My idea was to find online image editors that were relevant for today's needs, that were not dated, nor cluttered, but also had sufficient tools for one to make a quick or basic edit without the need to leave the browser.
I was looking for a truly free app, not freemium or other gimmicks. And, much preferably, that I didn't have to sign up for or log-in to.
I found a lot of clumsy, cumbersome and ugly attempts that left me with a bad taste in my image-editing mouth. And there are a lot of those! I had to spend a long time searching and trying and discarding online apps in order to come up with what I thought were the best… and you know what happened?
I ended up with just ONE!
I never imagined this would be the case, because there are tons of offers. But the combination of characteristics and features I wanted might have been too hard. Whatever the case, I'll tell you what it is and why those that came close didn't make the cut (but you still might want to use in some situations).
This is the one.
Pixlr X is very close to what I imagine a great online photo editor should be. It looks current, it's very easy to navigate and know where things are, it has hover help and explanations for its tools and just the right number of tools and features to retouch or compose an image quickly without it feeling too overwhelming or too lacking.
First good thing is that you drag and drop to open an image. Which, at this point in technology, I think is essential. It comes with the basic, but very necessary features like crop (rotate, resize), with the useful preset aspect ratios for popular needs like film and social media sites. Tonal and value controls like color, light, vibrance and curves. Basic filters like sharpness and blur and a few trendy extras like vignette, glamour and mosaic. It also comes with some effect presets that you can adjust the opacity of, and retouch tools like heal, clone stamp and dodge and burn. You can also draw with some very basic brushes, and add text quickly with the text tools that offer several different fonts.
There's a nice variety of overlays, borders, shapes and stickers you can add and they are sorted by categories, which makes you find what you need really fast. And since you can work with layers, you're not even limited to that. Layers have blend modes, so you can play with your compositions however you see fit. Adding images is easy and you can do it from your computer, a URL and you can also search for stock images right from within the app.
I was pleasantly surprised to see such a robust online app that is easy to use and very nice to work with. So much so, that I didn't seem to find another one that compared to it! I'm going to list here what I liked the most and I couldn't find in other online apps. Some lacked one or two key features, some lacked a lot of them.
- No signup or login
Not only that, but it also remembers your history without you having to do anything.
- Uses WebGL… and NOT Flash, with its laggy and dated ways.
- Sexy and user-friendly UI
You have NO idea how many horrible looking editors I found. Maybe you don't mind, but I can't try to make a pretty picture in an ugly looking environment. Not only that… finding stuff, not having to click a million times to do something, or having dials that work is crucial to a quick and non-frustrating workflow.
- Keyboards shortcuts
If you're used to them, it's hard to work without them.
- Just the right number of tools and options
Some other apps are too sparse so if you have to heal a blemish, you can't. Others have too many unnecessary features that just confuse you when you want to make a quick edit.
There are a couple that I should mention and briefly comment on:
It's free, you don't have to sign up, and it has many of the features needed to edit and decorate or add text to an image. BUT… it's really not as nice looking or practical to use. AND it uses Flash. Having said that, it's a pretty good alternative.
Chances are you have a Google account, so you can use this without signing up for something extra. If you use Google Photos and you need a very quick, very easy touch-up and you don't need layers, text or decorations, just the basic retouch or crop, you can use this by selecting an image in your Google Photos gallery and clicking the edit button. It's very easy to use and to the point.
Don't get me wrong, there are more options, but there are either freemium, trials or you have to pay for extra stuff. These are the ones I found that are worthy of using and are truly free, and since that was my goal, I wanted to present you my honest findings, even if the resulting list is pretty short.
Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina. Learn more about Barbara and her work at the following links:
Barbara Din YouTube Channel