab, but what it does, it does very well. Its results are spectacular, but it's a specialised and sometimes complex tool to use. It's arguably the best raw converter of all, but that's just about all it does.
DxO PhotoLab automatically compensates for the different degrees of distortion, chromatic aberration, edge softness and vignetting common to practically all digital camera lenses.
It's also a raw converter, and DxO has applied just as much scientific rigour to this process as its lens corrections. You can browse the images on your computer, folder by folder, then select an image and choose from the default conversion/correction setting or a range of presets
The results are excellent. However, it would never be your one and only image-editing tool.
Pixelmator uses Mac OS X libraries to create fast, powerful image editing tools, which allows the software to integrate seamlessly with the likes of iPhoto and Aperture, as well as iCloud. There are also built-in export tools for Facebook and Flickr.
Colour correction tools such as Hue/Saturation, Shadows/Highlights and Contrast are all present and correct, and Pixelmator supports filters and comes with a collection of 150 to play with. You can also open and save images in many of the popular formats, including PSD, TIFF, PDF and PNG.
When saving or opening Photoshop documents, layers are preserved allowing you to collaborate effectively with colleagues using Adobe's software.
Whether you're at your desk or out and about, there's a version of Fotor ready for you to take care of any essential photo editing. It comes in mobile, web and desktop app flavours, and features a full suite of tools that should cover most of your immediate editing needs.
If you want an instant fix there's a one-tap enhance button that you'll either love or hate, and if you need more control you'll find tools to resize, crop, rotate and straighten your images, as well as a background remover. Fotor also packs some handy retouching tools such as red-eye and wrinkle removal, and there's even a HDR image creator and tilt-shift editor if you want to turn to turn your photos into something a little more epic.
Pixlr claims to be "the most popular online photo editor in the world", which may have something to do with the fact that it's free. But it also boasts more than 600 effects, overlays, and borders and lets you do all the main things you'd expect from a photo editor, from cropping and re-sizing to removing red-eye and whitening teeth.
And if you're used to using Photoshop, you'll find Pixlr's user interface easy to pick up quickly, as it's very similar.
- Platform: Windows, MacOS, Linux
- Developer: GIMP
- Price: Free
An open-source photo editor that debuted on Unix-based platforms, GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Today it's available in versions for Linux, Windows and Mac. GIMP offers a wide toolset – everything you're accustomed to is within easy reach, including painting tools, colour correction, cloning, selection, and enhancement.
The team that oversees development has worked hard to ensure compatibility too, so you'll be able to work with all the popular file formats without any trouble at all. You'll also find a very capable file manager built in, along similar lines to Adobe's Bridge.
- Platform: Windows
- Developer: dotPDN LLC
- Price: Free
Paint.net is a surprisingly capable and useful tool, available completely free of charge. The focus is on ease of use, and there's a definite tendency towards photo editing rather than artistic creation.
That said, there are a range of special effects available, allowing you to easily create fake perspective, blend and push pixels around the canvas, tile and repeat selections, and so on.
A good range of selection tools, support for layers, and adjustments such as curves and brightness/contrast mean that Paint.net is a great alternative to Photoshop for photo editing, especially if you can do without some of the more recent additions to Photoshop's toolset.
47. Sumo Paint
- Platform: Web browser (requires Adobe Flash Player)
- Developer: Sumoware
- Price: Free for basic online version
Sumo Paint is a highly capable browser-based image editor. All the standard features you'd expect from a desktop tool are present and correct and by buying the Pro version for $19 you can install a desktop version of the app if you prefer. You need Adobe Flash Player to use this tool, so you're not going be using Sumo Paint on your iPad.
The standard range of tools and adjustments you'd expect are all included. Brushes, pencils, shapes, text, cloning, gradients and so on are all quickly accessed from the Photoshop-esque floating toolbar. It can also open saved documents from your hard drive, making Sumo Paint a perfectly viable option for editing and reediting.
There are, however, limitations that will put off some users. The most important of these is that the editor appears to be RGB only, limiting its use to screen-destined artwork only. No CMYK, Lab or other colour models to be found here.
Aviary is a pleasantly designed app that strikes the perfect balance between serious photo editing (with blemish removal, tooth whitening, resizing and adjustments) and playful photo-decoration functions (such as stickers, coloured overlays and the ability to add mem-style text) without looking bland or childish.