10+ Best Free or Open Source Photoshop Alternative Software

November 6, 2011 · 48 comments

by Lars

Best Open Source Photoshop Alternatives

Most designers on a tight budget can get an uncontrolled rapid heartbeat by considering what an investment in a Photoshop license will do to their economy. While it is difficult to argue against Photoshop being the top pick for nearly any photo manipulation, non vector design job etc. there are actually some pretty OK alternatives you can use without spending a single dollar. Question is of course which alternative to use and to help you out I have collected a set of Open Source Photoshop Alternatives you need to be aware of. One of the serious disadvantages you face when not using Photoshop is that you can’t learn and self study using the huge number of excellent free tutorials you can find for Photoshop online. Depending on what alternative you pick there may be some tutorials available, but it will never really match Photoshop. Another thing to be aware of is file formats. Adobe PSD, the Photoshop file type is almost an industry standard for exchanging layered designs e.g. in the web design niche. In GIMP, one of the tools covered below it is possible to save layered files to PSD in stead of the GIMP native format XCF which is useful. Make sure you consider stuff like this when you evaluate your free Open Source Photoshop Alternatives. While Photoshop alternatives may be usefil you have to accept that you will miss the many Photoshop web design tutorials, cool Photoshop effects, Photoshop text effects. Basically the internet is flooded with tips and tricks for creating Photoshop effects and I guess you can use them for inspiration even though they cannot be used directly with an Photoshop alternative



Open Source Photoshop Alternative  Solutions


Gimp is probably the most feature rich and well known open source Photoshop alternative that will not make you feel broke. Photoshop may be a bit ahead in terms of bleeding edge features, but most of what Photoshop is capable of can be done somehow in Gimp. GIMP is cross platform and supported by a large community. However the GIMP team doesn’t officially provide any Windows binaries. You can, however, install GIMP easily using the Windows installers by Jernej Simon?i?.



GIMPshop is a modification of the free/open source GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), intended to replicate the feel of Adobe Photoshop. Its primary purpose is to make users of Photoshop feel comfortable using GIMP. It shares all GIMP’s advantages, including the long feature list and customisability, while addressing some common criticisms regarding the program’s interface: GIMPshop modifies the menu structure to closely match Photoshop’s, adjusts the program’s terminology to match Adobe’s. GIMPshop does not support Photoshop plugins, all GIMP’s own plugins, filters, brushes, etc. However it is a great open source Photoshop alternative.


Pixlr Editor

This is a web-based photo editor with a layout that looks a bit like Photoshop CS. It has good an amazing interface and arsenal of features considering that it is a free web application  e.g. layers, filters, magic wand, styling, texting, editing and a lot of effects. It does not require signup or anything and you can start editing a file in seconds.



Paint.NET is free image and photo editing software for computers that run Windows. It features an intuitive and innovative user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. An active and growing online community provides friendly help, tutorials, and plugins.



ChocoFlop is a pure Mac application and it has been optimized to run efficient on Mac. It allows you to edit your photos or design stuff using Apple’s CoreImage technology. It takes advantage of the power of your graphics card (GPU).

ChocoFlop is in Beta version but still very feature rich and well structured. It is not going to be free for ever so if you want to give it a try the right time is now.



Splashup is designed to give you a feeling of working in Photoshop. It is integrated with Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, and more and even support layers. Being a free tool this application offers many features, filters and is really worth trying out. I don’t consider it as strong as Pixlr listed above.



Krita is a creative sketching and painting application based on KOffice technology for Linux. Whether you want to create art paintings, cartoons, concept art or textures, Krita supports most graphics tablets out of the box. Krita comes with some unique and useful features but it is not as powerful as GIMP.



Pixia was originally a Japanese editor, but English versions are available for Windows now. It is a pretty OK and feature rich editor and it may be worth trying it out.


Photoshop Express Editor

Photoshop Express Editor has been built on the pattern of Photoshop itself but comes with a lot less capabilities and minus all the technicalities. It is good for the amateur photographers who don’t want to get indulged into the tricky tools of the Photoshop. Having these superb features the loopholes are there. The printing options are lacking. Also, it doesn’t support photos from higher mega pixel camera.



PhotoPlus (starter edition) is a photo editing software that enables you to fix and enhance digital photos, create stunning bitmap graphics and even web animations. Far from being as powerful as Photoshop but if you only have basic needs this is perfect.



Aviary offers a suite of tools for editing images, vectors etc. Phoenix is the Aviary image/photo editor and it offers layers and compositing. It is integrated with Flickr, Facebook and Picasa allowing you to import images from these popular services. This is another very interesting free tool to check out before investing in commercial packages like Photoshop.


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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

LaZaR August 4, 2013 at 12:56 am

Can anz of these alterns convert my cartoon drawing to vector ?


tashea April 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm

um i have been looking for a alternative photoshop for sometime that works so which one works the best for free on window 8 .. you can email me anytime thnxs


Beth April 3, 2013 at 10:09 pm

There are 2 features I hate to think of leaving behind I have used on Microsoft Digital Image Pro 10, but I need something else. The “Smart Erase” feature, which I think is named some sort of “fill in” feature through Photoshop, and also the “Levels Auto Fix.” That one click of a button can seemingly make any photo 10x better. Suggestions please?


mrbabyman April 1, 2013 at 9:07 pm

One of the best photoshop alternative I found here. I also made a list of alternative for Photoshop, check here: http://goo.gl/E08p2


Lukas December 15, 2012 at 1:35 am

We just launched inspir.ly. We took a different approach to the online image editors available and made imaging social. Maybe you want to give it a try.


Lesberatti December 19, 2012 at 6:48 am

I don’t usuall use online editoprs but I’ll take a look. Thanks.


Diuto August 17, 2012 at 6:26 am

Great info Lars. Just what I needed. Many thanks:))


NIno July 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm



sell used laptop July 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm

GIMP the only one who can stand up to photoshop, so far :)


David July 7, 2012 at 7:49 am

Forgot to include this question in my last comment. I shoot photo in RAW, does any of the above free softwares handle that? Thank you.


David July 7, 2012 at 7:42 am

I have an abstract image of thin black lines on a white background. I would like to scan it and use some software to change the black and white to some other combination of colors and then make a large print of it. Just wonder which of the listed can accomplish this for me.


Paul June 16, 2012 at 11:35 pm

I need to be able to make funny pics putting two or pics together (Mostly pulled from the web), attaching a head to another persons body, adding words. The usual stuff. Thoughts?


UnOarecare June 2, 2012 at 10:46 am

As you did with respectable PaintNet you should review Photoscape too, both wonderful software and free:

Thank you for article!


mspence May 16, 2012 at 5:35 am

Paint.net is no longer available for download.


ghulam sibtain March 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm

your collection is best


ghulam sibtain March 26, 2012 at 6:51 pm

i want best adobe photoshop


prasad March 26, 2012 at 9:18 am

very good


Mike Nicklas March 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Wow, great collection. I was aware of GIMP and Pixlr.com, but I haven’t really heard of many of the other ones. I am looking to get a free photoshop style program to run on a laptop of mine that won’t take up too much space—thus I am reluctant to install CS5 on it. I’ll give these a try and check back for more


Jeff March 13, 2012 at 5:56 am

Thanks for all the useful comments.

If you’d like to make a comparison of graphic programs you might want to see
The comparison charts are very comprehensive for both commercial and freeware programs.


Ian Wojtowicz January 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm

GimpShop is several versions behind the current GIMP builds. If you want more of a familiar experience with GIMP you can install this installer that sets-up PhotoShop keybindings.



Tomas Adamec October 12, 2011 at 10:12 am

Pixlr + Photoshop.com
the best!


Lenny September 24, 2011 at 6:35 pm

As a former Corel Draw user, I wonder if there is anything in the open source that approximates it? Is there any other software that reads its .cdr files?


Philip Davies September 24, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Hi Lenny,

I use Inkscape for some of my work as a web developer. On the Inkscape web site it talks about Inkscape having the same capableilites as Corel Draw.

I hope that this will help you.

All the best

Phil Davies


John September 24, 2011 at 2:40 am

Thank you very much for the list. Not being much of a computer geek, you just saved me a lot of time, frustration… and probably money. Cheers!


Lenny September 20, 2011 at 11:44 am

Great list especially for a Linux AND Windows 7 user. But all I want to do is look at the images when sent by email and perhaps print them. So basic and one that recognises all the file extensions – something I would have loved to see against each of the 10 best. But a great and helpful list. Thank you


Gimphoto September 1, 2011 at 5:38 am

If you are looking for free photoshop alternative then consider Gimphoto.
available for Windows, OSX and Linux.

Gimphoto is GIMP modification for Photography using new PS menu layout with new PS shortcuts, packed with many great plugins, such as: CMYK separation, Save for Web, Batch Process, Noise Removal and Photography Filters, and also improved with new brushset, new gradientset, every aspect is tweaked to improve user usability.


Deepak August 11, 2011 at 9:02 am

Great thanks…the list is so important. Can we use them for our business?


Chief Alchemist July 7, 2011 at 1:47 am

For quick crops and touch-ups Pixlr can’t be beat.


Justin Ballou May 2, 2011 at 7:39 pm

This is a great list….. :)

Does anyone know if any of them allow for large picture editing, as I have dug around and all are great and easy to use, but the maximum size is limited due to restrictions. I need something that will allow for a 10 inch by 36 inch picture to be edited with layers for my application…..which is easy for photoshop, but not as available on the free side!

Any suggestions are appreciated!


Cynthia B October 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Have you considered using IrfanView. It will load RAW camera files; make take a while but I have loaded some pretty large files using IrfanView. I am not sure how IrfanView compares to Photoshop but it does have some powerful features. One that I like is it will let you rotate images a fraction at a time; I use it often to straigten skewed faxes I receive.
The IrfanView FAQ may be helpful – http://www.irfanview.com/faq.htm


Philip Davies April 24, 2011 at 12:23 pm


I would like to thank you for a great list.
I personally use Gimp for my work and I somes
times use Inkscape as will
I find that they are both great for
what I do.

All the best

Phil Davies


Pavel Dvorak April 22, 2011 at 6:29 pm

My favourite software for image editting is Aviary (http://www.aviary.com). It’s free, easy and it has got online version of its editor on its websites


Andy April 23, 2011 at 11:41 am

Thanks that is a great tip! Looks promising.


Paul April 22, 2011 at 11:22 am

Thanks for this list I was unaware of the other open source alternatives to photoshop. I normally just use GimpShop. I’m a great believer in open source alternatives and can’t remember the last time I bought software as I’ve managed to find open source software can do everything that I need.

Have you used all the other software?
What would you say is your personal favorite?


LucaS April 22, 2011 at 10:49 am

Nice list, thank you. I can recommend a Pixel graphic editor from http://www.kanzelsberger.com/pixel . It is not absolutely free, but the most analogous to Photoshop. For linux it is best way what I’ve seen.


Andy April 23, 2011 at 11:43 am

Hi thanks for sharing!


Lukas April 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Hi, great list of Photoshop alternatives.
I have a question. Is there any software alternative that it can correctly work with PSD files? I’m not designer and I don’t need the Photoshop functionality. I’m HTML coder and I need just to view and save separate layers of PSDs. I know that Gimp can open PSDs, but it can’t usually handle it correctly. Some layers with filter effects are displayed incorrectly, text in layers is not selectable etc… I would really appreciate any lightweight alternative.
Thank you for the answer.


Jon January 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I’m in the exact same boat. All I need is something that can open PSD’s and separate layers which Gimp just can’t handle.


Roloff July 16, 2013 at 7:59 am

Pixlr editor (Advanced mode) will open PSD documents (at least CS 5.5) just fine!


Clarrence Matthew April 21, 2011 at 9:42 am

Hands down for this knockout collection! These resources are opensource and that’s the beauty of it. We can tinker it around effectively even without Photoshop. Thanks for sharing!…Looking forward for more.


Lars April 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Thanks for your feedback Clarrence, yes if you can do the job equally fine using open source and freeware why pay a fortune right….


Luis January 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm

…. when you can get adobe photoshop for free?


kim January 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Hi Luis! You just cracked me up!
Yes, That is what I would say. I refuse to use anything but the best.
I lost my photoshop that my brother gave me in my computer…
And it was his. Cannot get it back. :(…
Have to buy one. Any help you could give me on receiving the adobe photoshop free other than the 3 month trial over and over?


Lesberatti December 12, 2012 at 3:40 am

Try Adobe Photoshop CS6 Portable from House of Portables, it’s free. I use it and Pain.net which is the closest to Photoshop I find except it’s way easier to use. Good Luck


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