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The Best Free Photo Editing Software Applications

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 10/16/2012

If you want to edit your digital photos without editing your budget, choose one of these top ten free photo editing programs, or choose all ten of the best software applications!

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    Open-Source Programs and Freeware for Photo Editing

    The word “free" doesn’t mean what it once did. How many times have we heard phrases like “Free Gift Offer" or “Free with the purchase of..."? We usually find out that “free" really means you only have a trial version to evaluate a product or it's just an enticement to buy a low-cost software program.

    I’ve done my research (so you don’t have to) and have come up with a top ten list of basic photo editing software that is really available for download and use at no cost. Not everyone looks for the same features in a photo program to edit their photos, so this list isn’t in order from best to worst; it’s just in alphabetical order so you know which ones might be best to suit your phot editing needs.

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    1 - GIMP

    GIMP can be installed as an actual program to your computer and it may also be installed as a portable app that can be stored on a USB storage device or a section of your hard drive. If you've experienced and like other open source programs, have a look at Joao Cardoso's review of GIMP or take a peek at what KateG says about GIMP (hint: “The best FREE alternative to PhotoShop"). Both talk about how wonderful GIMP is, and it’s got to be honest because they write numerous articles and reviews for Bright Hub! Click here for a full list of GIMP’s features.

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    2 - ImageForge

    ImageForge’s Standard Edition is offered to users as photo editing freeware so you can test it out to see what it can do for your photos, or you can upgrade to the Pro Edition that will let you edit your photos in more advanced ways... for a small fee.

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    3 - Paint.NET

    Paint.NET was originally designed as a free alternative to Microsoft Paint. Many people sing praise for this software, saying it’s better than GIMP and more affordable than Photoshop (considering it can be downloaded at no cost). Paint.NET also has several plug-ins, enhancing the product and providing users with additional features like image layering, unlimited undo, and special photo effects.

    Read a review of Paint.NET (looking at this review will also direct you to Paint.NET's website, which provides a full list of features and a link to download Paint.NET.)

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    4 - PhotoFiltre

    Users rate this free and feature-packed photo editor very highly. This very user-intuitive and powerful photo editing software can be downloaded at no cost to private or educational users.

    Read a review of PhotoFiltre to find out more (and for a link to the software's website to download the product).

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    5 - PhotoPlus 6

    PhotoPlus 6 is Serif’s standard photo editor. Why is it free? They’re hoping you’ll fall in love with their product and upgrade to their enhanced version, PhotoPlus 8. Click here for a full list of PhotoPlus 6’s features.

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    6 - Photoscape

    Excellent features, highly rated, totally free and fun to use. Who can complain about Serif's PhotoPlus program? Bright Hub's review gives it 5 stars! To read this review, and for a link to download Photoscape, read the PhotoScape Review.

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    7 - Picasa

    Picasa is brought to you by Google, and yes (as expected), is a totally free photo program. Click here to read Bright Hub's review of Picasa, which also includes a link to where you can download Google's photo editing program.

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    8 - Picnik

    Yet another totally free photo editor that lest you crop, resize, and rotate digital photos quickly and easily. Picnik is an online editor that works on all Windows, Mac, and Linux systems without any registration required, and nothing to download. Picnik is very functional and highly rated. Click here to see what Picnik has to offer. *Editor's Note: Unforunately, this service ended April 19, 2012.

    Built somewhat as a replacement to Picnik is Ribbet - another free photo editing tool. You can begin editing photos without even signing up. They have basic features that are free to all, and their premium version is free for a limited time. Check it out and let us know what you think!

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    9 - Pixia

    Due to popular demand, Pixia has been created to support several languages for fixing photos. The original edition is Japanese but different tutorials are offered to help you use the software to edit photos. Cool. Although Pixia’s help files need to be downloaded separately, you'll find just about all the options you need to edit your photos into professional-grade shots. One of Bright Hub's writers reviewed Pixia and said she would even consider paying for this photo editing must be good! Read the Bright Hub review of Pixia by Amanda2380 to see if it's the right photo software for you.

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    10 - VCW VicMan's Photo Editor

    This is an image/photo edit that is not just user friendly with plenty of features, but also lets you skip out on expensive photo editors and create your own works by refining and producing excellent digital photos of your own. So then, why is Bright Hub's review only giving it 3 out of 5 stars? To find out if this photo program is right for you, please visit the VCW VicMan's Photo Editor Review.