Five Best Image Editing Software

Apr 3 2009 by Jacob Gube | 52 Comments

Image editing software has become ubiquitous in this digital age. Whether you’re creating a web interface or simply cropping and enhancing your family photos – you’ll need your favorite image editor to do it.

In this article, you’ll find the top image editing applications currently out in the market.

Last week, readers of Six Revisions were asked what they thought was the best image editing software. Over 150 people responded and here, you’ll find the pick of the litter.

5. Pixelmator

Pixelmator screen shot.

Pixelmator is a fast and powerful image editing software for the Mac operating system. With its intuitive and beautiful Graphical User Interface (GUI), support for layers to organize your document, a large assortment of painting tools, and simple-to-use photo correction tools – Pixelmator is an excellent pick for Mac users who don’t quite need the features (and price tag) of Photoshop. 

4. Inkscape

Inkscape screen shot.

Inkscape is an open source vector graphics editor much like Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, and Xara X. Its default file format is web standards compliant Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) under W3C’s specifications. Want to learn more about what Inkscape has to offer? Check out this list of articles and presentations about Inkscape.

If you’re interested in finding more open source and free alternatives to Photoshop, you may want to read this list of ten open source and free alternatives.

3. Fireworks

Fireworks screen shot.

Fireworks is Adobe’s image editing software for the web designers. It excels in several areas over its big brother Photoshop, namely in high-fidelity prototyping of sites and a workspace environment that’s optimized for web designers. It is also a raster and vector hybrid, being able to work with raster-based images and vector-based graphics better and more symbiotically than Photoshop.

Fireworks is a popular tool of choice for many web designers and was once voted as one of the top tools for web designers.

2. GIMP

GIMP screen shot.

GIMP – which stands for the GNU Image Manipulation Program – is a feature-packed and powerful open source image editor that can be used in all major operating systems (Linux, Mac, and Windows). It has a customizable interface so that you can easily set the view and behavior of GIMP.

It has a huge set of retouching tools that will allow you to perform advanced image retouching and manipulation. The GIMP outputs your work in many common formats like JPG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, and even PSD (Photoshop’s native file format).

Here are a couple of articles you may wish to take a look at if you’re interested in learning about the GIMP:

1. Photoshop

Photoshop screen shot.

Not surprisingly, Photoshop is the winner by a landslide, garnering over half of all the total votes. Photoshop is what comes to mind when image editing is involved there’s very little that can be said about it that hasn’t been said already.

With an insurmountable amount of features that help you manipulate and enhance photos as well as create web graphics, all while helping you manage your workflow and image editing environment – Photoshop comes in at numero uno as the best image editing software currently in the market.

If you’re interested in learning more about Adobe Photoshop, here are some excellent articles for Photoshop beginners and aficionados:

A Poll


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52 Comments

Eric Greene

April 3rd, 2009

Good stuff. I recently started using Gimp on my laptop. I have to say the more I use it the more I’m impressed. Love the pricetag on it too (free)! :D
-Eric

Benjamin M. Strozykowski

April 3rd, 2009

Fireworks all the way! I used Photoshop since version 6, but took a class that was entirely in Fireworks, and am now converted for doing web layouts and vector graphics.

Jacob Gube

April 3rd, 2009

@Eric Greene: I feel the exact same way with GIMP. At first, I tried it simply out of curiosity – I wanted to see other options outside of the image editors I’m accustomed to: Photoshop/Fireworks. I had my preconceptions because of my prior experience with open source desktop apps that aren’t native to my operating system (Windows) – but I was simply amazed at the intuitiveness of the interface and its power. To get me up and running with it quickly, I just did a bunch of tutorials on GIMP. What I like most about it is that it feels like an image editor for developers/programmers. You can get into it and write extensions and scripts, which I know you can do with PS as well, but not as easy as in GIMP.

Matt

April 3rd, 2009

I think that if you actually do design professionally, you have no choice but photoshop. I don’t have time to find workarounds or learn about differences. If I need tutorials for something new I can find anything I need and don’t need to translate the instructions.

Doug S.

April 3rd, 2009

I gave Fireworks a shot once and found that while it’s great at some things, there are basic abilities I would expect from a program “made for web designers,” such as the ability to do all the things to text that I can do with CSS.

Instead I’m lacking in a number of those features and instead am left with only those abilities that can be found in Flash, which are pathetic at best.

I really do wish someone would make a good app that was TRULY for web designers.

Callum Chapman

April 3rd, 2009

I never really got on with Fireworks.. never tried it recently! I’ll stick with what I know.. photoshop!

Scott Petrovic

April 3rd, 2009

I am actually kind of tired of “best image editor” blog posts. There is a couple posts on this same topic every week. It would be great to see something more like “best features you never use in photoshop” or more in-depth comparisons between the different packages.

Six Revisions has a lot of great content, I am just tired of this topic.

CarlosB

April 3rd, 2009

Pixelmator looks like a good one.

SadistiX

April 3rd, 2009

Fireworks? It’s not as good as any mentioned above…

William Chinn

April 3rd, 2009

Your poll is skewed by the choices offered. There are OTHER choices that make as much sense as the ones shown. OTHER polled 5% but you didn’t list any voter selections. Picassa, Lightroom, and even the web based Photoshop deserve mention on the ballot.

G Weintraub

April 4th, 2009

Fireworks would be my vote except for the current version has a totally unusable text engine and like to corrupt files on save.

chris

April 4th, 2009

Fireworks is by far the superior image editing program for web design. Raster for comping, wireframing and vector for icon work. Seriously under-rated. Photoshop on the other hand is great for editing photos

Torley

April 4th, 2009

It’ll be intriguing to see what Lifehacker’s Hive Five on this very same topic looks like — Photoshop could stand to learn from some of Pixelmator’s more elegant UI touches.

W3Planting

April 4th, 2009

for me Photoshop is the King & thumb up for GIMP and i don’t tried the other yet, so cant comment on them

Dusan

April 4th, 2009

Photoshop pour moi, but I’m surprised with the poor poll result of Fireworks. It’s an excellent software

Crowd

April 4th, 2009

GIMP and Photoshop (when it is for print)

Jacob Gube

April 4th, 2009

@Scott Petrovic: Duly noted.

@Matt: I completely agree with you that for professional purposes, use the best, something that you don’t need to find a compromise for to achieve the results you need. I think I know what you mean: open source/freeware apps can sometimes be difficult and can take some time to get used to, as a professional, learn one app, and master it. I think GIMP is an exception to that though, in that it can do a lot of things that I feel is lacking in Photoshop, though like you, I prefer using one tool rather than using two – and since I’ve been a Photoshop user for 11 years now, I’m stuck with it until I retire.

@Doug S.: I completely agree with you on wishing some company would make a truly good image editor for web designers, but it’s more cost-effective for companies to build these all-in-one image editors like Photoshop. We can always keep wishing though!

@William Chinn: Next time I’ll list down more items mentioned in the previous survey to make the poll more comprehensive instead of only the top five. Thank you for mentioning it. That way, we’ll minimize the number of votes that choose “other”.

@chris: I think that’s the key: you have to be a web designer to truly appreciate Fireworks, or else, you might feel it’s a “stepped-down” version of Photoshop.

Pixel_Chick

April 4th, 2009

What about Paint Shop Pro?

graphicartist2ik5

April 4th, 2009

can’t say i’m surprised at all that photoshop is numero uno. it’s been numero uno ever since it’s been version 5.5, and it’s gonna be numero uno until adobe decides to stop upgrading it. seriously, i’m still using photoshop cs2, and that’s only because the computer i have now cannot possibly run cs3 or cs4, and i have to say that cs2 handles all the things i do design-wise flawlessly, and i run photoshop cs2 on a dell latitude c600 laptop that has a pentium 3 processor that runs at 800mhz, and has 256 mb of ram installed. it does lag from time to time, but it’s NEVER crashed on me. same thing goes for illustrator cs2 and indesign cs2.

yomie olu-emmanuel

May 20th, 2009

i have seen the riches of photoshop,and i laud it from depth, thanks to the creators,however, i am interested in GIMP,INKSCAPE and PIXELMATOR.i desire mastering over this three,eventhough it sounds like climbing a ceremic mountain. ence,everyday with photoshop is a new adventure

Slym

June 10th, 2009

When you can afford photoshop, its the best option but in case of free versions, GIMP is the best… even latest versions can also be compared with Photoshop, anyways good collection and well written article

mapero

June 22nd, 2009

“Inkscape is an open source vector graphics editor” – NOT Image Editing Software
Just for the record :)

lamapper

June 30th, 2009

People will vote based on what they use, I believe the majority of the market still uses PhotoShop. Although there is very little that I could not do with PaintShop Pro (which is curiously mentioning from the list).

For Windows users on a budget, PaintShop Pro will let you do everything PhotoShop will do at a fraction of the price.

Both PhotoShop and PaintShop Pro are for Windows users primarily. (Yes I know Mac users like PhotoShop also)

For me, once I started using GIMP, I was surprised how much it will do. As with Paintshop Pro, GIMP will do everything that PhotoShop will do and more. Granted there is a Windows version of GIMP, but it is primarily intended for Linux users.

The best thing about the MacIntosh and Linux, is the operating system does not use up tons of memory and CPU processing power (can you say system bloat is Windows) like Windows. Therefore there are more system resources (memory and CPU processing power) available for the application.

Thus the applications on Linux and Mac OS X!

When you work, you want your apps to work for you, not against you because of the operating system!

GIMP is excellent!

As to those that do not want to learn a different set of menus, then move to an operating system (anything but Microsoft OS) where your data formats will be used correctly and the operating system GUI will not change from one release of the OS to another. The learning different ways to do something argument is not genuine as you did that from 95/98 to 2000; 2000 to XP; from XP to Vista; from Vista to Win 7 and you will do that in the future.

A bigger concern should a vendor like Adobe, requiring one and only one OS, a Microsoft OS. And Microsoft auto updates trashing your system with bloat! You can not reformat and start from scratch any more and because of that, that operating system FAILS!

Bob Roberts

July 2nd, 2009

Pixelmator still has some issues but is coming along nicely. It deserves to be in the Top 10.

Stefan

September 12th, 2009

Any image gurus care to comment on a suitable image editing software to remove ‘istockphoto text’ from image shown below:

http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/4784/ist281143013denginecuta.jpg

Thanks – Stef

Paddy

September 15th, 2009

Cool Man..I thought there was only Adobe around, there are quite a few and indeed better than Adobe

Thanks for the post, keep up the good work

Jochen

November 11th, 2009

I am using StudioLine for archiving my images. I like to describe my images in the EXIF and IPTC sections. I can easily optimize all pictures with the non destructive image filters. With the very useful and inovative copy tool I can drag filter settings or descriptions from one image to an other – this saves a lot of time!

Bob

November 12th, 2009

Photoshop is only the best because it has the most addons and they only work with Photoshop.

I link Paintshop pro best beacuse its easier than Photoshop and they have the same stuff but Photoshop has more brushes and addons but thats after install.

Andros

November 12th, 2009

I use StudioLine besides Photoshop.
StudioLine is not so much complicated. Thanks to its copy tool, which is awesome by the way – StudioLine is great to use for image editing, when I have to work with more images at the same time. sounds crazy? try it.

…fireworks? never used it. psd/dw or studioline.

cheers

sally whitfield

December 26th, 2009

thanks for the reviews, they were helpful

vikas

April 5th, 2010

There is a free website which converts photo to elegant sketch automatically…..
http://www.pixelstouch.com/

noahdcruz

October 28th, 2010

i use photoscape, inspace, paint.net.. all of them are great easy to understand. . .

i love photoscape the most since i like to animate my wallpapers.. . .

Nisha Shah

October 29th, 2010

I find photodekho.com to be the best – by far! It’s free. Just try it once

Iresh

February 15th, 2011

Seriously, I have a doubt. Is Inkspace an Image editing software ?. I haven’t use it but I thought it’s for illustrations.

Brooklyn Isaac Knight

February 24th, 2011

Photoshop Is Pretty Cool.I Have GIMP,Photofiltre and Photoscape but never used em. Just Photoshop Haha

ABDU

March 14th, 2011

All image editing programs do the best in some features and also do poor in others, whether it’s photoshop,GIMP,fireworks,paint shop pro,photo pos pro e.t.c. You can find a very simple software such as photoscape can do something a complex software can not do. The best way is to find which software is best in which feature and then use it appropriately. Thanx.

SIddharth Bid

March 29th, 2011

Good stuff. I recently started using pixelmator on my desktop. I have to say the more I use it the more I’m impressed.

Dharmrajsinh

April 6th, 2011

I` m so impress to use the photoshop . photographi is my hobby & i want to b success in this feilddddd.

Adil

May 21st, 2011

Hey Guys! Well photoshop might be considered expensive, but its the best! If you can download it and download the crack with it too, its free obviously! So download the crack for photoshop! Easy as that!

Daquan Wright

May 26th, 2011

What makes Photoshop special (and it is my baby, I love it), is its versatility. With skill, you can do anything in the program (except vectors, which Fireworks/Illustrator are great for). From web design, to digital painting, to image manipulation, you can achieve extreme effects in PS.

Even kids on forums are using it to make sigs and avatars, the branding behind photoshop is a powerful force that can’t be shaken it seems.

I’ve never used Gimp, but it looks good.

Varun

June 2nd, 2011

GIMP is good one..it is true dat Photoshop is best but GIMP is also good .i like to use both……..

SeeBace

June 20th, 2011

although have not use any of these softwares before.. apart from Fireworks and i think is the best for. i dont know about others anyway. but seems GIMP is gonna be a good one!!!

matthew

August 10th, 2011

if your looking for awesome picture and text editing use cinema 4D i know you see it as very expensive but instead of buying it find cracks and keygens for it on youtube. If they had cinema 4D as a choice it wins by a landslide.

philn

October 10th, 2011

What about the best tracing software? A lot of the stuff I do could benefit from being vectorized but no matter what tool I use it’s an enormous pain.

philn

October 10th, 2011

When I hit the ‘Subscribe ….’ above in Chrome it shows raw xml!

Lisa

November 26th, 2011

i have not used any of these softwares before except photoshop,i’ve to say photoshop is really awesome and amazing but GIMP and Pixelmator seems to be the good ones :D

Bernard

December 10th, 2011

i no best image editing software is a best edit tool that i can use to edit my pictures and i no my comments about it will give me the chance to download it.

Eric

December 13th, 2011

I’m quite surprised that Corel PaintShop Pro is not listed here. I think its one of the best.

Amiya

June 12th, 2013

Great list and one more addition from my side: Cyberlink PhotoDirector 3 – a must have photo editing tool.

Pikachu

June 23rd, 2013

Great help thanks! n_n

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