Even if you can't spend a lot, you can still enjoy a functional, well-designed image editor. This software is mostly shareware, which means it's developed by individuals and usually can't be purchased in a retail store. But shareware has many advantages: you can 'try before you buy,' it costs less because there's little overhead, and developers generally listen to user input as they enhance the software.
PhotoImpact delivers a mind-boggling array of features at a price that makes it one of the best values in image editing software for Windows. PhotoImpact offers a suite of tools for Web graphics creation, image editing, photo correction and enhancement, drawing and painting, plus plenty of extras for special effects and creative exploration. PhotoImpact allows beginners to quickly achieve professional-looking results, while providing advanced features so users won't feel limited as they gain experience.
Serif PhotoPlus is a low-cost photo editor with many high-end features such as layers, Raw capture, layer masks and adjustment layers, paths, batch processing, and more. It also has help and simplified tools for beginners like quick fix, one-click red eye removal, auto-contrast, and and extract tool. I have not yet had a chance to try PhotoPlus personally, but it consistently gets rave reviews and recommendations from site visitors. You can download PhotoPlus starter version, for free from freeserifsoftware.com
to decide if you like it enough to purchase the latest version.
Photo-Brush is an image editor for natural and artistic media painting, photo retouching, color correction, and special effects. Offers pressure-sensitive tablet support, TWAIN support for scanners, built-in filters as well as third-party plug-in support, Photoshop PSD read and write capabilities, a texture generator, and image browser. All in all, a fun and versatile editor at a fabulous price.
Photoline 32 is a shareware image editor for both Macintosh and Windows. Offers tools and features for pixel- and vector-based editing, flexible text editing, batch processing, filters, layers, and transparency. Other notable features include support for CMYK color, pressure-sensitive tablets, and third-party plug-ins. Highly versatile for both experienced and inexperienced users.
This shareware image editor and painter for Windows features the ability to apply actions in a multitude of ways. Offers a variety of customizable brushes, 3D brush effects, special image effects, warping and distortion tools, pixel shifting, retouching tools, painting tools, and more. Site offers a tutorial and tips.
LView Pro is a suite of image processing tools which includes an image editor, file browser, slide show viewer, contact sheet builder, Web gallery builder, batch printing module, and image catalog. As an image editor LView offers tools for image creation, capture, enhancement, photo editing and correction. Novice users may have difficulty with it, but there's quite a lot packed into this suite.
Ultimate Paint is available in both a shareware and freeware version for image creation, viewing, and manipulation. It has been designed to be fast and compact, and if you're familiar with the old Deluxe Paint program from Electronic Arts, Ultimate Paint is said to be very similar. Features an image optimizer, image browser, over 100 image effects, and interactive print preview.
This "artist's studio" allows novice or experienced business and home users to touch up photos and create images with extensive painting and drawing tools, selection tools, special effects, scanner and digital camera support, multiple undo/redo, screen capture, and more. Registered users get a full version on CD with additional stamp images, brushes, 200 art images, and a printed user's guide.
Pixel is a multi-platform, multi-language image editor that has been a work in progress since 1997 by a single developer. Pixel features a user interface which is very similar to industry-leading Photoshop and offers a wealth of advanced tools for image editing, retouching, and Web design. Pixel has earned several shareware awards, and can be purchased at a discount while it's still in pre-release testing.
If you know of a great low-cost photo editor that I neglected to include here, add a comment to let me know.
Last Updated: Dec. 2011