It’s little wonder Adobe has held the pixelated throne of image editing software for so long. Photoshop is far and away the most flexible, powerful tool for its price.
But what a price! At nearly $700 per license, it’s certainly reasonable for dedicated design teams like ours… but the costs add up for small companies that only need occasional photo manipulation.
Enter Autodesk Pixlr, a suite of surprisingly robust free and freemium photo editing tools. Pixlr won’t beat out Photoshop for raw horsepower, but at the low, low price of zero to fifteen dollars, it’s certainly an impressive offering.
I couldn’t tell you when or why I first used Pixlr, though I remember being immediately impressed to learn it’s completely online. The powerful Pixlr Editor software is actually a web app that runs in your browser, meaning there’s no installation required. It also means that as long as you have an Autodesk account (free), you can work on the same projects as you hop between desktops, laptops, tablets, and even operating systems.
No matter where you run Pixlr Editor, you’ll immediately notice that pretty much everything is
stolen from inspired by Photoshop. All the most commonly used filters, tools, and options are there, and they’re in pretty much the same places (with the same icons) as in Adobe’s software. Any designer should be able to jump in and work without a lot of hand-holding.
Pixlr Editor is of course limited by its platform and price. You won’t find advanced capabilities like content aware fill or adjustment layer masking. But ~80% of Photoshop’s power is there, which should be more than enough for a small shop that’s looking to clean up product images, create contest banners, or swap Katy Perry’s face onto the head of an eagle.
Other web apps
If you need even more convenience (or even less power), Autodesk also offers Pixlr Express, Pixlr-O-Matic, and Pixlr Touch Up. These free web apps are designed to filter, enhance, or fix photos in as few clicks as possible. They’re similar to the kinds of advanced tools you’d expect from smartphone editing apps. In fact, you can find Pixlr Express and Pixlr-O-Matic in the iOS and Android marketplaces.
New desktop option
This year, Autodesk added a desktop version of Pixlr that gives users offline photo editing tools. It’s not as robust as Pixlr Editor (despite being standalone software), but still offers a wide range of adjustment options, including intuitive blur and focus effects.
This is a great option for anyone that’s looking for a reliable way to clean up or splice together simple snapshots, especially for social media. Many of the most straightforward tools are the kinds of filters that are so popular with the kids on insert social platform here these days.
Close to pixel perfect
If you need an image editing solution that’s more powerful than MS Paint, less expensive than Photoshop, and more user friendly than GIMP, Autodesk’s Pixlr suite is easily your best bet. The company provides tools that range from extremely simple to enterprise level, catering to almost any need or skill set.
Though others might prefer another Pixlr app, I find the capabilities and familiarity of Pixlr Editor the most useful. And since it’s completely free for anything short of the most advanced features, why not jump in and give it a try?