Who Needs Photoshop?: 6 Free Graphics App Gems


Do you frequently work with images on the web? If so, you may be used to working with powerful tools such as Photoshop, but there are many free tools out there–from full-blown image editors products that do very targeted kinds of graphics tasks–that can probably do everything you need. In this post, I’ll round up six of my favorite examples.

GIMP,which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program is a free, open source image editor with a powerful set of tools. It was first released in the mid-90’s and the amount of time that open source developers have spent improving it shows. I’ve used it on both Windows and Linux, and it can do most everything anyone needs to do when editing images, although a product like Photoshop does offer some high-end extras. There are a lot of nice touches under the hood, such as dockable palettes, so that you don’t have all your tools in the way when you’re working on an image.

IrfanView is actually my main image editor that I reach for, even though I have Photoshop. It loads in an instant, and has a very rich set of tools, including mutlipage TIF support, support for multiple animated GIFs, and you can choose to use a bunch of useful plug-ins. The application isn’t open source–it’s freeware–but the developers improve it every year and you may get things done much faster in it than in Photoshop.

MWSnap is a free screen capture program with a rich set of tools. It provides a lot of granularity in terms of what portion of a screen you want captured if you don’t want an entire screen. For example, you can easily snap active menus, highlighted windows or individual controls. InstantShot is a free application for the Mac that is good at the same things.

If you frequently convert graphic images to many different file formats, give XnView a try. It supports more than 400 file formats. You can also get a free version for Windows, Linux or Mac OS X.

JPG Cleaner is an interesting, free utility that strips out all non-picture data from JPG images. You’d be surprised how much non-picture data many graphics programs save along with picture data in a JPG. Photoshop, for example, is notorious for inserting non-picture data into JPGs. With JPG Cleaner, you’re JPG files end up smaller but there is no loss in picture quality.

Do you know of any good, free graphics applications?



I used to use GIMP but have switched over to GIMPSHOP. It’s the GIMP which is organized to be more like Photoshop. It seems to load faster than the regular GIMP on my mac.

Jeff O'Connor

@Matt Large – I am not big into open source software, but I love Blender and have sunk a few hundred dollars into books and a monitor that will do it justice (though I am still a noob).

What is the learning curve like with Inkscape? Is it comparable to Creature House Expression 3? I have the latter (also a noob with it) because I had heard great things about the program, but it is now the basis of Microsoft’s vector graphic design software (Expression Blend, I think).

Ben Overmyer

As someone who’s been using Photoshop for the better part of a decade, it’s supremely difficult for me to find utility in any other graphics app.

GIMP in particular has a confusing, unintuitive interface that seems hell-bent on destroying my workflow whenever I try and switch to it.

At work, where I do not have a copy of Photoshop, I rely on Paint.NET when I need to produce images…but without the features I’m accustomed to (particularly layer styles), it’s difficult to achieve the same level of quality in the same amount of time.

Mike Woodhouse

I happily gave up trying to understand how to do, well, anything with the Gimp, which I found hugely frustrating, when I started working with Paint.NET. It’s not as powerful – not yet anyway, but it’s so much more accessible.

Second for MWSnap, on the other hand, which does pretty much exactly what I want on the occasions I need it.

For filing viewing and simple tweaks, Picasa does a good job. And my non-geek wife understands it, too.


Put me in the Paint.Net camp. It does all that I’ve needed — and more. I’m a big fan.


Once you get good with Photoshop, it’s hard to go back to anything else. I recently did work on a computer with no copy of Photoshop and decided to try Gimp and Paint.Net instead. I was lost!!! I ended up VPNing into my work PC to use Photoshop instead.

Matt Large

Depends on how you are classifying Graphics Apps, but for all my web work I use Gimp partnered with Inkscape a great open source vector graphics app. Then Blender for any little bits of 3D.

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