One day you wake up feeling in the mood to create something interesting with Photoshop. But it turns out to be so much harder than it looks. Trust me – we’ve all been there.
And don’t get us wrong. Photoshop is awesome, and it’s undoubtedly the best photo editing app that there is out there with more features and flexibility than pros and consumers may ever need.
However, if you’re a beginner, you may find everything to be a bit overwhelming. Even something as simple as cropping and creating proper layers can prove to be a challenging task for a beginner.
If you genuinely want to use Photoshop, then be prepared to invest a lot of time learning how to use it. Not to mention anything about the monthly subscription that it asks for.
That’s why you may want to look into Photoshop Alternatives that are both cheaper and easier to use.
Professionals may find most of the alternatives to be a bit lacking in terms of features. But then again, if you were a professional, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.
In any case, without any further ado, let’s get right into it!
Free and basic image editors for beginners
1. GIMP (Windows/Linux/Mac)
GIMP is a powerful free photo editing software. The app allows you to remove noise, make various color corrections, use tools such as brushes or pens, use gradients, and other templates. Since it’s open-source, meaning that anyone can access the code and adjust as they see fit. GIMP is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac, and GIMP is also updated regularly and is compatible with Photoshop plug-ins.
It does have a bit of a learning curve. But, once you get used to it, it makes for a great free alternative to Photoshop. Overall the open-source nature, zero cost, remarkable image editing tools, and great rendering speeds make up for an amazing experience.
2. Google Photos (Windows/Linux/Mac/Android/iOS and iPadOS)
Another great option to consider using. Google Photos has a clean, minimal interface with thumbnails of all your photos organized according to the date.
The menu button at the top-left has the following options to choose from – Photos, Sharing, Albums, Utilities, Archive, and Trash. While the editing features are basic and filled with templates, you can still do some light editing and make your photos shine.
However, the best feature with Google Photos is the instant share/sync to other devices. This means that you can essentially edit a photo on your smartphone and use it on your PC without any hassle. So, it’s great for beginners to use, but the feature set is limited, and if you want to get the best features for free, you should look at GIMP.
3. Photos for macOS (Mac/iOS and iPadOS)
Photos for macOS is the built-in app that Mac users can use to edit their images, and it is very similar to how Google Photos work but only for Apple devices. It also has apps for iOS and iPadOS devices that can display images and perform some basic editing.
For the most part, you can only adjust basic stuff such as light, color, contrast levels, white balance, vignette, sharpness, and things like that. Filters are definitely a nice addition as well. Overall, it’s a decent freebie for Apple users who are not interested in becoming pro editors.
4. PhotoScape X (Mac/Windows)
PhotoScape X is an easy-to-use editor that can help you edit and customize images to your heart’s content. It has tools that can adjust the white balance/gradient temperatures, add various filters including Bloom, Sepia, Black & White and even incorporates the classic crop, resize and draw tools.
It also has some advanced features such as creating gifs, adding watermarks or texts, adding GPS locations, or editing the metadata. It makes it easier and faster to edit photos, and we would recommend this app for the straightforward UI, quality editing features, and beginner-friendly approach.
Finally, you can use the free version for as long as you want, so it’s one of the best options on the market.
5. Paint.NET (Windows)
Paint.NET is basically the standard paint app but on steroids. Yes, you can use the new Paint3D app that Windows 10 and 11 come with, but if you want the classic paint experience with a lot more tools, then Paint.NET is the way to go.
It’s one of the best ‘Traditional’ photo editing tools that one can find. In fact, its UI shares a few similarities with Photoshop’s. So, if you’ve got any experience with it, then transitioning over to Paint.NET shouldn’t be too hard.
If you don’t need the fancy features that some tools come with and don’t care for AI integration, and want your bare skills to shine, then Paint.NET would fit perfectly with you. Also, it’s one of the most lightweight photo editors that we’ve ever tried. So, low-end/budget users should definitely keep that in mind.
6. Pixlr (Mac/Windows/Linux)
Pixlr is an online photo editing tool that is well built, equipped with a tonne of features, and has great rendering times, especially for being online. It comes in two variants – Pixlr E and Pixlr X. While, we recommend using Pixlr E for beginners because it is easy to use and has great presets.
Pixlr X is a bit advanced and has some graphic designing tools and other advanced features that you can get to once you know the basics.
Other than that, the online function means that it can be used on any device with a powerful browser, and it also makes transferring photos from one device to another much easier. This helps make the app much useful and is perfect for many beginners to get into.
More powerful photo editors for beginners made easy
7. Movavi Picverse
Movavi Picverse is a great beginner pick that comes with an easy-to-use UI with all the essential tools that you need to get your photo looking the best. You get all the options and tools on the right panel, and it adds personalization that can help customize it according to your needs.
It also adds some pro features such as AI adjust, HDR lighting, and other advanced level features that take some to learn. So, if you want to get your skills to become the best, then Movavi Picverse is the way to go.
8. Luminar AI (Windows/Mac)
If you need something that, in our opinion, is easier to use, then Luminar AI may be the ideal option. Due to the overly simplistic design, it feels somewhat restrictive compared to other options. So, those of you who need to perform some detailed work will most likely prefer sticking with Affinity or Photoshop instead.
Needless to say that the same thing applies to professionals. But, then again, if you were a pro, chances are that you wouldn’t be interested to read this article in the first place. There are so many presets to choose from that you can vastly improve the look of an image without having to adjust any values. Of course, if you wish to do so, the option is always there.
Keep in mind that these are not your average cheap presets commonly found on cheap/free apps. Luminar relies on AI (Artificial Intelligence) to separate the background and recognize adjusting needs. It comes with a free 30-day trial, but the upgrade comes at the cost of $89, which is a little too steep, in our opinion.
Related: Luminar AI vs. Luminar Neo – The Race for Photo Editor
9. PaintShop Pro 2022 (Windows)
PaintShop Pro 2022 comes with pros and cons. Starting with the pros, we’re looking at a program that offers a ton of options and room for creativity. The only downside to that is that the more options there are, the larger the learning curve becomes. So, keep in mind that Corel PaintShop Pro isn’t as beginner-friendly as some alternatives.
That’s not to say that you won’t find beginner-friendly tools like AI adjustments. But intermediate editors are likely to have a better time with Windows editors to be more precise. After all, the app isn’t available on Mac. Just like with most editors, there is both a full version and a free trial to choose from.
10. Capture One
Capture One is a professional-grade editing app designed for creative professionals and serious enthusiasts that love photo editing. It edits RAW images, has a cataloging feature, and can use multiple layers and adjustments that you would expect from a great photo editing app.
It comes with a free 30-day trial and can easily climb up to $80-100 depending on the version of the app you get. It also supports all the regular formats and is amazing for industry professionals. So, if you’re a beginner, be ready to get a lot of googling stuff and edits.
11. PortraitPro 22
PortraitPro 22 has been specifically designed to smooth out imperfections and wrinkles, and it also enhances skin, eye, and hair tones. Finally, they have also integrated a host of other tools that help enhance facial features.
The latest update brings body lighting, AI enhancements, and many more tools that help manage hairliens and control finer detail such as color, RGB spectrum, highlights, and shadows. Hence, it’s a great app for beginners as the tools are easy to use and the app also helps recommend the tools you should be using.
Finally, it has a trial option and a paid version that includes all the pro features that you would need as you start enjoying the photo editing experience.
12. Pixelmator Pro (Mac)
Pixelmator Pro offers everything from the basic tools that the most casual editor can use to options that only experienced people can benefit from. If there’s one big downside, the fact that the program is only available for Mac, and those of you who rely on Windows will have to pick one of our other options.
Right now, the full version costs $40 – which is definitely very cheap compared to some of the alternatives. And, thankfully, it looks like it’s a one-time purchase – not a subscription.
13. Affinity Photo (Windows/Mac/iPad)
We feel like Affinity Photo is one of the best Photoshop Alternatives for all the features it offers and due to how easy it is to use for beginners. The UI makes it very easy to understand where to head to do something. And you can find anything in it, from basic stuff like cropping and adjusting the brightness to playing with multiple layers and HDR integration.
You can freely enable or disable individual adjustments to see how that affects the image live. Furthermore, the app offers a few different samples to work with, giving beginners a good way to see how they can make a massive difference with nothing but basic adjustments.
If you don’t like getting your hands dirty – even with nothing but basic adjustments – then you’ll probably want to look into the presets. Those of you who are experienced will definitely find them too limiting. But, it’s a nice touch for beginners who don’t like spending too much time on basic adjustments. However, it comes at a price of $54.99, which is a little on the higher end of the spectrum.
What should you look for in a Photoshop alternative?
While there are a lot of Photoshop alternatives on the market, only some can compete at the Photoshop level. However, if you are not satisfied with Photoshop or need a free tool, then here are the things that you should look out for.
Check to see if the alternative app supports all the image formats you want to use. Look for AI integration for easier editing and photo enhancements. Finally, also look for easy-to-use UI and all the essential tools that you need.
How do beginners learn to edit photos?
Experience is the key to doing everything well. So, if you want to learn how to edit photos, we recommend you continue experimenting with your photos and seeing which looks better. You can also use the templates and presets and learn how they optimize the photos to understand the effects better.
What about free online photo editors?
Free online photo editors are awesome if you have a less powerful PC. Pixlr is a great option that you can use and try out. It has great features and tools that you can use, and it also includes an advanced graphic editing tool that can help you improve your skills.
As you probably already witnessed, choosing a photo editor isn’t an easy task. There are many things to keep in mind, from features and ease of use to performance and pricing. And that’s just barely scraping the surface.
The best way to truly discover what’s best for you is by trial and error. Thankfully, most, if not all of the photo editing programs that we’ve mentioned already offer a free trial. So, you best get started!
That’s all we’ve got at the moment. If you liked this article, don’t forget to share it with your friends and family on social media. Thank you for reading!