As screen quality improves, processor speeds increase, and touch controls become more nuanced, doing extensive image editing on your Android device is a lot more practical than it was a few years ago.
Of course, you could use one Adobe’s official Android apps: Adobe Photoshop Express or Adobe Photoshop Mix. More than 50,000,000 users have downloaded them, and the apps remain some of the best options in the Google Play Store.
But what if you want to try something different? What options do you have? Let’s investigate.
1. Photo Editor Pro
Despite the “pro” name, Photo Editor is free to download. And a lot of people have done just that — it’s been installed more frequently than its more well-known Adobe rival.
The app has a serious and a playful side. If you want to do “proper” editing, you’ll find controls for brightness, contrast, color temperature, saturation, sharpness, blur, and a whole lot more.
If you want to add some fun to your photos – perhaps for sharing on social media – there are hundreds of stickers, frames, filters, and effects. There’s even a built-in meme generation tool!
From a usage standpoint, it could be easier to find the photos you want to edit. If you’re looking for a photo that’s a few years old, the only way to find it is to swipe through all your images one-by-one. However, once you load it, editing is a breeze. All the tools — for both filters and editing — are displayed along the bottom of the screen. Any changes you make are displayed in real time on the image.
Verdict: Arguably the best overall editor for any situation.
Download: Photo Editor Pro (Free)
2. AirBrush: Easy Photo Editor
Photoshop has become so popular that people now use it as a verb. However, “it’s been photoshopped” doesn’t typically refer to a photo of your dogs or a spooky Halloween image. Rather, it’s frequently used in relation to glossy magazines of celebrities, whose images have been altered so much they barely look like the original person by the time the magazine goes to print.
If you want to “photoshop” your own selfies, AirBrush: Easy Photo Editor is a great app. It’ll let you delete errant hairs, cover up blemishes, and add a sparkle to your smile, all with a few easy swipes of your finger.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the app is the camera functionality — there is no option to take a photo using the rear-facing camera. If you want to edit a shot of a friend, you’ll need to take the photo using your phone’s main camera app, then open the image within the app.
The photoshopping tools are split into three categories: “Beautify”, “Makeup”, and “Filter”. Choose the tool you want, then use your finger to guide it over the areas you wish to edit. There are video demos that’ll teach you to use each individual tool.
Verdict: The best app for selfies, profile pictures, and “photoshopping” your snaps.
Download: AirBrush: Easy Photo Editor (Free)
3. Photo Editor
Photo Editor (no relation to the previously-mentioned Photo Editor Pro) can make a strong case for being the most similar app to Photoshop in this list.
You’ll find all the basics — hue, saturation, contrast, brightness, etc. — but there are also ways to correct your photo’s gamma, fine-tune colors using curves, edit photos’ backlighting, tweak perspective and red eye, and plenty more.
You can also save your images in multiple formats (JPEG, PNG, GIF, WebP, and PDF), edit JPEGs’ quality, and edit EXIF, IPTC, and XMP metadata.
The app feels professional when you’re using is. There is no childish imagery or flashy graphics. Everything is well-presented and easy to find. Editing tools can be found at the bottom of the screen when you have an image open. If you want to create PDFs, GIFs, or ZIP files, you’ll need to navigate to the Tools menu from the main screen.
Verdict: Excellent for professionals who want a Photoshop experience on-the-go.
Download: Photo Editor (Free)
The developers behind Snapseed are the same team who are responsible for the excellent Nik Software. It’s a relative newcomer to the world of photo editing apps, but it’s quickly become popular among users.
Once again, all the basics are covered, but there are a few features that help Snapseed stand out from its competitors:
- RAW Develop: You can open RAW files within the app, edit them, and even export them as JPEGs. Remember: all photographers should be shooting in RAW. There are more light levels and they’re easier to edit.
- Selective Editing: You can select eight locations on your image and make your changes — the app’s algorithm will balance those changes across the rest of the picture.
- Auto-Removal: Have you accidentally been photobombed or picked up a stranger in the background of your shot? The “Healing” tool will remove the person without a trace.
Snapseed is also popular for its filters. There are more than 25 to choose from, including “Drama”, “Grunge”, and “Vintage”.
Unlike some of the other apps on the list, you cannot take a photo from within the app — you need to take the photo you want before you start. Once you’ve got the image in front of you, tap the pen icon in the bottom right and you’ll be shown a list of all the tools and filters. Opening images and performing edits is easy, there are no lags, ads, or loading screens.
Verdict: A perfect choice for beginners who want a solid editing experience without lots of confusing and unnecessary tools.
Download: Snapseed (Free)
Pixlr is a long-standing favorite of the Android community. It boasts more than two million combinations of free effects, overlays, and filters, as well as a range of editing tools.
Two of its best features are the ability to make photo collages of all your favorite snaps and a way to layer several photos over each other to give a “double exposure” effect. The app also includes Photoshop-esque effects. For example, you can make your image look like a pencil drawing, an ink sketch, or a poster.
When you open the app for the first time, you’ll be given three options: “Camera”, “Photos”, and “Collage”. Once again, when the image is open, you’ll see the tools (split into sub-menus) at the bottom of the screen. The sub-menus mean finding the tool you want isn’t as straightforward as some other apps – but once you’ve used it a few times, you’ll have no problems.
Verdict: The clear winner for special effects, but also has an underestimated range of editing tools.
Download: Pixlr (Free)
6. Photo Mate R3
Like Snapseed, Photo Mate R3 also has support for RAW images, thus making it an excellent option for professionals who want to do some editing on-the-go.
There are the usual array of editing tools for people of any skill level, but pros will love the advanced features such as curves, layer-based adjustments, and a lasso tool. You can also compare near-identical images side-by-side, thus letting you pick the best of the bunch and delete the rest. Additionally, the app possesses lots of tools to help you fix lens issues such as vignetting, distortion, and chromatic aberration.
Finally, Photo Mate R3 has a fantastic library function. You can filter by several pieces of information, including metadata, camera aperture, ISO, custom ratings, labels, and keywords. Plus, you can edit and remove all this data.
If you’re not familiar with how the Android file system works, this is not the app for you. To open pictures, you’ll need to find the file using the built-in file explorer. When you eventually find the file, you can’t start editing until you head to Menu > Develop. The presentation and depth of the editing tools is excellent, but usage guidance is minimal. You need to have a good knowledge about photo editing to use the app to it’s fullest.
The app offers a 72-hour free trial. If you want the full version, you’ll need to buy an in-app license for $8.99.
Verdict: An alternative for experienced professionals who don’t like Photo Editor.
Download: Photo Mate R3 (Free trial, $8.99)
Which is Your Favorite Photoshop Alternative?
As I hope I’ve explained, there really is something for everyone in the Google Play Store. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a photography professional, an editing beginner, or a special effects addict, you can easily find something to suit your requirements.
But are any of these apps as good as the flagship Adobe app? I doubt we’ll reach a consensus, but I’d still love to hear your opinions. Where do these apps excel? Where do they fall short?
As always, you can leave your tips and recommendations in the comments section below. Tell us your favorite photo editing app and see if your fellow readers agree with you.
Originally written by Danny Stieben on April 1st, 2013.