Editing photos is a very broad subject. When we think about editing photos, we can mean a simple crop or a resize, we can mean effects and filters, we can mean adding text and other layers, and we can mean more advanced editing which is usually done by more powerful programs. We can think of all these things when we say “photo editing”, but there’s one thing we’re usually sure of, no matter what our purpose is: we’re going to need to download something.
Until not so long ago, I was pretty sure of this myself. If you want to get really good results, you need to download some kind of graphics software or other editing app, and put it through its paces. This might have been true up until several years ago, but the boom of Web and mobile apps changed this completely. In fact, you can now do most of your online photo editing, and achieve some pretty impressive results. Yes, there are some things you’ll still need Photoshop and friends for, you can’t escape that, but today I’m going to show you several online photo editors that will blow you away. The future is truly here!
PicMonkey is an insanely strong online editor which I’ve had my eyes on for a while, and yet never really tried before. I’m glad I did, because this fun little editor is everything you could wish from an online editor, and much more. So what can you do with PicMonkey? Pretty much everything. This nifty photo editor comes with very basic edits such as crop, rotate and resize, and goes all the way to filters and effects, touch ups such as blemish fixes, wrinkle removers and spray tan, text layers, frames, textures, and even themes you can paint on. And to top it all off, it’s super easy to use. Seriously, you really don’t have to know anything about editing pictures, and you’ll still come up with awesome results.
The catch? Some items are marked with a crown. When you try to use them, you’ll see a big monkey face on your photo, and when you try to apply them, you’ll get the following message:
Note that there’s no mention of a price, and I could not find any such mention anywhere on the website. You can start the free trial and do away with your edits, but it’s not clear how long this trial will last and how much you’ll have to pay if you choose to sign up for Royale features. In the mean time, though, you can use all the features for free, and even if your trial does eventually run out, at least half of the features are not Royale features, and will remain free forever, and this in itself makes PicMonkey awesome.
Pros: Very friendly, no sign-up, a staggering amount of tools, can also create collages.
Cons: Vague free trial and paid option for some of the features, can only load file from computer.
Verdict: Try it! You won’t be disappointed.
As useful as PicMonkey is, it’s a hard editor to take seriously. Pixlr, on the other hand, feels like a full-blown graphics software, with one small difference – it’s right in your browser. Forget about friendly and easy-to-understand tools, Pixlr is the real deal, and no one is going to be holding your hand here. To start, you can upload a photo from your computer, open it from a URL, find it online on Facebook and other libraries, or just start from scratch and draw something, if that’s your thing.
After choosing a photo, you’ll find yourself facing a left toolbar full of icons, a top toolbar with nine different menus, and three additional windows on the right: Navigator, Layers, and History. If you’re not a frequent user of graphics software, you might find yourself confused at this point. I admit I was. But upon trying out all the different tools, adjustments, filters, and layer options, I realized Pixlr is a truly powerful tool. One surprisingly useful feature is the History window, where you can go back to any point in your creation process, and see what it looked like. Even better than undo!
Pros: Extremely powerful, no sign-up for most options, can yield professional results.
Cons: Interface is not very friendly, can be intimidating for non-experienced users.
Verdict: If you know what you’re doing, or want to learn.
Pixlr too serious for you? Ribbet is just the opposite. Built around the idea of photo-editing for everyone, Ribbet is a free online photo editor that’s just plain fun. You can use Ribbet to edit a single photo from your computer, or create collages in various layouts. The things that immediately stands out about Ribbet is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously – editing a photo feels almost like a game. Ribbet comes with basic tools such as crop, resize and rotate, and goes on to effects, text layers, stickers, touch-up, and frames. There’s also an “Advanced” tab, which offers more advanced options such as clone, curves, and levels.
The thing I loved most about Ribbet is the detailed tooltip that comes with each and every tool, effect, and filter. Not only do these explain exactly what you’re trying to use, they also include tips on making your image look even better when using this effect. While Ribbet requires no sign-up to start editing, many of the featured are marked “Premium”, and while premium accounts are free at this point, they still require sign-up to use.
Pros: Really fun to use, brilliant tooltips for every single tool and effect, and it lets you draw on fake beards!
Cons: Not very responsive; interface is a bit hard to navigate; many features require sign-up.
Verdict: It’s the new kid on the block, and needs some more time to develop.
Hold your horses, I’m in love. Did you love PicMonkey? Are you a fan on Pixlr but tend to get lost in its complexity? Introducing: Pixlr Express: where simple, friendly interface meets brilliant online editing. And if I sound like a commercial, I apologize, but this is truly how impressed I was with Pixlr Express. Start by uploading an image from your computer, a URL, or your webcam. Alternatively, you can choose to create a collage (you want to try this too, trust me). Now prepare to be amazed by the fastest, most responsive online image editor you’ve ever tried.
Pixlr Express goes for simplicity, and it succeeds big time. When you start, you have six squares in all: Adjustment, Effect, Overlay, Border, Sticker, and Text. Upon clicking one of these, new options will open up, and this goes on until you zero in on the tool you want to use. While Pixlr Express offers some pretty impressive tools such as Liquify, History Brush, Color Splash and more, it somehow manages to remain completely intuitive and easy to use, even for someone who’s totally clueless. If you want, you can even work on your photos in fullscreen.
There are no premium features, no sign-ups, no free or non-free trials – it’s just pure and simple editing, and it’s gorgeous.
Pros: Amazing interface, super responsive, includes simple and advanced tools alike.
Cons: None that I can think of.
Verdict: The perfect online editor for beginners and for advanced users who want to touch up their photos.
I’ve known for a while that Google has implemented some editing tools into Google+, but imagine my surprise when I finally tried it, only to find out it’s actually the aforementioned Ribbet in Google clothing. If you open an image in your Google+ account and click on “Edit Photo”, you’ll find yourself on a page very similar to Ribbet, complete with those little frog thumbnails. Google+ doesn’t include all of Ribbet’s features, only some basic edits, some effects, fun decorations such as face paint, doodle, beards and masks, and the ability to add text. Unlike Ribbet, though, there are no premium features – you can use every feature you see – and there are even some Google+ exclusives.
If your photos are already on Google+, this online photo editor will be the most accessible of the lot, and will let you easily edit full albums, one photo after the other, without having to upload, save and download each one in turn. It includes some useful basic effects, and if you only need to touch-up your photos, it will do nicely.
Pros: Accessible if you’re a Google+ user; friendly interface.
Cons: Includes only very basic features.
Verdict: For Google+ users, this is great. I wouldn’t upload my images just to use this editor.
Do you know of more excellent online photos editors? Is there is one you especially love? Tell us about it in the comments.