Here’s a list of 20 web-based photo editing applications. All of them are free, or have a decent free option. Some of these include features which, only a few years ago, were not seen outside of serious desktop apps like Photoshop or Corel Photo Paint. Now, thanks to the Interwebs, now you, too, can do awful, unspeakable things to your best friend’s face (see above). These applications run inside your browser, which means you don’t need to download and install a program to use them. However, you will need to upload your photo to work on it, unless it’s already “in the cloud” somewhere, like Flickr or Photobucket. I don’t think even the most powerful of these apps is ready for professional, production usage. But for millions of online creative types (you know who you are), they are just what is needed. And the free price doesn’t hurt!
There are three rough categories I’ve used to group these apps:
- Full-featured Photo Editors
- Snapshot Editors
- Just For Fun
Full-featured Photo Editors
Aviary is a whole online suite of applications. Phoenix is similar in many ways to Adobe Photoshop, with layers, filters, brushes, and similar features. Aviary also includes a vector drawing tool, along with four other apps. Aviary is also available on Facebook as an app.
Mersica founder and CEO Mario Gomes Cavalcanti says he “wanted to create a graphics tool that combines Desktop Publishing (DTP) with image painting, vector drawing and merchandise printing. This is what I came up with after 5 years of work.” The editor, still in beta, is called GFX Editor. One of it’s strengths is the ability to create designs for sale on Zazzle merchandise, such as sneakers, coffee mugs, and t-shirts. Expect to spend a good bit of time learning this tool. There’s a lot here.
We’ve reviewed Sumo Paint before (here), and it just continues to get bigger and better. Sumo is, like Painter, an image editor and a painting application. Like Aviary’s Phoenix, Sumo looks very much like Photoshop. So if you’re familiar with Photoshop, the learning curve is almost nil. There are many filters and tools, quite a few unique to Sumo. This is the free tool.
For $19, you can own Sumo Pro, which you download and install on your machine. It uses Adobe AIR technology, which means it will run on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I’m sure the desktop Pro version runs faster and is more stable than the online version. Plus, you can run it without an Internet connection. Kudos to Sumo for offering both versions.
Splashup, formerly Fauxto, strides the line between full-featured editor and simple snapshot editor. It includes layers, layer effects, brushes, filters, and others familiar to Photoshop users. Splashup works hand in glove with Facebook, Flickr, SmugMug, Picasa, and Photobucket.
Splashup Light is a downloadable, down-scaled version of Splashup. You can install it on your desktop or laptop. Like it’s big brother, Splashup Light is free.
Google acquired Picnik a few months ago. Now they own an online editor as well as their desktop editor, Picasa. Both are free, though there is a paid, premium option. You can upload files to Picnik, and exchange photos between your online social network sites, like Facebook and MySpace.
Pixenate has the usual photo-enhancement tools, as well as some fun ones, add a heart-shape frame, apply a sepia tone, or even an oil-paint effect. There’s a hook into Flickr, as well as into Zazzle, to turn your image into a coffee mug or greeting card.
The free version of Snipshot offers far less than the other apps in this list. Filter effects are only available to paid subscribers. It’s hard to see why anyone would pay for such a barebones product when there are much better, free options available.
Pixlr is another program that is more than a simple red-eye remover tool. It has layers, layer masks, a dozen filters, a bloat/shrink tool, brushes, a smudge tool and a blur tool…really, it looks a lot like a “lite” version of Photoshop. There doesn’t seem to be the usual hooks into the social community.
Despite the rather tacky design and ads scattered about, Lunapic looks like a lot of fun. There are a slew of cool effects, from instant Obama-style poster, Warhol, painted, sketched, even add canvas texture. Want to see your face on the hundred dollar bill? They’ve got it. Plus, you can bring in photos from your other online photo accounts, like Flickr. Lots of easy-to-use effects and enhancements.
Last time I checked, this was called “Photoshop Express.” Now it’s just Photoshop.com, which could be a tad confusing. This is Adobe’s entry into the field of free online photo editors. Clicking on the “Test Drive” button caused Firefox to go blooey, so I’m not able to report on how it works. I’m betting it’s a good, simple snapshot enhancement tool, but that’s just a guess.
Fotoflexer impressed me quite a lot. It has a very nice, clean interface, very easy to use. Yet it has a lot to offer: effects, decorations, animations, hooks into MySpace, Flickr, etc. Support for layers, but this seems to be mainly so you can create a collage of overlapping photos, which is fun. You can select areas to delete, and that works pretty darn well. And of course, up top we saw how much fun we can have messing with the morphing tools. There is a nice “remove blemish” tool, though the “remove wrinkle” tool was a bit heavy-handed. There’s a lot more here, so check it out.
Just for Fun
Befunky almost didn’t make this list, due to their being quite in your face about paid options, starting at $4 a month. However, their effects are some of the best I’ve seen, even compared with professional filters in Photoshop. Somebody did some serious work on these. But if you want them for free, your options are limited to most, not all, of the effects, and they tack on a URL in the bottom right. The oil painting filter was especially nice. The Goodies section (adding eyeglasses, etc.) was not so well done. So that’s Befunky.
Scrapblog is for digital scrapbooking. Upload your photos, then get to work creating designer albums and books, invitations and cards. Get them printed or publish them online. There are some free themes (templates), but most will cost you “credits.” Or you can start with a blank page and design your own theme.
Rollip has a simple mission in life. It takes your uploaded photo and applies one of 40 filters to it, then gives it back to you. The filters tend to make your photo look old, as though it were taken years ago and the film sat in the camera for a long time. If you’re too young to remember film, never mind.
Photovisi is a service that lets you create photo collages. Upload a bunch of photos, load them into one of their templates, and boom: instant collage. Download it or bring it into Zazzle to make a nice gift. Neat!
Morphthing combines two faces into one. Mix Brad Pitt with Barack Obama and see what you come up with. Or, upload your own and do unspeakable things with photos of your friends.
Instead of a plain old blog, Glogster lets you combine words with images and music to tell your story. It’s a community site with a unique idea.
DoInk (pronounced Do Ink) is a neat site, especially for kids. Create drawings and then animate them. Next, download them, or upload your creation to YouTube, and be the next viral sensation. Or just print out your artwork on a t-shirt. There are tutorials and a community forum to help you get started.
This site is a lot of fun. Add your face to a famous movie scene or the cover of Time magazine, create animated GIFs to send in emails, or upload to MySpace and Facebook. There are a lot of templates to use, all free.
Flauntr is a site created by FotoDesk, which does photo printing. You can add your photos to a template to make a card, do standard photo editing, and other fun stuff. I suppose you can then print out your work, somehow, but honestly, their beautiful interface was impossible to use. I was lost. If you find the “Apply” button, drop me a note. I think they may have forgotten it.