I have a confession to make: I never really gave Microsoft Paint a chance. When I first started out as a web developer, I thought I needed the best of the best and got a copy of Photoshop 7. When I did try to go back to it on machines where it was the only option, it seemed trivial and lacking. I did realize I didn’t always need Photoshop though, and gave some other image editors a whirl. In this roundup, let’s take a loot at some alternatives to Paint for both image creation and photo editing/touch-ups.
Price: $198 for students, $699 full price
Let’s start with the big guns and get it out of the way. Photoshop, currently on CS5, is the de-facto industry standard for a lot of industries; it’s powerful, widely used, and can be used for both screen (RGB) and print (CMYK) media.
Though it has a hefty price tag (which is considerably cheaper if you’re a student/faculty member), if you want to get into true graphic design, Photoshop is something you should definitely learn. You can check it out here.
Short for GNU Image Manipulation Program, GIMP is the free, open source alternative to Photoshop and used by a lot of people, especially those not looking to break the bank to buy Photoshop. There are some drawbacks to using GIMP; the most notable one being that CMYK color scheming is not supported and therefore it not great for print.
If you’re merely looking to touch up photos or want to create anything for the screen, GIMP could be your best bet especially for the ‘price tag.’ Plus, since it’s an open source project there are tons of plugins, skins, and more to customize GIMP and make it your own. You can check it out here.
I couldn’t do a round-up about Paint alternatives without including a program for which Paint is its namesake! Paint.NET is an incredibly powerful and free image editor that has been compared to the two mentioned above.
With support for layers and other powerful features as well as a more refined UI than GIMP at least, Paint.NET is definitely worth looking at for something as simple as cropping or as involved as logo creation. While it took some getting used to because I am used to Photoshop, I’ve been using it on my Windows machine in lieu of Adobe’s best product. You can check it out here.
I love Google and I think they do amazing things (you can also probably tell from this round-up that I love free software). While Picasa might not fall under the image creation category- it’s not something you’d make a logo with- it absolutely falls under the image manipulation/editing category. Whether you’re looking to crop a photo, straighten it, fix red eye, or something else, Picasa has your back.
I’ve used this not only instead of Paint, but also Microsoft Photo Editor, Photoshop (which is overkill for certain things), and even iPhoto on the Mac. The best part about Picasa is that once you’re done editing your photos, you can quickly upload them using the same program! You can check it out here.
Photoscape is a program I personally don’t have a lot of experience with, but one that is filled to the rafters with features, all for free. You can do all of the things you’d expect from a photo editor like resizing, cropping, color adjustments, etc. You can also do some pretty cool things like create animated GIFs, batch editing, screen shots, combine several photos into one, and even do a “Face Search” (which I have yet to try; if you have, let us know how it is).
All in all, Photoscape is a pretty great, well rounded photo editor with some awesome features to boot! You can check it out here.
This program is actually a throwback for me; it’s something one of my Comp Sci. Professors told me about early in my college career when I was looking for something lightweight to do some photo touch-ups. IrFanView was a perfect recommendation because it’s free, simple, and it’s not a resource hog.
While Photoscape has a lot of neat features, IrfanView has the features you expect to be there and little else, which isn’t a bad thing. Plus, if you are looking for some more features, IrfanView is open source and supports plugins. You can check it out here.
Price: $87 for students, $299 full price
I know what you’re thinking. I’m finishing up this round-up with not only another alternative that costs money, but another one by Adobe. It’s true that there might be a better one to mention here, but I couldn’t think of it and Lightroom is definitely worth mentioning. This is something my brother, a professional photographer swears by.
If you’re looking for some of the power that Adobe products are capable of without needing a machine that’s plentiful enough in resources to run Photoshop, Lightroom is your program. More closely aligned with Picasa than it is with Photoshop itself, Lightroom provides you with a beautiful UI to go along with some powerful touch-up features. You can check it out here.
So that’s what I have for you as far as Paint alternatives go. As for what I actually use, Photoshop is what I use the most. When I am on my Windows machine and don’t quite need the power of Photoshop, I’ll turn to Picasa or Paint.NET for my photo editing needs. What about you? Is there a program you use that isn’t on the list? Let us know in the comments!