Seven Photoshop alternatives: Online image editors reviewed and rated

You don't need Photoshop to create a digital masterpiece -- in fact, all you need is a browser. We've picked seven unique, unusual or powerful online image editors

Photoshop is the behemoth of desktop image editing, stuffed with powers beyond all but the most creative of digital artists. But you don't need to fork out for Photoshop or even download any software to benefit from image retouching, layers, levels and other tools for crafting digital masterworks. As part of our guide to cloud computing, we've tested a host of image editors that allow you to achieve many of the effects offered by Photoshop, but solely within your browser -- without that whopping price tag or even a download.

None of these programs require an install, so we'll be leaving aside the likes of Paint.net and Gimp. Previously we've reviewed and rated assorted editors: Picnik, which integrates seamlessly and elegantly with Flickr, the gorgeous Splashup, and the flexible Flauntr. We've looked at the headbendingly clever seam-carving offered by FotoFlexer , and the raw-editing Snipshot. We've also shown you how to turbo-charge your photos with Phoenix, Flickr, JPEGCrops and Qtpfsgui.

On our rating scale, 1 is a basic image editor like that ol' favourite MS Paint, while 10 is Photoshop itself. Come with us through our latest crop of online image editors for photo retouching and creating animations -- and meet our new favourite Photoshop replacement.

Pixenate offers plenty of options, including straightening and adjustments. Other features include teeth-whitening by drawing a box around your subject's mouth and lightening a vaguely smile-shaped area, and interlacing, which adds horizontal lines and makes your picture look like a TV still. Most options show a respectably sized preview thumbnail. It's also a Facebook app.

CNET UK verdict: Lightweight editor primarily for photo retouching, with Facebook integration a neat touch. 4/10

Picture2Life animates images, in this case for social-network avatars and profile pictures. You can connect to sites such as Flickr and Facebook, and even add an extension to Firefox or IE to grab any image from the Web for editing.

CNET UK verdict: Not the most powerful image editor, but the social-networking features are fun. 4/10

If you don't want to sign up to Phixr, you can create a temporary account that lasts two hours, or the site supports OpenID. You can upload an image from your hard drive or from a URL, which means you can edit your Flickr or Facebook images.

Effects include the option to convert to black and white or sepia, and alter the brightness, saturation and contrast. The preview thumbnail isn't great for fine detail, but it does give you an overall idea of the effect. The most unusual feature is the ability to upload a scan of text and run optical character recognition.

CNET UK verdict: Some uncommon features lift this above the profusion of basic editors. 5/10

LunaPic also creates animations from images, with snappy rotating cube and reflection animations that can be saved as animated gifs.

In an unusual but still intuitive twist, it saves your history as a sequence of thumbnails, so you can actually see and restore each edit. And unlike Photoshop it's not linear, so rather than only being able to hop backwards and forge on from that point with a new set of edits, losing a sequence of changes, you can hop to any edit at any time. The only thing to remember is that the thumbnails are numbered from right to left.

There aren't any layers, but you can paste a selection, move it around and even alter the transparency before clicking apply. You can also view the selection saved in your clipboard.

CNET UK verdict: Animated gifs may not make you very popular around the Web, but they're still fun to make -- and the clever history is certainly different. 5/10

The Piki range of sites allows you to turn your images into clothing and even sell it online. PikiStrips creates comic strips from photos, adding captions and speech bubbles.

With pikipimp you can play with your images, then add them to t-shirts, bags and hoodies to sell in your pikistore.

CNET UK verdict: Again, not the most powerful image editor, but who doesn't want to see their creations on a t-shirt? 6/10

Not only does Sumo offer layers, you can also create more advanced layer features, such as drop shadow. It offers assorted blending and masking options, as well as levels and curves. In fact, it'll do pretty much everything you'd ever expect of a Photoshop alternative. And once you've created your masterpiece, you can show it off to the Sumo community with a free account.

CNET UK verdict: Outstanding. Does everything we could think of and does it well. Photowho? 8/10

Pixlr is a truly impressive Photoshop replacement with layers, history, levels and all the tools you'd expect. As well as the usual brushes and boxes, the toolbar also includes effects such as sponge and smudge tools, and distorting pinch and bloat options. The list of filters is one of the longest we've seen, including everything from scanlines and heatmap to a nifty tilt-shift effect.

Effects benefit from real-time previewing, which even with 12-megapixel photos only briefly lags. With Web-sized images, changes are previewed near-instantly.

CNET UK verdict: A true Photoshop replacement -- in your Web browser! A vast range of effects and filters make this our new favourite image editor. 9/10

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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