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5 Best Free Photo Editing Software for Windows PC in 2022

Last Updated on Apr. 8, 2022 – by David Morgan
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5 Best Free Photo Editing Software for Windows

Whether you make a living taking pictures or just do it for fun, the software you use to retouch, edit, and enhance images can have a more significant impact on how your photos look than your camera. 

While some software provide users with a significant number of high-quality editing tools, they may lack sufficient organizational features. On the other hand, a free program may feature a clean, streamlined interface but limit your ability to use advanced features such as object removal, AI-powered sky replacement, and other professional-quality tools without a hefty subscription fee.

If you've found yourself wondering, “What is the best free photo editing software for Windows?” you're in the right place. In this article, we'll outline the best features and surprising creative elements you can find in the top five choices of free photo editing software. Each pick will help streamline your editing process and enhance your workflow. So let’s dive right in!

Top 3 Free Photo Editors in 2022

PhotoDirector Logo

1. PhotoDirector Essential - Best Overall

PhotoDirector Essential is an all-in-one free photo editor and organizer with an incredible mix of tools and unique features. There are hundreds of filters, stickers, frames, and overlays to make your photos look unique and professional. It includes powerful AI tools, photo effects, advanced color controls, intuitive layer editing, and templates; making it a great choice for anyone from novice to professional photographer. More Info >

GIMP Logo

2. GIMP Photo Editor - Best Open-Source Editor

GIMP is a cross-platform, open-source free photo editor that includes advanced layer editing, adjustable brushes, custom color adjustment tools, and a customizable interface. More Info >

Pixlr Logo

3. Pixlr - Best Online Editor

Pixlr is a web-based free photo editor and design tool with an easy-to-use desktop version. It comes with design templates and a collage maker, as well as photo filters and effects. It’s an easy-to-use free photo editor with some advanced features. More Info >

What is a Photo Editing Software?

Photo editing software is an application used to manipulate or enhance images, often on the pixel level. This can range from basic apps on phones to professional industry-standard programs on PCs. Desktop editing software is typically used on photos taken with a digital camera and then uploaded into the program.

Top 5 Free Photo Editing Software

1. PhotoDirector Essential - Best Overall

PhotoDirector interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 10/10

Advanced Features: 10/10

Key Features

PhotoDirector Essential empowers creators of all experience levels to turn their photos into studio-quality masterpieces. It combines Lightroom's photo processing and organization functions with Photoshop's powerful editing, enhancement, and altering tools. Guided modules lower the learning curve which in turn will help you produce high-quality photo effects in just a few clicks. 

The software allows you to batch sort and order tag names, locations, and other metadata. Its AI-powered facial recognition technology will also help streamline your organizational process, making it the best photo organizer for beginners. You can combine photos using the automatic slideshow creator and even add background music

PhotoDirector also features an abundance of photo adjustment options and editing tools. Apply masks, layer filtering, experiment with blur effects, adjust alignment, or transform 360° photos into panorama shots. It is also a great choice for basic edits, such as adding text or cropping, rotating, or flipping photos.

PhotoDirector Essential is the best overall free photo editor in this list. It is very beginner-friendly but also has all the advanced editing tools for more experienced editors. Not to mention, it’s always at the forefront of the latest photo trends and technology because of regular updates.

Pros
Cons
  • Requires a large amount of hard drive space

Download PhotoDirector now and see why PCMag said it gives, “Adobe a run for its money…”

2. GIMP Photo Editor - Best Open-Source Editor

GIMP interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux

Overall Rating: 8/10

Advanced Features: 9/10

Key Features

  • Comprehensive line-up of editing tools
  • Quick interface customization
  • Easy expansion using community-created plugins or written code

GIMP – also known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program – is a free photo editor that features a surprisingly well-rounded amassing of complex and basic photo editing tools that rival those of Photoshop and similar paid programs.

While the base software comes well-stocked with flexible features like layer editing functions, masking, color management features, and effects, you can also download free plugins created by other GIMP users. Further, the software's customizable layout and ongoing developments ensure that it stays on pace with other free photo editors. 

While you can access the platform's wide array of tools, GIMP falls short in one significant area: user optimization. The loaded interface often feels overwhelming, while beginners and intermediate editors may struggle to find solutions for complicated editing techniques. Additionally, GIMP offers little help for its users outside of the community discussion panels.

Pros
  • Adjustable brushes
  • Custom color adjustment and gradient tools
Cons
  • Hard to learn
  • Clunky looking interface

3. Pixlr - Best Online Editor

Pixlr interface

Compatibility: Web browser, Windows

Overall Rating: 8/10

Advanced Features: 6/10

Key Features

  • Design templates
  • Picture collage maker
  • Filters and effects
  • Skin retouch tools

Pixlr's free, lightweight editing software works well for beginners and more experienced editors in need of a quick solution for basic edits. Without a fully-loaded editing suite to search through, you can easily locate tools like spot-healing brushes and stamps, or make minor adjustments to the photo's color and lighting. Pixlr's streamlined layout and a minimalistic array of tools help simplify the editing process for beginners. 

The software supports layers and masks and features several essential editing tools such as customizable brushes and visual effects. Advanced users familiar with Photoshop will find the software’s toolbars familiar, but beginners may struggle with the lack of guidance available. 

Though the program rarely crashes, ad-heavy banners and poorly navigable pages reduce the functionality and aesthetic appeal of the platform. You may also notice that the program renders slowly, resulting in frustrating, inconsistent movements of your mouse or touchpad. 

Casual users may enjoy making small tweaks to their pictures or creating collages within Pixlr's software, but if you need a user-friendly free photo editor with a more comprehensive array of tools, Pixlr won't make the cut.

Pros
  • No need to download software
  • Different level editor options
Cons
  • Lacks advanced features other software have

4. Movavi Picverse - Best for Restoration

Movavi Picverse interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 7/10

Advanced Features: 7/10

Key Features

  • AI auto-enhance
  • AI restoration
  • Effects and filters
  • Sharpness adjustment

Movavi Picverse has built its reputation on one key function: quickly and easily removing unwanted objects from your pictures. The minimalistic interface makes it easy to clear the background of your photos. 

The software also offers a simplified alternative to AI-powered background removal: Users can upload images into the platform then clip and insert elements from one photo onto another.

With this free photo editor, you can adjust the size and orientation of your photo using the crop, rotate, level, and resize features or apply stylistic filters such as sepia, black and white, and oil painting. 

Movavi also provides users with a few photo adjustment options. It allows you to manually tweak the color, brightness, contrast, and saturation of your photo, apply Magic Enhance for one-click edits, or add text, titles, and captions for fully customized photos.

While beginners can cut distracting or disruptive elements from their photos, even the most inexperienced users may feel that Movavi's actual editing features fall short of expectations. The software features limited sorting and organizational tools that don't match free photo editors using AI-powered processing technology. You can upgrade to the Photo Studio package for more options, but that requires a monthly subscription. 

Pros
  • Automatic photo organization
  • Light and color correction
Cons
  • Erase and stamp lacking in functionality
  • Only contains basic effects

5. BeFunky - Best for Quick, Simple Edits

BeFunky interface

Compatibility: Web browser

Overall Rating: 7/10

Advanced Features: 5/10

Key Features

  • Collage making
  • Graphic design workflow

When considering the best free photo editing software, Windows users can't forget BeFunky. The free photo editor offers many of the tools, features, and functions beginners need to enhance photos, manually adjust color and lighting, and create customizable collages or graphics.

With ten photo editing modules, you can quickly browse through the software's editing interface to alter template layouts, upload images, and make minor tweaks. While the free version will only allow you to access about one-third of the platform's tools, novice users may enjoy the simplified functionality. 

Proficient editors will likely wish for more options – and far fewer advertisements. Upgrading to BeFunky's premium subscription will unlock features such as cutout tools, background replacement, color replacement, and other highly impactful editing functions. 

Pros
  • Batch edit photos
  • Customizable design templates
Cons
  • Lacks many useful features and the functionality of a fully-loaded editing software

Best Free Photo Editing Software Comparison Chart

Software PhotoDirector Essential GIMP Photo Editor Pixlr Movavi Picverse BeFunky
OS Windows, Mac Windows, Mac, Linux Web Browser, Windows Windows, Mac Web Browser
Beginner-Friendly Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Advanced Features Yes Yes No No No
AI Tools Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Organization Tools Yes No No Yes No
Free Download
Free Download
Secure Download
Download Download Download Download

PhotoDirector Essential vs

OS

Windows, Mac

-

Beginner-Friendly

Yes

-

Advanced Features

Yes

-

AI Tools

Yes

-

Organization Tools

Yes

-


How to Edit a Photo

Here’s how to edit a photo’s colors using PhotoDirector. Download it below and follow along:


  1. Click Import in the bottom left of the screen, then click Photos.
  2. PhotoDirector interface - Import
  3. Choose the photo you would like to edit and click Open
  4. Click on Adjustment from the top menu to bring up color adjustment tools. 
  5. From here you can change your photo from color to Black and White, or adjust white balance, tone, shadows, sharpness, saturation, and more.

  6. When you are done editing your photo, click Create in the bottom left. 
  7. PhotoDirector interface - Edit

Using PhotoDirector’s Guided Tools makes advanced photo edits and adding visual effects effortless and straightforward. Anyone can master them in a matter of minutes.

Here’s how to add effects to your images using PhotoDirector’s Guided Tools: 


  1. Click Import in the bottom left of the screen, then click Photos.
  2. Choose the photo you would like to edit and click Open
  3. Click on Guided from the top menu. 
  4. This will bring up the collection of guide modules designed to make advanced photo editing and creating spectacular effects a snap. 

    PhotoDirector - Sky Replacement
  5. Scroll through all the categories and decide how you would like to edit your photo. For this example, we will choose Sky Replacement.
  6. Select which sky template you would like to use to replace your photo’s sky. It will automatically replace it for you. 
  7. PhotoDirector - Sky Replacement Settings
  8. Use the Sky Replacement Settings to make any adjustments you would like to your sky.
  9. Sky Replacement Before
    Sky Replacement After
  10. Save as a New Photo File or New Video/GIF File if you used an animated sky.

For more information on editing photos with PhotoDirector, go to the full tutorial here. 

Download the Best Free Photo Editing Software

Whether you enjoy snapping photos on your phone or have built a career as a professional photographer, you should demand the best from your photo editing software. Creating extraordinary Photoshop-like effects doesn't rely on having the most expensive, complex photo editing software around.

PhotoDirector is the best free photo editor that allows you to animate photos, remove unwanted objects, change backgrounds, and edit with amazing special effects. There are even beautification tools like body-slimming, skin smoothing, and teeth whitening. With so many editing tools and effects, PhotoDirector is surprisingly easy to use, with guided edits and tutorials when you need them. 

No matter how much experience you have, PhotoDirector makes basic editing and advanced visual effects easy. From one-click corrections to AI-powered sky replacement and more, PhotoDirector guarantees an unmatched editing experience.

Download PhotoDirector below and get started for free today!

Free Photo Editing Software FAQ

1. What are the Best Free Photo Editing Apps?

An application used to manipulate or enhance images. This can range from basic apps on phones to professional industry-standard programs on PCs.

2. What Is the Best Free Photo Editing App?

  1. PhotoDirector
  2. Adobe Photoshop Camera
  3. Pixlr
  4. PicsArt
  5. Snapseed

Check out our list of best photo editing apps for Android and iOS for an in depth look at each.

2. Should I Pay For a Photo Editing Software?

Whether you pay for editing software or stick with a free photo editor is completely dependent on your needs and what kind of edits you want to make. If you’re making simple adjustments like cropping, rotating, or flipping, then a basic free editor should be fine. 

If you want to add photo effects or layer photos, you will benefit from paying for a quality photo editor. Some free photo editors like PhotoDirector offer advanced features, but it is an exception to the rule. There is also a paid version of PhotoDirector that includes a 4,000,000+ stock library and lots of extra creative assets.

3. What Is the Best Paid Photo Editing Software for Windows PC?

4. How Much Does a Photo Editing Software Cost?

Prices can vary quite a bit. Some editing software are purchased with a one-time fee, while others offer subscriptions that are charged monthly or annually. We included a comparison chart with prices in our Best Paid Photo Editing Software in 2022 article to help you better understand the cost.

5. What Photo Editing Features Should I Look For?

The top ten features you should look out for are:

  1. User-friendly
  2. Organizational tools
  3. Color correction and filters
  4. Layer editing
  5. AI- powered tools
  6. Content-aware editing
  7. Photo animation
  8. Beautifying tools
  9. Color effects
  10. Light effects
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