June 23, 2012, 7:21 AM — If you work on the Web, you've probably been asked to do some simple image editing, even if your job has little or nothing to do with the artistic side of things. The standard image editors that came with your computer are fine for basic tasks, but complex editing typically requires the more sophisticated functions of Adobe Photoshop. This can be a problem, since Photoshop's $600 price tag is rather hefty.
Serious artists still need (or at least prefer) to use Photoshop to take care of business. But if you merely have to crop an image on occasion or do some light image editing, you can find tons of free and easy-to-use alternatives that replicate Photoshop's best features without making you pay the price.
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What Tasks Are These Editors Good For?
Free image editors excel at midrange image manipulation. High-end image editing (manipulating individual layers of complicated image files, for instance) is best done in Photoshop. On the other hand, you can perform most rudimentary tasks in the free image editor that came with your computer. For example, if you simply need to crop or resize an image, Windows Photo Gallery and Apple's Preview each have the tools you need. Just look for the proper command: On a Windows PC, both crop and resize are located in the Fix menu, and Mac users should look under Tools.
If you need to do more with your pictures, pick up one of the free image editors outlined below. These editors are ideal for tasks such as creating simple multilayer images and exporting them in various file formats. You may not have to do this sort of thing often, but these programs can be useful if you're trying to merge several images into one, or if you need to spice up a boring shot. You could, say, alter the background behind a subject to place the person in a new environment, add a company logo to your images, or construct a new logo out of stock photography.
Which Editor Should I Use?
Linux: Fans of GIMP often tout it as the "Free Photoshop," and of all the free image editors on the market, it comes closest to matching Adobe Photoshop's capabilities. Not only does GIMP replicate Photoshop's default functions and tools faithfully, but it also has its own plug-in architecture, so (in theory) GIMP can be just as flexible as the "real thing."