No need to invest in Photoshop to edit your photos: whether you are a novice or an expert, you will find something to meet your needs among free software for Windows.

At the mention of image editing, a name blooms on everyone’s lips: Photoshop. And for good reason, this software developed by Adobe has been a benchmark for professionals for ages. Despite its many strengths and powerful functions, it is not a feasible solution for everyone. Its complexity can frighten an unseasoned public while its paid subscription – nearly 300 euros per year! – discourages modest scholarships…

Unfortunately, on PC, you should not rely on the tools integrated as standard in Windows, even for basic retouching: the venerable Paint only offers the bare minimum for reworking images, while Photos (on Windows 10) is mainly used of viewer. Fortunately, and not to mention the online solutions that require an Internet connection, there are several completely free and very convincing photo editing applications for all profiles, from novice to expert. Here are the five best, ranked from easiest to most comprehensive.

PhotoScape X: turnkey editing

We do not count it ten years of existence yet, but Photoscape X has already managed to make a name for itself in the photo editing market. Originally released in 2013, the software has been in very active development since 2017, regularly introducing new features and improvements. Described as “fun and intuitive”, it seduces an amateur public unconvinced by the performance of its smartphone and/or uncomfortable with the advanced settings of its digital camera.

In its desire to address everyone, PhotoScape X opts for an extremely simplified interface, very different from the organization chosen by the competition. Rather than dedicating its home page to the options for creating and opening files, the software prefers to record all of its documentation there. The tools are presented in video, promoting the handling of a program with an unusual layout. It is specified here that tutorials and terminology of functions are only available in English, a point which can pose difficulties of general understanding.

The layout of the work plan does not derogate from the structural originality desired by PhotoScape X. The menu bar emphasizes transformation objectives rather than categories of processing tools. The files are directly accessible from the tree structure which adjoins the editing area, and you cannot alternately open and modify several photos without applying the same settings to them all. A usage limit that reminds us that PhotoScape X was designed for occasional, fun, quick touch-ups, and not for in-depth image processing, as evidenced by all of the preconfigured settings, effects and filters.

Download PhotoScape X for Windows

Paint.net: the improved successor to Paint

There was a time when Paint.net was only a student project and was to offer a simple alternative to Microsoft Paint. Today, this editing software has clearly exceeded its primary objectives, integrating more advanced editing options: cropping, layer management, lasso, magic wand, cloning stamp, effects, filters, red-eye removal, changes, etc. In fact, Paint.net does a lot – and a lot more than its glorious ancestor.

With its modular interface, Paint.net wants to be flexible in its organization. Everyone rearranges the tool blocks around the editing area according to their working habits. Nevertheless, its somewhat dated interface disconcerts both amateurs looking for a fun and user-friendly solution, and those, more experienced, who are looking for intuitive software with a well-calibrated semi-professional structure.

Last asset, Paint.net is compatible with many plugins from the open source community thanks to which initially non-existent tools find a place within the native functions of the software.

Download Paint.net for Windows

Photofiltre 7: the most scalable

Clearly oriented retouching and creation, Photofiltre 7 is aimed at an intermediate audience, too experienced for PhotoScape X, but intimidated by the references that are Photoshop or GIMP, for example. We particularly appreciate its evolutionary character: as we progress, we continue to find in it an interest and functions adapted to our new requirements.

Photofiltre 7 is built around a classic interface – some would say old-fashioned… –, although a little too extensive: menu bars and quick settings overcome the work plan. To the right of the interface, basic editing tools remain just a click away. Facilitating the manipulation of image folders, the preview block located at the bottom of the software allows you to navigate and quickly open the contents of a directory. Multiple editing is, for its part, favored by the display in floating windows of the processed illustrations. We thus constantly keep an eye on the elements on which we are working simultaneously.

We find in Photofiltre 7 advanced modification and processing options that have made the reputation of other big names in the sector: layer management, cloning stamp, magic wand, masks, automatic filling to name but a few. . The many customizable settings and filters allow fine correction of brightness, contrast, saturation, gamma, noise, texture. On the other hand, certain automated tools are missing, such as the removal of red eyes (correctable by the combination of the “circle selection” + desaturation functions), as well as support for vector images.

Download Photofiltre 7 for Windows

GIMP: a serious competitor to Photoshop

To understand GIMP, you must have reached a high level of expertise. For comparison, this free software offers very similar functions to those of Photoshop, offering possibilities for retouching, editing and advanced processing. Nevertheless, despite its performance and its free nature, the jostled organization of its interface often harms it with a community already accustomed to working with Adobe tools. From this observation were also born several open source patch projects for GIMP (PhotoGIMP, for example) aimed at redesigning the interface of the editor to make it more accessible to Photoshop fans.

In its original version, GIMP is organized around a classic editing area surmounted by a menu bar, flanked by a toolbox on the left, and a palette of settings on the right. Here, no floating windows, but a bar of tabs displaying the thumbnail of the image being edited for quick reference. A multi-window mode does exist (menu Windows > uncheck Single window mode), but above all it makes it possible to separate each module that makes up the interface (toolbox, settings, work areas), and thus to control the software and its projects on several screens.

The passage of GIMP to version 2.10 marked a real turning point in the development of the software. The integration of the GEGL graphics engine, 32-bit management, support for multithreading, WebP compatibility, use of the GPU via OpenCL are among the major new features that propel it to the rank of essentials for (semi)professional editing. . In terms of tools, we find the traditional layers and masks that the latest version has expanded, dozens of customizable filters, well-honed transformation modes and improved selection options when they had so far struggled to compete with those of Photoshop.

For all intents and purposes, we should add that GIMP is openly compatible with many open source plugins (C and Python) allowing you to take advantage of tools and settings not available in the official version of the software.

Download GIMP for Windows

Darktable: the digital darkroom

Many compare it to Lightroom minus the price. But if dark table Indeed, it has similarities with the famous Adobe product, it diverges in many other aspects and requires flexibility to adapt to its many, many functions.

First of all, it is worth going back to what Darktable is, namely free software for the non-destructive processing of raw data (RAW) from the sensor of the digital camera (APN), compatible in a second time with HDR files. and rasterized. In other words, Darktable allows you to digitally develop and correct your files as you would in a darkroom with film film. To this end, we owe him a double interface consisting of a light table (organization of images and films, tags, color labels) and a darkroom.

It is from the darkroom that we adjust our images and correct our files. To do this, Darktable has hierarchical modules according to the different stages of processing: development (exposure, white balance, cropping, contrasts, perspective correction, etc.), tonal values ​​(levels, tone curve, mapping), colors ( channel mixer, contrast and color correction), enhancements (hot pixel removal, noise reduction, sharpening, lens correction), effects (filters, grain, frames) and masks.

Darktable is therefore not editing software in the strict sense of the term, but a semi-professional raw image processing tool. As long as you are motivated and interested, it is not necessary to be an expert in digital development to get started with Darktable: with an active and passionate community, the project lists hundreds of advanced tutorials on its site official.

Download Darktable for Windows

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