Free photo-editing tools

When you want to insert a photo into PowerPoint, you should think about how you can edit that photo to improve it. For example, you might want to:

  • Crop it
  • Change its brightness or contrast
  • Recolor it
  • Remove its background
  • Give it a border, shadow, or reflection

You can usually do these tasks in PowerPoint. Since PowerPoint 2010 added a Remove Background feature (shown here), you often don’t need to leave PowerPoint.

PowerPoint tips: Free photo editing tools

But you may not have PowerPoint 2010 and the feature sometimes leaves rough edges.

And you may find the tools elsewhere to be better or easier to use. So here’s a list of free photo-editing tools. Of course, you can use them for your personal photos or any other use, not just for PowerPoint.

Microsoft Office Picture Manager

I use this a lot. It has an Auto Correct button on the toolbar that almost always makes my photos look better–in 1 click! I like this tool so much, that I’ve set it as my default to open JPGs and PNGs.  The instructions to do this depends on your version of Windows; to find out how to set a default program to open a specific type of file, go to Start, Help and Support and search for “default program.” This is important because Microsoft Office Picture Manager has a strange idiosyncrasy; you can’t simply open a file from within the program.  How weird is that? Instead, you click Shortcuts and let it find locations where you have images and use the Picture Shortcuts pane to navigate to images. How weird is that?

To find the Picture Manager, go to Start, Programs, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Office Tools. Another way to open an image in the Picture Manager is to right-click it in Windows Explorer and choose Open With. You should see a list that will hopefully include the Picture Manager.

Once you open a picture, after trying the Auto Correct button, click Edit Pictures for other options, which are:

  • Brightness and Contrast
  • Color
  • Crop
  • Rotate and Flip
  • Red Eye Removal (something you can’t do in PowerPoint)
  • Resize
  • Compress Pictures

You can also choose File, Export to change the file format and more.

Picnik is typical of free online photo editors. You upload a photo, use the tools (Crop, Rotate, Exposure, Colors, Sharpen, Resize), then save the photo to your computer. One nice feature is that you don’t have to register.

Note: Picnik has become part of Google. In a comment, a viewer has recommended Picmonkey.

Pixlr is a free online photo editor that is also a drawing tool. You can create art from scratch or upload your image. You can add text, distort photos, replace colors, and more. Pixlr is quite Photoshop-like.


GIMP is free software that you install. It’s as close to Photoshop as you can get without getting Photoshop and is widely used. It has many features for editing and composing images.

Other free tools

Here are some other free tools. Many are supported by ads. You have to try them out to see which one you like best. Thanks to MediaBistro for their list.



If you found this useful, please use the buttons below to share it!

10 comments to Free photo-editing tools

  • John Teng

    Would you please be so kind as to recommend a software which can compress the photo size from 5MB or 6MB to 50KB without lossing the quality or sharpness of the picture.
    Thank you.

  • caduser

    I have used IrfanView for several years now and I like it much better than the Micro$oft stuff.

  • There’s really no such thing. If you reduce the number of pixels, you reduce the quality. But you can come close with a program that uses good algorithms. Within PowerPoint or Word, I recommend NXPowerLite.
    Many people use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

  • Don Ebberts

    I would recommend Microsoft’s Windows Live Photo Gallery. I don’t think it will reduce as much as you want but it will get pretty close. I post a lot of photos online and I always compress them first and I don’t really notice any difference when viewing online. Best part is that it is free and has a lot of other features. You do need to be running Vista or W7 to use it however.

  • Craig Hadden, Sydney

    Thanks for this list, Ellen. My favourite free photo editor is Picasa, which is a small download and is produced by Google Inc. It has a 1-click correction button, it’s really good at fixing red-eye (again with 1 click), it’s got amazing face-recognition, and it has dozens of other great features. Check out this example “face movie” created easily with Picasa.
    Another great program is, which is a tiny download and offers more control than Picasa, but is much easier to use than prorams like GIMP.

  • I often compress images in PowerPoint and find that it works well. But I don’t have a good eye for detail, so some people might not be happy with it.

  • Software Programming » Blog Archive » Image Editing for Web Designers

    […] Web masters. There's no better way to create buttons and make banners for the Web than IconLover!330 A perfect choice for every Web master! IconLover, gif editor for Web-based images, which allows …lDraw are perfect when you are deep into picture editing. Digital photo enthusiasts and professional […]

  • Sri

    Ellen,Nice list .As Picnik is no more active I would suggest you to update that position with picmonkey

  • jennifer

    Pixlr is one of the oldest and best photo editor i have ever seen, But recently some one has launch which is same like pixlr, and the good thing is that it has all paid feature in its free version. So it will really help a lot of editor. I would suggest to add this name to your list for better user experience. and updated tool.

  • jennifer

    Is there any software in which i can resize bulk image at once. That will be really a great help

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>