The photo editing software market doesn’t fail to amaze beginner and professional photographers. Earlier, the only way to enhance portraits was to buy a software from Adobe to perform Dodge and Burn or Frequency Separation. Now, these operations can be done with the help of free photo editing software.
In order not to browse through hundreds of freeware options, I have collected top 8 best free photo editing software for fixing portraits. I tested each of the programs on my own and got professional portrait editing and color correction.
1. Adobe Photoshop Express
Best for: mobile portrait editing
Useful features for portraits: Dodge and Burn, Soft Focus
- Support RAW, TIFF and PNG
- The Healing Brush
- An extensive number of filters
- Advanced portrait editing tools like Dodge and Burn
- Works slowly
Adobe Photoshop Express is a simplified but no less effective lineup of Photoshop CC software. It includes both web and mobile applications.
Speaking of the web version, the photo editing software is run on Flash player and has three sections: Basic, Adjustments and Effects.
Basic and Effects sections will be familiar to the users of free image editing software, because they feature already well-known stamps, healing brushes, crystallize, pixelate, automatic red-eye correction. The Adjustments section offers more advanced functions for your portrait, such as Dodge and Burn, Soft Focus, Sharpen and more.
Speaking of the mobile version, it is an intuitive application with support for all popular formats, including RAW and PNG. The portrait photo editing software has automatic tools, such as removing brush for skin retouching, red-eye correction and teeth whitening.
For better portrait retouching results, get acquainted with photoshopping portraits tips http://fixthephoto.com/photoshopping-portraits.html. PS Express offers a large number of customizable filters and effects: B&W, grainy, bright, contrasting, matte, soft, etc.
Besides, every user can enjoy the tight integration with other applications from Adobe, which belong to the Creative Cloud family, as well as cloud storage up to 10TB.
Best for: advanced portrait editing
Useful features for portraits: customizable brushes, layers and masks
- Support for all kinds of plug-ins
- RAW support
- Deep correction with layers and masks
- No batch editing
GIMP is one of the most sought-after photo editing software, supported by a large active community of users. The open-source code, on which GIMP is built, makes it cross-platform and open to the modifications from other users.
Anyone can fix errors and bugs, as well as add new tools. It is worth mentioning that you can download the software as a portable version that may be added to a USB token for ease of use.
The interface is fully customizable. You can choose any color, as well as move, delete or add the desired panel. Aside from the integrated automatic actions for quick photo editing, GIMP also supports all plug-ins, making it even more fitting for novices.
What I really like is the ability to open PSD files and edit them. In addition to simple tools, like brush, cropping, filters, professional photographers/retouchers will find a number of more advanced tools, such as content-aware scaling, face modifications, animated gifs, layer masks, curves and customizable brushes.
As for disadvantages, I can note the complete lack of batch editing support. Unlike other software that I have included on my list, GIMP is practically the only desktop software that doesn’t offer this function. Read more about Photolemur photo enhancement software that has the same photo editing features as GIMP.
Best for: deep and quick portrait correction
Useful features for portraits: point color selection, masks and layers
- Stylish interface design
- Ability to perform quick and deep portrait editing
- Supports plug-ins
- Works with layers
- Distracting advertisements
- Requires Flash Player
Pixlr is the best online portrait photo editing software free. The program offers 2 versions of completely different picture editing software – Pixlr and Pixlr X.
Speaking of the already outdated Pixlr version, its interface greatly resembles the Adobe’s one. That’s why many users think of Pixlr (surprisingly not Photoshop Express) as the best web-based Photoshop alternative.
The program offers an extensive number of advanced features, which are superior to those provided by similar picture editors. Its feature-set includes automatic improvement tools, customizable masks, brushes and layers, exposure, smart color pickers, levels. You need to install Flash to use Pixlr. It isn’t a good thing since Adobe won’t be supporting Flash anymore in the nearest feature.
To prevent this problem, the developers have provided users with a new, completely redesigned version of the editor, Pixlr X, built on HTML. In this version, the developers put the focus on simplicity and completely redesigned the interface.
Pixlr X includes advanced picture editing tools, PSD support, premium fonts and stock images, layers and more. Besides, there are capabilities for drawing and painting over pictures, which are necessary for all kinds of creative experiments.
Best for: batch portrait editing
Useful features for portraits: HSL, batch editing
- Multiple separate picture editing modes
- RAW support
- Advanced batch editing
- The program may crash
- Loss of quality when saving the file
The outdated and strange-looking interface design scares users away from this free picture editing software. However, when you open PhotoScape for the first time, don’t be in a hurry to close it.
Examine the interface and you will notice that it is just a start menu, offering 12 separate programs. Among them you can find picture splitting and merging, RAW conversion, animated GIF creation, and even a rather weird (but handy) function for printing sheet, lined or graph music paper.
PhotoScape includes thousands of filters, hundreds of brushes, smart tools, color palettes for drawing and more. Photographers can take full advantage of the RAW conversion function. Those with an extensive collection of pictures to edit will be happy to hear about batch editing support.
The color correction menu is even more appealing – it has different settings that resemble Lightroom: HSL, customizable curves, custom color adjustment, B&W and more.
Among the interesting features, I would like to note a unique GIF creation tool. You can simply add a few frames from one scene and make a GIF out of them. The program will do it automatically, using the integrated AI.
Best for: applying/correcting make-up
Useful features for portraits: Touch Up, color filters
- Advanced tools for applying makeup
- An extensive number of overlays
- Basic set of tools for portrait edit
- Most filters are unavailable in free access
PicMonkey is the best free photo editing software for portraits, particularly for applying make-up. Many Instagram shooters and bloggers are sure to love this web-based program.
It is praised for the ability to apply color effects and filters, white text, generate custom designs, add different kinds of fonts or graphics, create templates for business cards, collages and various projects.
The program offers a vast selection of tools, including instant cropping and resizing, customizable picture effects and decorative design elements. Besides, PicMonkey provides an extensive menu of overlays, such as small animals, stars, hearts, lines, labels, banners, etc. These overlays may be customized by color, size and transparency.
Apply or adjust makeup in your portrait with the help of the Touch Up section. It includes teeth whitening, lip tint, skin alignment and eye brightening.
A peculiar feature of the portrait editor is cloud storage called HUB. It lets you store and organize shots in libraries in an unlimited number.
The main disadvantage of the program is optimization. When working with more than one shot, PicMonkey freezes a lot.
Best for: basic portrait editing and digital drawing
Useful features for portraits: layers, customizable brushes
- Clear and well-structured user interface
- Perfectly optimized for weak PCs
- Plenty of useful tools and effects
- The brush works with limitations
- The text can’t be adjusted after applying other effects
PaintNet has proven to be a simple program for basic portrait edit with layer support for Windows users. The picture editor doesn’t support the RAW file format, but you can still work with JPEG, BMP, PNG, TIFF files.
In addition, PaintNet makes it possible to convert from one file format to another.
The picture editor offers a relatively small variety of tools, but you can work with an unlimited number of layers.
Besides, you may perform basic portrait retouching to neutralize spots on the skin, remove the background and fix red eyes. If you work with a graphics tablet, this free image editing software will give you real pleasure.
Also, I would like to mention some of the special effects – they are pretty cool: sharpening, blurring, distortion, embossed effect, etc. You can even get some vintage Instagram-style effects. I feel like Paint.Net resembles previous Photoshop versions with a simplified interface.
Despite the fact that Paint.Net supports layers, they don’t let users correct the text after applying other effects, which remains unclear to me.
Best for: advanced picture correction
Useful features for portraits: tonal correction, noise reduction
- Non-destructive editing
- Advanced correction
- Works slowly
- Frequent crashes
- Parameters are adjusted only through sliders
RawTherapee is free cross-platform software for deep picture editing and color correction. Being built on open-source code, the picture editor lets you expand the functionality, fix bugs manually, changing certain lines of code.
Just like Lightroom, RawTherapee positions itself as a fast and convenient cataloger that supports an extensive list of files, including RAW, TIFF, PNG. This free picture editing software enables you to edit RAW image files, boasts improved color correction, histogram mapping and high dynamic range (HDR) tone mapping.
The program impresses users with multiple tools for noise reduction, tone correction, modifying lights and shadows, rotation, white balance and tone adjustments. RawTherapee is basically something in between Lightroom and Photoshop in the shell of Adobe Camera RAW.
Among the standard tools, you can find sharpness, colors, exposure adjustments and more. It is worth mentioning that this graphics editor is optimized even for very weak PCs, making it the best alternative to Lightroom.
The main drawback of RawTherapee is the complete absence of tutorials. For beginners, it may be bad news.
Best for: applying filters and basic portrait enhancement
Useful features for portraits: wrinkle remover and teeth whitening
- Tools for generating creative compositions
- Convenient creative templates
- Limited resolution
- No RAW support
Fotor is the best free photo editing software for those, who want to perform basic portrait retouching and apply multiple effects/overlays. The picture editor mainly positions itself as a web platform but also has mobile versions with almost identical functionality.
Fotor boasts an extensive number of functions and tools necessary for basic edits, like improving brightness or saturation, as well as for more complicated manipulations, like neutralizing wrinkles and teeth whitening.
A vast variety of frames, stickers, effects and text settings is sure to impress everyone, who likes posting creative masterpieces on social networks. Although the program is capable of opening and editing RAW files, a picture can be saved in four formats – JPEG, PNG, BMP and TIFF.
The tool for adding text is quite noteworthy. It has dozens of integrated fonts – from the classic Calibri to Arial or Bodoni, which are often used for advertising. Aside from selecting a font, you can adjust the size, placement, color and transparency. With the help of the latter option, you can create something like a watermark.
Among the disadvantages, I can mention watermarks when working in a free version, as well as intrusive, constantly popping up advertisements, which occupy about 20% of the workspace.