Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0 doesn’t disappoint. PSE 6 has been a fantastic software tool, and version 8 promises to be even better at a still-reasonable $99.95 (a ten dollar increase from PSE 6). I enthusiastically recommend it and wouldn’t want to be without it. There are alternatives to Photoshop Elements, however, including a gaggle of online image editing programs offered either for free or a modest fee. None of them holds a candle to full-fledged bitmap image editors like Photoshop Elements, Pixelmator or Acorn in terms of power and sophistication, but depending on your needs, image editing “in the cloud” could be all you require.
To check out the possibilities I tested several image editing sites, and found them a somewhat mixed bag, but was pleasantly surprised by how good several were. Here’s what I discovered.
Sumo Paint 2.0
One of my favorites is Snap Group Ltd’s Sumo Paint, which can be used as a paint program and photo editing program, and which was recently upgraded with a claimed 100-plus improvements, and a totally renovated web site to make it easier, faster, and more attractive, and several new tools: Layer FX, Change Layers With Blending Modes, change layer alpha, Shapes Tool, Brushes, Ink Brush Tool, Gradient Tool, Shape Trails, Zooming, Symmetry Tool , Color Picker, Swatches, Smudge Tool, and Custom Shape Tool.
Along with Pixlr (see below), I found Sumo Paint’s user interface to be the most Mac-like in a Photoshop-ish sort of way.
Sumo Paint works with any browser that has the Flash player plugin (ver 9). You can find the Sumo Paint user manual here.
Another free online image editor I liked a lot was Fotoflexer, which is impressively fast and slick, with no registration or login necessary. Fotoflexer doesn’t have as many tools as Sumo Paint or some of the other online image editors I tried, and they’re laid out in a non-orthodox configuration, but it’s pretty intuitive, fast and responsive, and the adjustments refresh in real time so you can finely tune your enhancements visually as you move the sliders.
This is a very-well executed tool with a convenient full-screen mode that’s easy and fast to get in and out of.
Aviary Phoenix Image Editor
Phoenix is part of the Aviary online image editing suite, and has a range of functions from basic image retouching to complex effects, providing the key features of a desktop image editor, with the simplicity and accessibility of a web-based application.
Its suite of creation and editing tools includes undo and redo, brushes, magic wand, and blend modes. Phoenix also supports layers, groups, and layer masks, and has an intuitive drag and drop interface.
Other features are collaboration with other users, step-by-step tutorials to learn new skills, and image import from popular photo-sharing sites like Flickr, Picasa, and Facebook.
Aviary offers Phoenix in a free basic plan plus a premium Pro plans that allows more control over the application’s usage ($24.99 a year).
Another online image editor is Pixlr from Sweden. It’s free (donations accepted), starts up very quickly with no login required, and has a good selection of tools, adjustments and filters that work quite similarly to functions in Photoshop, including tools such as layers, image adjustments, and the magic wand, and which I found generally work well, although one thing I didn’t like is that the adjustments don’t refresh in real time as you move the sliders.
Pixlr also supports multiple languages, and an available Pixlr plugin for Firefox turns your browser into an image editor. Once the plugin is installed, you’ll notice a little icon in the Firefox status bar that you can click to automatically import any web page you’re on to Pixlr for editing. Or if you just want to edit an image from the web, right click and select Edit in Pixlr. The image editor will open in a new tab and load the picture automatically.
Dr. Pic by PicResize
PicResize has been around since March 2005 and claims to be one of the most popular online image editing tools available on the Internet due to its ease of use, with more than 5 million pictures resized and edited to date. In late 2008, PicResize’s online picture editor, PicResize 3.0, was renamed DrPic.com. The service is free, and promises to remain so.
DrPic.com uses HTML and Ajax with absolutely no Flash, so no plugin is required. In testing I found it fast, but doesn’t have a lot of tools, and the image view is especially clunky, with no standard “File” and “Edit” command menus, and I wasn’t terribly impressed with its capabilities.
Free forever is great, but here are other, better choices.
I also tried Piknik, which has the virtue of fast startup and no login hassle, but I didn’t find the free version up to much. You would want to upgrade to the for-fee premium version with this one, at a cost of $2.08 to $24.95 a month.
Based on what I could gather from the free basic version, Sumo Paint, Fotoflexer or Pixlr would be better free alternatives.
Which online image editing tool do you use and why?