Who wouldn’t like free photo editing online?
It used to be that the best photo editing software was expensive and difficult to learn and use. Adobe Photoshop was the industry standard, but its supremacy has recently been challenged by a range of tools which are free or low cost.
There are two free online web apps – Pixlr Editor and Pixlr Express.
Pixlr Editor strongly resembles Photoshop and has similar tools and features. It’s more suited to experienced users.
Pixlr Express is the easier of the two apps to use if you are a beginner.
The original images I used are available to download here:
Introducing Pixlr Express
When you start the web app you are given four options:
- Browse – search your computer for an image to open.
- Open URL – enter the URL of an image (it should be one you have permission to use and edit).
- Webcam – activate your webcam to take a photo.
- Collage – create a photo collage of 4 images – you’ll be prompted to choose them from your computer.
When you have got an image or images open, you can begin editing.
There are a few controls at the top of the screen which I’ve called global options, as they are always available to the user.
The Save feature in Pixlr Express defaults to a the filename of your original image with quality 85. So beware that you don’t save over your original photo! It is wise to make a copy of the original first, or save to another folder.
Each save you make is potentially a Save As of your original image. You could save each time you make a major change to the image.
Don’t make the quality too low when saving or your image will look blurry or fuzzy. I’ve found between 30-40 gives reasonable quality without the file size being too big.
Close the image without saving changes.
Undo or Redo the last change saved to your image. You can use this multiple times.
You can zoom in and out of the image using the two buttons with arrows, or drag the slider with a % value the percentage of zoom you want.
Switch to fullscreen mode (helps if you don’t want to see ads).
Image editing with Pixlr Express
There are 6 buttons at the bottom of the screen to select various effects. Clicking on each brings up more options, but don’t be intimidated.
The Adjustment menu has the most choices.
Some of the more interesting and useful ones are:
Resize your image. Keep proportions is on by default. This will keep your photo in the same aspect ratio. If you turn it off, your image will be stretched.
Crop your image to remove unwanted areas. This is helpful if you want to get an image to an exact size e.g. to add to a blog post or to use as a banner.
You are given some defaults e.g. 4:3, 1:1 (square). You can also drag the crop area to the size you want by clicking on one of the blue squares and dragging.
Turn your image 90° or 180°. If your photo is off-centre, you can straighten it out by rotating a few degrees.
Color and Vibrance
Enhance or decrease the colour hue, saturation and brightness.
Remove lines, spots or blemishes.
This tool removes red eye from your photos.
Use this tool to add another image over your existing one.
You can change the size, rotation and opacity of the second image but be warned that you can’t apply any other effect to the second image such as cropping it or cutting out areas. You’d have to do this before you add it.
Add a range of predefined photo effects. Each appears in a submenu and is named after a person.
You can choose the amount that the effect is applied on a scale from 0 to 100.
Add various coverings over the image. Again, you can choose the amount from 0 to 100.
The overlays include:
- Retro poster
Add borders to your image. There’s a decent range, from classic white photo borders to fleur de lys, ripped paper and rounded corners.
Add ready-made art over your image. You can change the colour of the sticker added, but this is only really useful if you have a single colour sticker.
Personally, I wouldn’t bother with most of them as they look like clip art!
You might find a few useful e.g. the lightning effect.
Add text over your image. Typefaces are grouped into seven kinds – Dotted, Grunge, Handwritten, Novelty, Retro, Sans and Serif.
Each group has a number of fonts to choose between. You use the up and down buttons to scroll between them.
You can resize and rotate text to suit your needs.
Once you have placed and saved your text you won’t be able to edit it again, so it’s a good idea to save before adding it. Otherwise you’ll have to undo your changes.
Overall thoughts on Pixlr Express
I’ve not found an image editing program for Mac I like yet, so I’m glad I’ve discovered this.
It’s a really nice program to use, with a simple user interface. There’s nothing to download – it’s all online (you do need a reliable internet connection). Being free is a big plus. The ads can be a little distracting but you can switch to full screen mode to avoid seeing them.
The main downside if you are used to Photoshop is that there are no layers – once you add something to your photo like text or a sticker it’s stuck there and you can’t manipulate or remove it. Because there are no layers you also lose the ability to use blend modes or masks. If you need these you’d be better using Pixlr Editor.
If you want to do free photo editing online, give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments below.