Best Free Photo Editing Software

gimpDigital cameras have gained better lenses and increased pixel resolutions over the years, but that doesn’t mean that every photo you snap will be a gem. Overexposure, underexposure, random blemishes, red-eye problems, white balance issues, and other visual mishaps will occur, so it’s incredibly handy to have a good photo editing application on your PC to make corrections.

Fortunately, there are plenty of photo editing applications that can get the job done—for free!

Unless you demand the image-editing power of Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended, you can do a lot with your pics for absolutely no cost. On the high end of the spectrum is GIMP 2.6.1, (available for Linux, Mac, and PC), which delivers near Photoshop-like editing. As such, it’s a bit of a beast for the uninitiated, but those who take their time to learn the applications intricacies—layering, rotation, RAW compatibility—will find that there’s a lot to like.

On the lower end, you’ll find one of the best tools in this category for novices is Picnik, an online image editor that lets you tweak photos in the cloud. Not only does it let you perform contrast, color, and light correction from an intuitive interface, but you can create collages as well.

Of course, GIMP and Picnik represent just two of the many free photo editing applications available; there are dozens of others that appeal to both the casual shooter and the dedicated photographer. Check out our links to full reviews of six image editors, so you can know which is best suited for your job at hand.

GIMP 2.6.1
The OS-agnostic GIMP brings high-end photo editing to users for zero dollars, but only the dedicated should walk this deep, complex road.

This Web-based photo editing application has casual and prosumer appeal, but lacks vital elements that both groups desire.

Paint.Net v3.5.5
Featuring an easy-to-use interface and an array of effects, is a solid free photo editing applications for those that don’t need the power of Photoshop.

Picasa 3.5
With a slick new interface and cool new features and tools, Picasa remains a terrific, easy, and free way to edit and organize your images.

Picnik packs in nearly every feature (and more) that non-professionals desire, but its Web-based nature won’t let you open an image on your desktop without uploading it first.

Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011
Now with face recognition and retouching, Windows Live Photo Gallery can stand up proud against the likes of Apple iPhoto and Google Picasa.