An essential tool for any Information Marketer’s toolbox is a high-quality image editor. Of course, the King of the Hill for image editing software is Adobe Photoshop. Having used Photoshop for the past 18 years, I can safely say that, from a design perspective, we’re definitely joined at the hip…grin. I use it every day. The problem that crops up, however, is that Photoshop isn’t cheap and is often out of the budget range for many, especially if they’re just starting out. It doesn’t change the fact that there are still header graphics to create and photos to edit…ebook covers to design and DVD cases to finalize…but sometimes, having the best tools for the job simply isn’t an option.
There are some cheap and free software options out there, like Photoshop Elements or GimpShop. I’ve talked about (and promoted) these options before, but they are not the topic of THIS post. There are some new, amazing web-based tools emerging, that, in my opinion, could actually give Photoshop a run for their money. Adobe DOES offer an online image editor (Photoshop Express http://www.photoshop.com), but I’m not including it in this post. I personally prefer the other programs I DO include here. The point I want to make here as we begin to explore these new, online tools is that you have options…more now than ever before…and the best news is, they’re FREE!
Pixlr is perhaps my favorite online image editing software of all the ones I’ll be sharing today because it’s so well done. The look and feel is nearly identical to Photoshop (as most of them are), and quite honestly, it performs nearly ALL the same tasks Photoshop will. It even opens Photoshop PSD files and maintains the layers, which is a nice touch. None of the other programs offer that. It offers an extensive line of filters and editing tools, as well as everything else you would expect from a high-quality image editing software. The ONLY issue I have with Pixlr (if you even want to call it an issue) is that it doesn’t offer an option to show rulers or draw snap guides. And actually, none of the web-based programs I’m sharing here offer that feature (except for Aviary, which I’ll talk about a little later). It’s not a huge deal but it would be nice to have (Please take note Pixlr…grin). And…BTW…all the screen captures for this post were edited in Pixlr.
SplashUp is another great online image editing option. While it doesn’t have all the features that Pixlr does, it’s still a great choice…especially if you don’t need all the extra features. It DOES have the ones that matter: layers and layer effects, some decent basic filters, etc. My favorite option in this program is how it handles type. Unlike Pixlr (where you have to enter the type into a type palette and then click “Okay” to add it to your document), you can type directly into your document…just like you would in Photoshop. The biggest bummer with this program? It doesn’t support Photoshop files. Pixlr does. In my book that’s a big deal, but that aside, SplashUp is still a great option for your image editing needs.
Aviary is more than just an image editor, it’s an entire suite of free online tools that includes an image editor, a color editor, an effects editor, a vector editor (think Illustrator), an audio editor, screen capture and more! Quite honestly, it’s one of the most amazing suites of online tools I’ve seen anywhere. When using the image editor (called Phoenix), you will notice, again, that the basic look and layout is similar to our standard, Photoshop (it doesn’t support PSD files however). What I love about Aviary is how they handle their layers. You can have regular layers (like images, text, etc) but ALSO access the Effects Editor and Vector Editor and add dedicated layers from those tools as well. This greatly expands the reach of Phoenix’s (the image editor) basic offering of tools. They also offer extensive tutorials, including how to create banners for Etsy (nice touch for one of their target audiences). All in all, this is another amazing suite of tools that is worth your time to investigate!
In addition to the three image editors I mention here, there are others as well, such as Pixinate, Picnik and SumoPaint. They each have merit, but speaking as a veteran graphic designer, the three I mention here should more than address ANY graphics needs you may encounter. What I would to you is to try out all three offerings I mention here and get a feel for what each one offers. You may prefer one over the others. Of course, the GREAT news is that you no longer have to stress about shelling out big sums of cash to address your image editing needs!