Graphics and photos play an important role in the World Wide Web. Web services use visual elements to make their offers more attractive, and companies use high-quality photographs for advertising, and social networks would not be conceivable without images. The photos of products and profiles mainly have one thing in common i.e., images. The refinement of the photos has become a popular sport and is no longer reserved only for professional photographers and designers.
Many social platforms have therefore integrated their own image editing software, mainly designed for mobile devices. However, those who are not satisfied with simple effects and filter options tend to resort to the classic image processing programs for the PC, which have a wider spectrum of functions. First of all is undoubtedly Adobe Photoshop, used by amateur and professional photographers all over the world and which has proven itself over the decades.
If, however, the result does not necessarily have to meet the highest quality standards, then many prefer cheaper alternatives because of the high price of Adobe software. There are, in fact, numerous freeware with which you can get more than satisfactory results.
The best image processing programs
Today's users have much higher expectations of what an image processing program needs to be able to do. At the same time, however, they expect the use of the program and all the integrated tools to be simple even without having previous knowledge. Exploring the market, you will actually find free programs for image processing that can satisfy even these high demands.
GIMP (Windows, macOS, Linux):
In 1998 the first official version 1.0 of the GNU Image Manipulation Program was released, which is probably better known by most as GIMP. Today the software developed by Peter Mattis and Spencer Kimball is undoubtedly one of the most important open-source image editing programs (GNU GPL license) in the world. Based on the Generic Graphics Library (GEGL), GIMP has grown in the shadow of paid programs, becoming a complete and competitive solution for image optimization and processing. Originally designed for GNU / Linux, the program now runs on all common Windows and macOS systems.
Under the menu item "Windows" of GIMP, you can add the menus of the layers, brushes, and tool options as dockable dialog boxes.
Like most open source applications, GIMP has a modular structure that allows a functional extension at any time. In addition, the operating elements can be arranged, displayed, or hidden at will. However, there is no standard configuration that securely fixes the most important modules in the general interface, which makes insertion unnecessarily complicated.
However, those who have familiarized themselves with the software and found their preferred configuration can also use it directly immediately after each start. When it comes to functionality, GIMP is in no way inferior to other popular image editing software. For example, the following filters and effects are available on an unlimited number of levels:
- Blurs (Pixel, Gaussian, Movement, etc.)
- Improvement (Sharpening, Red-Eye Removal, etc.)
- Light and shadow (Twinkle, Lens flare, etc.)
- Artistic (Comics, Oil Painting, etc.)
- Decorative (coffee stains, rounded corners, etc.)
- Animation (Burn-In, Waves, etc.)
With GIMP, it is also possible to perform simple optimization measurements: the color distribution, saturation, contrast, and brightness can be corrected with just a few clicks. There are also tools for cropping, resizing and rotating images, as well as tools for editing individual elements. In view of the many possible export formats, the image processing program is hardly believed to be free. From typical image formats like .jpg, .gif and .bmp to archive formats like .gz and .bz2 up to web formats like .html or .xhtml, GIMP offers a lot to users.
Krita (Windows, macOS, Linux):
The Krita multiplatform, open-source application, is the result of years of development, which began in 1998 with the desire for an alternative to GIMP based on the Qt library. For various reasons, this original project was abandoned, and instead, the design of a new independent image processing program was started until the first version of Krita finally entered the market in 2004 as part of the KOffice office software.
Recently the developer KDE has focused in particular on drawing tools and has transformed the program into one of the best open source solutions for cartoonists, illustrators and concept artists, without neglecting the aspect of classic image editing.
On Krita, you can customize both the design and the tool palette.
To offer artists the optimal platform for their work process, Krita attaches importance not only to useful tools such as the brush stabilizer and a large selection of brush types but also to modern design. Unlike GIMP, the KDE project has predefined standard layouts for various projects (e.g., "Standard," "Animation," or "Large image"), which can also be used by inexperienced users.
However, this arrangement of tools can be adapted to your needs by dragging it with the drag & drop function in the corresponding settings menu. The fact that Krita is also a free first-class program for image processing is already evident from the convincing selection of reworking, filtering, and transformation tools. Among other things, the application contains the following editing functions:
- Brightness / contrast curve
- Add brightness tool
- Color balance
- Edge detection
- Oil painting effect
With the help of masks, it is possible to apply effects to the different levels of the image of the project. There are also options for cropping, flipping, or resizing images. All the steps are archived in the action history, to be activated as a dialog that can be hooked on some of the predefined layouts. This way, you can go back to a previous action to undo the changes.
Adobe Photoshop Express Editor (web app, iOS, Android, Windows Phone):
Photoshop is generally associated with first-class image processing software, the performance of which is matched only in exceptional cases by competing products. Usually, for professionals, it is always the first choice. However, it also has a high price, which is why many amateur photographers and graphic designers prefer to choose cheaper alternatives. With the Express Editor, Adobe also offers a free image editing program. The web application is based on Flash and can, therefore, only be used with Flash Player installed. The tool is now also available as an app for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, downloadable from the respective App Store.
The Photoshop Express Editor interface is only available in English.
Express Editor tools are based on Photoshop's proven algorithms, so the use of filters and effects provides first-rate results. Compared to the original image processing program, however, the range of functions of the free counterparty is much smaller. Going into the smallest details while editing photos and graphics, you soon reach the limits of the web tool. When it comes to a simple optimization and transformation process, however, there is no application that can keep up with Express Editor. This is ensured by these functions, which are available immediately after uploading an image (and without registration):
- Resize (default or custom sizes)
- Self-correction mode
- Red-eye correction
- Add brightness tool
- Pixel effect
- Illustration with comic effect
- Sharpness adjustment
The tool is very intuitive to use, so the good structure of the interface plays an important role. The instruments are divided into two categories, "Edit," and "Decorate," while the first is divided into the three sub-areas "Basic," "Adjustments," and "Effects." The intensity of the respective calibration measurement can be selected by predefined stages or determined manually by means of a regulator. The biggest limitation of the free image processing program is the fact that it only allows the import and export of images in JPG format.