Monday, January 5, 2009

"Free" and "Photoshop" not synonymous...until now

I've entered Week 2 of my two-and-a-half-week vacation in Santa Cruz, California, visiting family over the holidays, far away from everything and everyone DC-centric. It's been a welcome respite to laze around every morning, getting out of bed when I feel like it -- usually around 11am -- and not when the stock market forces me to, as a usual work day consists of.

Sauntering down to the beach in flip flops for a plate of fresh chicken nachos is more inviting than standing on a crowded subway car during rush hour at 5 pm, my face defenselessly planted in a fellow commuter's armpit. But I digress. The point is that as much as I love hanging on for dear life in 3-inch heels as my subway car takes a tunnel turn at 60 mph+, I've had all the time in the world here to do whatever I want -- bargain shopping and nacho eating included -- and to catch up on the things that have evaded my normal, busy life, such as organizing my photos.

Like all things that have in the past been strictly print, all of my photographs are now digital, which means that organizing these puppies not only means slapping a date and title on each photo folder, but photo-shopping the ever-errant wrinkle or stray hair that seems to permeate many of my pictures.

The problem is that for someone like moi on a budget, the cost of Adobe Photoshop to smooth out any...imperfections...on said pictures is high. One thousand dollars on a bundle of software? No thanks. At that price, I convinced myself, I could learn to live with having striking red pupils reminiscent of Bram Stoker's Dracula, or tolerate a few strands of hair cross-hatched on my face, as if I had been caught in a wayward tornado.

So aside from the very basic editing software programs that don't even include the "clone stamp" feature -- something vital to my photoshopping needs -- I was relegated for a long while to slightly touching up my photos using pirated copies of Photoshop. That is until I came across an article in The Daily Gyan pointing out some fabulous and free -- yes, the combination of "airbrushing" and "free" can titillate even the most vain of budgeters -- alternatives to Photoshop. I've checked out each of the recommended sites and they all work well. Some are more powerful than others, but all are most importantly free and very easy to use.


This is by far my most favorite non-Photoshop, Photoshop-esque website. The layout looks almost identical to Photoshop and it includes the ever-elusive "clone stamp" that many sites lack. Relatively new into the arena, it has made quite a big fan fare in a short time. Pixlr is described as Photoshop in a browser, and it continues to amaze many. Although it lacks features such as importing from other sites like Flickr, you can still open an image by specifying its URL.


Picnik seems to be the most popular online image editor in this list. The interface of the site is beautiful, responsive and can put many desktop applications to shame. You don’t need to know anything about photo editing to use Picnik. Most noteworthy feature is its integration with other Web 2.0 services. You can pull photos directly from most photo-sharing sites such as Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, Facebook, Photobucket and pretty much provide any image URL to start editing it.


Splashup, earlier known as Fauxto, is a web-based photo editor that looks just like a desktop application. Users coming from Photoshop should feel right at home with this editor. You can open files from your computer or from all popular photo sharing sites. You can open multiple images in a tabbed environment. It supports the concept of layers, like Gimp and Photoshop, and has the ability to import images from your webcam


Unlike the three editors mentioned above, Snipshot is not a flash-based editor. It’s a highly responsive, Ajax-powered image editor, so this should be your choice if stranded with a computer that doesn't have any flash plugins. You can import photos stored in your computer or from the web by mentioning its address. You can also import photos from Flickr using a bookmarklet. Snipshot allows you to export and save your photos in a number of different formats - JPG, PNG, TIF, BMP and even PDF and Photoshop PSD.


Pixenate is a simple but intuitive application. With a straight-forward interface, it lets you play with all its features relatively easily compared to others. You can edit photos stored in your computer or import from a website and save, and also save the edited photo back to your Flickr account.


Picture2life is just another online image editor. But what makes it stand apart is the radical UI design for an image editor. Unlike all classical picture editors with toolboxes and a number of buttons, Picture2life has a descriptive side panel stacked into four vertical tabs – Quick Fixes, One Clicks, All and Featured. Selecting any tab replaces the sidebar with a new sidebar that contains a number of options like Brightness, Color, Contrast, etc. But, instead of showing them as buttons, it takes your picture and shows you how the picture will look if the effect is applied and uses this as thumbnails for the buttons. Pretty useful for beginners who don’t know the difference between stuff like hue and saturation.


LunaPic isn’t as jazzy as the other image editors in this list. However, this one provides ability to convert your images to animated GIF files, which differentiates it from others. There are a couple of ready-made fancy animation effects that you can apply to your photo. This is an apt tool for creating your social network profile image – for Facebook, MySpace, etc.


Want to have a Picasa running in your browser? Try FotoFlexer. It describes itself as the most powerful online digital photo editor in existence. If you are searching for a feature in online picture editors, then FotoFlexer has it.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Photoshop express, apart from being an image editor, also acts as a photo organizer and online photo storage. It provides up to 2 GB of online space and ability to create and share albums which distinguishes it from other online image editors. Although it's nice to get a semblance of something free from Adobe, I actually some of the aforementioned sites to offer more tools and goodies to doctor pictures than Adobe's Express.


Aviary is a suite of 4 tools among which Phoenix -- an online image editor -- is the one which is the best right now. Phoenix is a very powerful image editor that can be said as a true competitor for Photoshop, just that this one runs from a browser. The Phoenix page contains many videos on using it to produce some stunning photo effects. [The Daily Gyan]

Go forth and play, my pretties, sans any ecru-tinged teeth or unsightly crow's feet.


kokostiletto said...

omg this is awesome! i've wanted to try photoshop!

Anonymous said...

Awesome! I liked the idea of picnik cooperating with my picasa account so I gave it a try....excellent. As if I needed something else to distract me from work...

Julie said...

This is great, Brunette! Thanks! I use Picnik a lot and have been very pleased with it. But now I need to try the others. Paint.Net is also a free downloaded program that has great potential.

Crystal said...

Thanks for reading, guys! I'm going to check out right now.

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