Can’t afford Photoshop? Can’t justify the expense? What do you need in a good photo editor anyway? To me, the absolute essential features necessary for any photo editing app are:
- Layers and layer masks (alpha editing). These features let you selectively apply edits and filters to portions of the image that you control.
- Painting tools. Brushes in varying sizes and hardness. For painting masks, mostly.
- Curves. Essential. A curves adjustment tool lets you control color, color saturation, contrast, brightness, and black white points. Curves is often the only tool I use.
- Color adjustment. Hue and saturation adjustments.
- Channel mixer/B&W converter. Some way to make black and white photos.
- Filters. Blur and sharpen. You don’t need page curl or lens flare.
Without further ado, and in alphabetical order, some free apps that fit the bill:
Aviary Phoenix (Web app–All platforms)
The only web/online app in the list that supports layers and masks. “From basic image retouching to complex effects,