Best Photo Editing Software of 2021


  • Best Overall

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is the industry standard not only in raster graphics editing, but in digital art & design as a whole.

  • Best for Filters

Adobe Lightroom

Lightroom is considered the gold standard in editing functionality, with a host of unique pre-sets available.

  • Best for AI Editing

Skylum Luminar

Luminar is a photo editing tool with AI-enabled enhancements. It's also available with a one-off fee instead of subscription.

  • Best for Beginners

Corel Paintshop Pro

PaintShop Pro is among the most straightforward photo editing solutions out there and a great alternative to Photoshop.

  • Best Free Option

GIMP

GIMP is much more than just a photo editor that offers a lot of incredible Photoshop features for free.


Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is the industry standard not only in raster graphics editing, but in digital art & design as a whole.

Adobe Lightroom

Lightroom is considered the gold standard in editing functionality, with a host of unique pre-sets available.

Skylum Luminar

Luminar is a photo editing tool with AI-enabled enhancements. It's also available with a one-off fee instead of subscription.

Corel Paintshop Pro

PaintShop Pro is among the most straightforward photo editing solutions out there and a great alternative to Photoshop.

GIMP

GIMP is much more than just a photo editor that offers a lot of incredible Photoshop features for free.


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The best photo editing software is a crucial investment for graphic designers, photographers, and digital artists alike. With the right software tools, you can transform a mediocre photo into a masterpiece, altering everything from colors to light and contrast.

The biggest challenge for today’s professionals, is finding the right software for their needs. With so many options available on the market, it’s difficult to know for certain which one will give you the results you need. Fortunately, we’re here to help.

Read on for a guide to some of the best photo editing software options on the market today, ranging from Adobe Photoshop, to Canva and beyond.

What to Look for In Photo Editing Software

Your choice of photo editing software will depend heavily on what you want to do with your technology. Photo editing solutions can help with everything from polishing professional photos to creating surreal art pieces. Some points to consider when making your choice include:

  • Editing features: What can you do with this photo editing solution? Will you be able to adjust simple elements like white balance and exposure, as well as adding filters or experimenting with brushes? Do you need advanced tools like background removal and skin retouching, or are you just looking for the basics?
  • File formats: What kind of file formats can you choose from? Being able to select from a range of different options will help to ensure you can display your images properly in different environments.
  • Organization tools: Some photo editing tools help artists to keep track of their images with things like naming schemes, thumbnail previews, search functions, and similar capabilities.
  • Customization: Many leading photo editing tools allow you to download and use different filters, pre-sets and effects from the web. If you want to add new functionality to your editor over time, this could be a good capability to look for.
  • Photo sharing: Once you’ve edited your photos, you’ll want to make sure they’re easy to share. Some programs, like Adobe Lightroom, will allow you to upload images immediately to website builders like WordPress.
  • Ease of use: A great photo editor needs to be accessible, regardless of your skill level. Access to a clean interface, plenty of documentation for guidance, and online resources will be useful. A large community of helpful users can be useful too.

Best Photo Editing Software Options

The following photo editing tools were chosen based on their feature selection, usability, flexibility, and other crucial factors. We’ve chosen a variety of tools for different styles of editing and different skill levels, to ensure you can get what you need.

1. Adobe Photoshop

Best overall photo editor

adobe photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is easily one of the best-known and most popular of all photo editing tools. Popular around the world among photographers, digital artists and website builders, Photoshop can support creators in a range of tasks. Suitable for simple touch-ups and more complex projects, Adobe Photoshop is extremely versatile, with a huge range of tools to choose from.

Though Photoshop does take a while to get used to as a beginner, it’s regarded as the industry standard for photo editing in a lot of environments. The software allows for cropping, retouching, restoring, and a range of other tasks. You can even download new brushes and tools whenever you like. An extensive ecosystem means you’ll rarely need to access another editing service.

Photoshops masking, retouching, and layering features are often the most commonly used of all its capabilities, allowing users to create unique visuals unlike anything else on the market.

  • Pros
  • Comprehensive set of tools for touch-up and retouching
  • Extensive filters, brushes, and pre-sets
  • Multi-layer editing and 3D designs
  • Advanced color and background manipulation
  • Extensive organization and image management tools
  • Ever-increasing feature set
  • Cons
  • Might be difficult to learn for beginners

Pricing: Pricing starts at $20.99 per month with a 7-day free trial for just the Photoshop app. If you want Photoshop and Lightroom, you can access a deal for $19.99 per month. Alternatively, the full Adobe Creative Cloud system combines multiple Adobe apps (more than 20), for around $52.99 per month.

2. Adobe Lightroom

Best for photo optimization

adobe lightroom

Designed specifically for photo editing, Adobe Lightroom is one of the most popular tools on the market for professional photographers. Like Photoshop, this product is considered the gold standard in editing functionality, with a host of unique pre-sets available to help you transform your images in minutes. If Photoshop seems too complex for your needs, Lightroom can be a good start.

Straightforward and capable, the Lightroom ecosystem makes it easier to edit your images with customizable sliders, gradient and brush adjustment tools, camera corrections and more. You can access Lightroom on your phone and computer and sync content across both tools. There are also handy intelligence features like facial detection for organizing your images.

With excellent extensibility thanks to various pre-sets, brushes, and filters available online, Lightroom is an amazing investment for any editor.

  • Pros
  • Convenient, customizable, and easy to use environment
  • Blurring and fixing tools
  • Pre-sets and filters available
  • Camera and lens-based corrections
  • Brush and gradient adjustments
  • Facial detection for better organization
  • Cons
  • Fewer options than Photoshop
  • No layers and blending modes

Pricing: Pricing for Lightroom starts at around $9.99 per month for 1TB of storage. You can also access Lightroom and Photoshop together for $19.99 or upgrade to the full Creative Cloud from Adobe, which offers access to more than 20 apps. The Creative Cloud costs $52.99 per month.

3. Corel PaintShop Pro

Best for beginners

Corel Paintshop Pro

Beautifully accessible for all kinds of users, Corel PaintShop Pro is among the most straightforward of the photo editing solutions on the market today. Recently updated for the new 2022 version, the PaintShop Pro environment even offers a free trial, so you can test before you purchase.

Corel PaintShop Pro can be an excellent alternative to Photoshop if you’re just getting started. Though you won’t get advanced features like 3D modelling and detailed typography, you will get a host of tools ideal for editing your photos, like textures, backgrounds, and brushes. The Corel team also constantly updates the features for better results.

Features range from essential tools like cropping and composition guides, to scratch remove, fade correction, and color enhancements. You can adjust light, select specific areas of your image, and even access RAW files.

  • Pros
  • Easy to use with an intuitive interface
  • Fantastic range of color and adjustment features
  • Texture, background, and brush editing
  • Lots of file options, including RAW files
  • Constantly updating set of features
  • Cons
  • Missing advanced features even at Pro level
  • No Mac version

Pricing: Pricing for Corel PaintShop Pro starts at around $63.99 for the basic version or $79.99 for PaintShop Pro Ultimate. The Ultimate offering comes with Corel Painter Essentials, AfterShot, a Highlight Real, MultiCam Capture, and a host of other advantages.

4. Skylum Luminar

Best AI editing

Skylum Luminar

Perfect for those keen to take advantage of the new digital transformation age, Skylum Luminar is an incredible photo editing tool with AI enhancements.

Luminar stands out as one of the most popular products on the market, with a range of advanced features to explore, and a selection of different pricing options. You can even purchase Luminar with a one-off fee rather than paying for a subscription.

The Skylum Luminar photo editing software is constantly updating to suit a new era of artistic innovation. You can access AI enhancements to help you with things like atmospheric balance, structure, facial symmetry, skin enhancements, and so much more. There are also templates avaliable to bring new life to your images, and access to a range of cropping, adjustment, and retouching tools.

  • Pros
  • Endless AI enhancements for easier editing
  • Excellent ease of use for beginners
  • No subscription cost to worry about
  • Range of background and filter settings
  • Exclusive filters and image layer enhancements
  • Cons
  • Cloning tool can be problematic
  • Not the best for organization

Pricing: The great thing about Skylum Luminar is you’ll only pay for the software once. A single license starts at $79, or you can get a license for two users at $99. There’s also an option for three licenses at $199.

5. Canva

Best for Templates

Canva

If you’re looking for a photo editing tool that also offers templates and solutions for website design, Canva is a great pick. Simple but comprehensive, the Canva environment has earned a huge following around the world, particularly thanks to its freemium pricing model. There are various photo editing tools to choose from, as well as a host of templates for creating social media and website images.

The friendly drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to combine photos, change elements of a digital post, and add fonts to images too. You’ll also get access to a huge range of stock images if you need some additional visuals for a specific design. A go-to tool for many professionals creating things like flyers, social media posts, and website designs, Canva gives users a ton of options.

For beginners, access to templates for your videos, presentations, and Instagram posts mean you can quickly create stunning assets with minimal research.

  • Pros
  • Convenient easy-to-use environment for beginners
  • Thousands of templates, icons, photos, fonts and other assets
  • Easy image cropping and straightening
  • Access to a smartphone app for editing on the move
  • Free version to get started quickly
  • Cons
  • Very limited editing options
  • No layering or re-adjustment options

Pricing: There’s a free version of Canva available if you want access to basic graphic elements, templates, fonts, and animation effects. For a wider range of tools, including free audio tracks, graphical elements, unlimited folders, and cloud storage, you’ll need a paid pricing plan starting at $12.99. There are special packages for enterprises and non-profits.

6. Stencil

Best for beginners

Stencil

An amazing web-based tool for graphic design and photo editing, Stencil helps users to create and edit images at speed. Though not as advanced as some of the most popular photo editing tools on the market, this product is ideal for beginners. There are many useful templates to help you get stated, easy image resizing, and access to useful add-ons for your browser.

Stencil comes with millions of royalty-free images to access in high-resolution formats. There’s also access to thousands of Google fonts, and you can update your own custom fonts if you prefer. Other helpful elements include design pre-sets for specific requirements, custom sizing and cropping. You can also upload and store brand logos.

A handy tool for quick content creation on the web, the Stencil software is a good choice for designers looking to build images for blogs and social media posts.

  • Pros
  • Excellent range of features including free photos and icons
  • Google fonts, watermarks, and font uploads
  • Useful support for beginners
  • Logos and watermarks
  • Easy to use interface
  • Cons
  • Very limited editing options
  • No layers

Pricing: There’s a free solution for up to 10 images per month, and limited access to photos and icons. Alternatively, you can start with a paid plan of $9 per month, when paid annually, which offers access to millions of photos, icons, and graphics.

7. PicMonkey

Best for social media posts and ads

PicMonkey

PicMonkey is a simple and reliable tool for photo editing for users who don’t need the same comprehensive functionality you’d get from a tool like Photoshop. You can create a host of amazing graphics for your online marketing campaigns and social media ads without having to learn how to use a host of different complicated tools.

PicMonkey supports everything from simple social media templates to logo creation. There’s a free trial version to help you test out some of the editing tools before you go premium. The PicMonkey software also comes with a fantastically straightforward user interface, which is wonderfully easy-to-use for beginners and advanced customers alike.

PicMonkey comes with a good selection of templates, advanced touch-up tools for creating more unique images, and a smartphone app.

  • Pros
  • Easy to use for beginners
  • Available on the web and on smartphone
  • Range of new tools and features appearing all the time
  • Good selection of templates
  • Advanced touch-up tools for high-quality images
  • Cons
  • Limited layering and adjustment features

Pricing: Pricing starts with a free trial lasting for up to seven days. After that, you can choose from the Basic plan for $7.99 per month, the Pro plan for $12.99 per month, and a Team plan for $33.99 per month.

8. Pixlr Editor

Best simple online service

Pixlr Editor

A simple solution for companies looking to edit images fast, the Pixlr photo editor (recently updated for 2021), comes with everything you need to edit your images with speed. This high-quality editor is available to access online, so you don’t need to download anything. You can even access a range of file options, including PSD, JPEG, and PNG.

Depending on your needs, you can access either the PIXLR E advanced photo editor or the PIXLR X quick and easy graphic design tool. The technology comes with functionality like layers to give you an experience that’s closer to Photoshop. However, there aren’t quite as many tools as you’d get from the official Adobe product. You can also unlock a range of design templates.

Convenient and easy to use, PIXLR editor is available to access anywhere, with a range of effects to choose from.

  • Pros
  • Over 2 million free effects
  • Overlays and filters available
  • Creative editing app with no download required
  • Various versions for different editing needs
  • Similar experience to Photoshop
  • Cons
  • Not as advanced as Photoshop
  • Not the best help section

Pricing: There’s a free version available for beginners, but there are a lot of ads to work with here, and limitations on what you can do. If you upgrade to the paid plans, you can start with a subscription of $5 per month, depending on the functions you need.

9. GIMP

Best open-source software

GIMP

Otherwise known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program, this open-source photo editing software is easy to download and install on any computer. One of the most comprehensive photo editing tools available for free, GIMP has been around for more than 25 years, and its functionality is constantly improving. You’ll access a range of fantastic features for retouching photos here.

GIMP offers tools for picture composition and enhancement, a built-in file manager, and a customizable interface you can adapt according to your needs. Intended to suit a wide range of users, GIMP comes with tons of tools to make life easier for illustrators, photographers, and graphic designers. There’s also hardware support for devices like drawing tablets.

With high-quality photo manipulation tools and a range of add-ons so you can continue to improve your editing opportunities over time.

  • Pros
  • Free open-source software
  • Excellent digital retouching and touch-up tools
  • Great support for a range of plugins
  • Hardware support for input devices
  • Great community support
  • Cons
  • Learning curve for beginners

Pricing: GIMP is an open-source software solution that’s totally free to use. There may be some available plugins that you’d need to pay for, however.

Photo Editing Software FAQ

Which Photo Editing Software is Best?

Your ideal photo editing solution will depend highly on you and your editing preferences. A lot of creative professionals end up using a range of different photo editing tools over the years, to experiment with different tools and services. However, the more you explore the options available, the more likely you’ll end up with a “favorite” software option.

The best way to start exploring your preferred photo editing solutions is to try some of the free trials available with many of the top performers. Even Photoshop has a free trial so you can put its functionalities to the test.

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Disclaimer

At Findstack.com, our research is meant to offer general software recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

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