Cost: Free (pay membership for more features)
Patience + Patience = Edited Photo. I don’t generally have the patience to do much editing with my photos. As a novice photographer, I know that all my photos can use some editing to “fix” the errors in lighting that I don’t address when taking the photo. I have a DSLR camera, so the camera can do all the work if I knew how to use it properly. (Learning to use my camera is on my to-do list since I have two books, two DVDs, and hundreds of Pinterest pins on the topic.) Since I lack patience, I have to be fair in saying that my review of photo editing tools is abbreviated in that I don’t put much time into the features that would fix a photo (e.g., contrast, brightness, spot fixing, etc.). Rather, I play around with the other cool features that can make the photos very artistic and well beyond what could have been captured in with my camera (e.g., double exposure, overlays, color palates, borders, text, etc.).
As with most of my reviews, I stick with the free version of the tools. Pixlr, like most free tools, provides a subscription version that gives you access to more features. Since I already own Photoshop Elements, I’m not inclined to subscribe to a photo editing tool.
Terminology: This tool has two versions, so I wanted to clarify the terminology used in my review. One version you download to your computer to use as you would other software on you computer. This version is referred to as desktop, which is in accordance with the terms used by Pixlr. The second version requires Internet access and a web browser. This is referred to as web app, which is also in accordance with Pixlr.
Goal: test out a photo editing tool that allows me to make “fun” changes to my photos, or get serious with editing (i.e., fixing my errors)
This is the opening screen for the web app version of Pixlr
- No login is needed to start editing photos (either for desktop or Internet versions)
- There are user guides (desktop and webapp). They are available in multiple languages. There is also a design blog with further insights beyond just using the tool; I like the blog because it provides inspiration (…there are just things I don’t imagine doing with my photos, but the blog has interesting examples with information on recreating the designs).
- There are many “free” features to use when editing a photo.
- Although the web app version has the small, obscure icons similar to GIMP, clicking on the icon will reveal it’s function at the top of the screen.
- The web app version shows the layers and history in side panels.
- Saving to your computer with either the web app or desktop version is fairly quick.
- Photos saved to the “Pixlr Library” (after login) are not displayed publicly.
This is the web app workspace once you start working on a photo. You can see the ad to to the far right of the screen.
- Web app version has flashing/animated ads in right margin, which are distracting. The membership version removes the ads.
- In the desktop version, once you click “apply” to a change, you can’t undo it. If you should cancel before applying, then it flips you back out to the main menu so you have to click back through the submenus to keep testing out other changes.
- Similar to the point above, once you add text to the desktop version and click apply, it’s done. You can’t select and edit the text. This drawback contributed to my 2 out of 5 rating since I like editing without redoing.
- It takes a few moments for the Filter and Adjustment changes to preview in the web app. It isn’t unreasonable, but you have to wait for the preview to catch up before sliding the adjustments further or you’ll overdo it.
- There seems to be different login requirements for the desktop version and the web app. I was able to sign in to the desktop version after creating a login/password, but using the same combination for the web app didn’t work.
- Does not support RAW files (e.g., from DSLR cameras); you’d have to rely on GIMP or Fotor for free RAW file editing. Also, Pixlr doesn’t edit TIFF files.
Rating: 2/5 (Internet version) 5/5 (Download version)
I recently presented my blog to coworkers in order to not only bring attention to a resource that I think they’d find helpful, but I also wanted a sense of how my peers would respond to my blog’s content. I’m very fortunate to work in a very supportive environment. Through my presentation, I realized there are many options available for those looking to use free Internet tools to jazz up their classrooms (or whatever). Fotor was brought to my attention as a photo editor similar to PicMonkey. There are a few differences between Fotor and other photo editors, though they all offer the same types of options overall. At this point, I don’t have much of a preference for Internet photo editors, especially for my purposes. If I need to do any “professional” photo editing, I’m still likely to turn to Photoshop Elements or Lightroom. But, it’s good to have these options for times when I don’t have access to a computer with my purchased software. I have found that the free versions are likely to also be suitable for student use (as long as they aren’t in a graphic design course or the like).
Goal: create graphics to include in my online classroom, combining text and graphics; I’m also looking for an easy to use tool for enhancing the graphics I use in my blog
Defining terminology: The “Internet version” is the tool that you access through an Internet browser; you obviously need an Internet connection to use the tool. The “desktop version” or “download version” refers to the tool that you need to download from one of the links above to use the software on your computer rather than through an Internet browser. (I did not test the app versions.)
This is what the desktop version of the workspace looks like. Can’t complain.
- No log in required to get started with either the Internet or desktop version.
- Font colors can be changed within the same textbox. (If I want to highlight a specific word, I can change the color without changing the color of every word or needing to create a separate textbox for the highlighted word.)
- Able to save finished graphics as .jpg or .png. (No upgrade needed in order to download the graphic to your PC.) With the desktop version, you can also save it as .bmp and .tiff.
- The graphics you create and download show up under the Import Photos section of the workspace. You can then add the edited graphics to the next graphic you create (e.g., for when you need to edit some photos before adding them to a collage).
- Several share options: Fotor Forum, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, or print or URL.
- There is a preview feature that shows the graphic in the style’s intended environment. I created a YouTube cover, so the preview shows me the graphic as it might appear on a YouTube channels screen on a laptop, computer monitor, and smart phone. This way, you can see where the graphic might be cropped when put in that environment.
- There is a download version of the software so you don’t need an Internet connection to use it.
- Help is available, though it isn’t extensive. There are tutorials and a blog, with further insights.
- The desktop version supports RAW image format. For those who shoot photos with a DSLR, this is a big deal since many photo editors only support JPG photo formats. (That said, most folks who take the time to shoot in RAW format have invested in Photoshop or Lightroom already.)
- You can “batch” changes in the desktop version, so if you want to add the same border to a bunch of photos, you can do it at once.
- The desktop version doesn’t seem to have ads beyond one in the right hand corner.
This is the opening screen of options for the internet version of the tool.
- Like most photo editing tools, some options are reserved for the upgraded version.
- There are ads at the bottom of the screen for the Internet version, which can be distracting with they’re flashing, but I found it easier to ignore them as compared to tools with the ads in the right margin (e.g., Pic Monkey).
- Some font colors don’t appear correctly (e.g., white font on black background). I had to change it to more of a gray-white in order for it to appear; for the yellow, I needed to slide the color picker to a brighter version of yellow. I identified this issue with the Internet version.
- The screen freezes sometimes when it’s changing to a new banner ad on the Internet version.
- Pictures over 8 megapixels cannot be uploaded to the Internet version of Fotor.
- When creating a collage, I can’t seem to add text in the desktop version.
- The Internet version sometimes doesn’t load, but reloading the page worked.
- Some of the borders in the Internet collage tool will cut into your graphic. I think this is just a result of using a template that wants the graphics to be a certain size.
- Undo in the Internet version seems to undo all the changes I made to a photo when editing it.
Cost: Free for some features ($25/year for full features)
Type: Internet tool
The first draw towards this tool was the title: BeFunky. I’m not really the funky type, though I sometimes accidentally hit on funky and claim that it was intentional. The second draw was the website’s slogan: Photo Editing and Graphic Design Made for Everyone. Since I’ve spent more time as a student than not, I’m all for gaining ground on other careers without going back to school. The photo editing aspect is like PicMonkey, though perhaps with a few other options, such as adding mustaches to your photos. The tool allows you to create collages to bring together several photos (and perhaps add text), along with a “Designer” mode that provides templates for a variety of situations (e.g., creating a menu or invitation image). I am not at a “social” point in my life, where menus, invitations, and thank you cards are needed, but I’m realizing that perhaps my blog could use a bit of help. I generally let my photos and graphics speak for themselves, but the design aspect of this tool allowed me to consider how text can enhance the photos.
Like PicMonkey, there are themes and overlays you can add to your photos. Here are a few options.
Goal: Find an easy to use tool for creating graphic design like projects or graphics (with text) to use in the classroom.
- There is a brief tour when you first get started, though the tools are fairly intuitive. As you use the tool, there are pop-up windows with further insights, so just start clicking if you need more tutoring.
- No login or registration is required.
- There’s an app version.
- Really easy to use. Start with a design template. Swap out the photo for your own (even adjust the photo coloring, etc.), if you don’t like the one in the template, and then modify the text as needed. Done.
- Your completed photo can be saved as JPG or PNG to your computer or you can upload it to various social media options. Quick and easy.
- Slightly addictive. There are several free templates and other features to play around with, so be prepared to drop into the abyss and lose hours at a time.
- If you are even a little experienced with graphic design (and related tools), then this tool is too simplistic for you since you don’t need to start with simple templates to edit photos and add text. (But if you’re pressed for time, then see the Benefits listed above.)
- Related to the previous point, the infographic templates are simple, yet tedious to swap out the existing information in the template. I would not use BeFunky for these types of projects. (See Piktochart instead.)
- If Flash crashes while designing, your work is completely lost.
- In order to access some graphics, you need to create a login. (But, the “free” options are pretty nice if you choose Pixabay.)
Type: Software (download)
Who doesn’t love Photoshop? It’s a candy store of brushes, textures, tools, and features. You get lightheaded when just thinking about the amazing changes you can make to your non-impressive photos from the zoo or beach. In fact, you get so lightheaded that you fall forward and crack your skull on your desk so that you don’t even notice how much the software costs. (If you are familiar with the costs of Adobe CC, then you may need a second concussion to truly not feel that financial pain.) Personally, I didn’t want the concussion or any other form of pain, so I sought out software that had the same qualities of Photoshop, but cheaper. Like, “free” sort of cheaper. GIMP answers that need. If I were a professional photographer or graphic designer, then I don’t think GIMP would be enough. When starting out with editing my first photos, I didn’t need a “candy store,” but rather the “candy aisle” of options to crop, remove backgrounds, and adjust lighting.
Disclaimer: I need to be honest at this point. I caved recently and purchased Photoshop Elements. I can’t even give you a good reason other than it was bundled with Premiere Elements, which is the software I really wanted. While I’m still learning Photoshop Elements (and there is a lot to learn), I don’t think I’ll go back to using GIMP unless I’m on my laptop, which doesn’t have Photoshop Elements installed on it. With this in mind, GIMP does have a newer version than what the screen captures show, but it’s essentially the same features a previous versions.
This is what GIMP basically looks like as you start editing a photo.
Goal: find free photo editing software that goes beyond just creative textures and cropping.
- Did I mention it’s FREE?
- It is fairly intuitive, especially since all the tools can be made visible on the tool bar so that you don’t have to go digging through menus or clicking other icons. (Some tools are buried, but the useful ones are visible.)
- You can export the file as JPG, PNG, or other common file types.
- No in-software guidance. (Yeah, this would be asking a lot of free software that has a variety of features.) You’re left on your own to figure out the tools and what they do to a graphic, though there are plenty of free tutorials, including ones on the GIMP site.
- It takes a few seconds to startup after you click the software icon. Not a big deal, just have to be patient.
- It doesn’t allow for editing RAW photo files. This is a big deal for avid photographers. You can convert the file, as described by Kat, in “RAW Photos with GIMP.”