Is there a decent free alternative to Adobe Photoshop for Windows?

I know, there is a similar question, but it seems to be focused entirely on Linux.

  • 14
    To bettert provide for good answers, besides pointing to the obvious solution of GIMP, you really should specify the features and requirements you have for the suggested solution to a good alternative.
    – holroy
    Aug 30, 2015 at 23:25
  • @holroy, thanks! I'll keep this in mind. Though, 'alternative' means the closest possible analogue for me. So, in that case, I think, it's pretty clear what I want. Aug 31, 2015 at 0:53
  • 7
    @Ilya Adobe Photoshop is a very, very versatile program which is used for lots and lots of different purposes. It would really help when you would specify your most common tasks.
    – Philipp
    Aug 31, 2015 at 8:45
  • 2
    Unfortunately, nobody else knows what the closest analogue would be FOR YOU, because we don't know what kind of editing you are doing. "Editing photos" isn't good enough. If you want to make adjustments to digital images for use in other digital forms, like web pages, Powerpoint presentations, etc, GIMP is a very capable alternative to Photoshop, and can do almost everything Photoshop can do. But if you are targeting printed output, and need things like CMYK output, RIP file formats, color separations, spot color, duotones, etc, there really is no practical alternative to Photoshop.
    – barbecue
    Aug 31, 2015 at 18:46
  • 1
    @holroy, Philipp, David, barbecue. Now I see your point clearly as it's quite difficult for me to chose one answer to accept. But I'm happy to see all the answers backed up with solid experience. That's not something you can find elsewhere. I personally find this thread much more instructive than the majority of posts labels something like "... N free analogues of Photoshop". P.S. darkflame, I was especially glad to explore Krita. Sep 2, 2015 at 11:30

6 Answers 6


GIMP is probably one of the most commonly used free alternatives to Adobe Photoshop for Windows:

  • free, open source
  • crossplatform
  • many features in Adobe Photoshop are also present in GIMP, but Adobe Photoshop definitely contains more features, so most professionals use Adobe Photoshop (disclaimer: I work for Adobe).

enter image description here

  • 8
    I don't know if it's just me, but since GIMP 2.6 it's so sluggish for me on Windows that it is practically unusable.
    – Philipp
    Aug 31, 2015 at 8:28
  • 3
    By the way: When I run the Linux version of GIMP in a virtual machine (Oracle VirtualBox) it runs far faster than the Windows version on the bare metal. So it's not a problem with Windows or with my machine - it's a problem with GIMP's insufficient Windows support.
    – Philipp
    Aug 31, 2015 at 18:37
  • 3
    Gimp is an alternative to Photoshop only in the sense that it's not Photoshop.
    – bye
    Sep 2, 2015 at 9:36
  • 1
    @Davor ...which would be a sign that GIMP developers have not idea how Windows works, or they would use the same algorithms the VM uses.
    – Philipp
    Sep 3, 2015 at 11:26
  • 1
    @Philipp - eh, you can't control every possible deployment environment. Even graphic card drivers could introduce a bug at any time that could mess up rendering speeds. There is literally nothing Gimp can do about it.
    – Davor
    Sep 3, 2015 at 11:31

Paint.NET is a free (as in beer, not as in speech) image editor. While it was originally intended as a replacement for the minimalistic Microsoft Paint, it has grown into a full-fledged image editor with many advanced features.

The feature palette still lacks behind GIMP and Photoshop, but depending on what you want to do it might be enough.

System Requirements and Limitations:

Minimum System

  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer (including Windows 8, 8.1, and 10)
  • 1 GHz processor (dual-core recommended)
  • 1 GB of RAM Paint.NET depends on Microsoft's .NET Framework 4.5, which is automatically installed if it isn't already on the system.

Paint.NET will automatically run in 64-bit mode if possible. You must have a 64-bit capable CPU and an x64 edition of Windows.

Paint.NET uses your hard drive to store temporary files related to undo/redo history. Because of this, actual disk space requirements will depend on the actions you perform on an image, and on the size of the image.

Paint.NET does not work on Windows RT.

  • 11
    It's also a HECK of a lot easier to work with if you're not using it daily. GIMP is a bit hard to wrap one's head around initially, and if you don't use it often, it has a learning curve every time you pick it up. Aug 31, 2015 at 12:42
  • 18
    GIMP is more powerful, but it also has one of the worst UI's I've ever seen, making it extraordinarily difficult to use, even once you're used to it. Unless you really need Photoshop-like features (eg. for compositing images realistically), I highly recommend Paint.Net over GIMP. Aug 31, 2015 at 16:16
  • 4
    GIMP may get the answer mark, but for 99% of the people asking this question, PDN is the best answer you will fine. It is simpler than GIMP but far more capable than good ole Windows Paint. I've used this app for years (probably going on a decade) and it's met all of my needs for basic graphics within software engineering. Other average, photo-editing users shouldn't need much more than what this application has to offer.
    – RLH
    Sep 1, 2015 at 13:25
  • 4
    One of the first pieces of software that I install when starting with a Fresh windows Installation is Paint.net. It's so easy to use that it really should have replaced regular Paint on windows. Sep 2, 2015 at 11:42
  • 1
    Its worth adding that the amount of plugins available is incredible, and you can easily emulate PS with paint.net
    – Sarima
    Sep 2, 2015 at 15:08


While technically a 2D paint application, Krita also works as a great Photoshop replacement.
It essentially can do all the same things even if its in a different way.

enter image description here


  • Layer and Color Management
  • Advanced Selection and Masking Tools
  • Wrap-Around Mode
  • Multiple Brush Engines and Blending Modes
  • Symmetry Tools and Drawing Aids
  • Filters and Effects


It might take awhile to get used to some things compared to Photoshop. Some photoshop tools don't have direct correspondence in Krita, but rather more powerful replacements i.e there's no clone brush. All brushes can be clone brushes.

Personally I find it good for non-destructive editing. With its filter layers and transform layers, its possible to build up effects yet always able to edit the original and have everything else auto-update.

Also a far better interface then GIMP.

  • Thanks! I haven't even heard about this prog before. Sep 1, 2015 at 10:00
  • 1
    Indeed, lots of people are still "discovering" it. Sort of came from nowhere from my perspective, but it came ticking all the right boxs.
    – darkflame
    Sep 1, 2015 at 23:04

Hornil StylePix


Pixlr Editor

Pixlr Editor is a free Flash-based web app Photoshop clone, although it is somewhat lacking in the full feature set of Photoshop. You will find the interface is very similar to that of Photoshop which is especially nice if you're already used to Photoshop. Also, since it's web-based, you can use it from anywhere that supports Flash without having to download it.

  • 1
    As a Chromebook user (at home), I've found this extremely useful!
    – SeanR
    Sep 2, 2015 at 13:54

For real photo editing or touch up, no. Not even close.

For very basic photo editing, yes, see the other answers.

I have done both the software side of image processing as well as using image processing tools for a variety of purposes including image processing of photos and touching up photos.

I love that you can write plugins for Paint.NET, and I still do that on rare occasion.

But here is the real deal.

None of the alternatives is even close to being of the same quality as Photoshop Elements.

And Photoshop Elements is substantially stripped down from Photoshop.

Now if you just sit down and start clicking, this will not be immediately obvious. A lot of the power of Photoshop, and even Photoshop Elements, is not obvious on the surface.

Another middle of the road, is Photoshop Elements along with the excellent Elements+ plugin (which is quite inexpensive). This won't give you Raw processing in Photoshop elements, but will do a help close the gap between Photoshop Elements and Photoshop.

It is true that on the surface the competitors appear pretty good. But then you want a selection tool that doesn't just have selected or unselected points, but in fact lets you partially select points. And save selections, and then reload them. And you want to select something, but then feather the border of your selection, or maybe expand or contract your selection just a bit. Even Photoshop Elements stands out from the crowd by offering these things.

Here, lets say you want to actually brighten part of a human face. Let's say you wish part of it had more lighting than is in the photograph. If it isn't perfectly seamless you will totally destroy the photo. Well in Photoshop Elements and Elements+ (which is less powerful than Photoshop) you can make a selection that is tapered (meaning pixels near the edge are only partly selected). Then you can use curves to remap the luminosity (preferably in a lower layer dedicated to luminosity with an upper layer untouched that is used for color). And here is the great thing - the luminosity remapping will itself only partially affect pixels that are only partially selected. That means you can actually create perfectly seamless changes in shadow or light quite easily.

  • 11
    Photoshop is way more powerful for sure, but GIMP has had saving/restoring selections and fuzzy (=non-binary) selections since always... Aug 31, 2015 at 23:26
  • 2
    i.sstatic.net/pI3Lr.jpg (on the left, the brightness/contrast filter; in center, the preview output; on the right, the fuzzy selection, obtained by creating a "crude" selection by hand and blurring it with radius 12) Aug 31, 2015 at 23:30
  • It is true I have only used gimp a little. But I was pushed away from it because it tended to "have" a features meant to match photoshop features, but for them not to be implemented as well in practice. It seems to have a checklist of features, but for the actual performance of the computationally difficult features to be significantly poorer. Sep 1, 2015 at 20:30
  • 1
    I would point out your example would work perfectly fine in Krita. Id guess it would be done a different way though - maybe using a layer filter with a mask to adjust the curves on just the selected bits. Performance issues Photoshop might win out at still though, depending what your doing.
    – darkflame
    Sep 1, 2015 at 22:58
  • 2
    usability, feature parity, free of charge... pick 2 (though you'll get about 1 and a half.) Sep 2, 2015 at 21:38

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.