Photoshop is an amazing piece of software, but it comes at quite a high cost. If you’re a hobbyist or freelancer on a budget, there are several free alternatives image editors out there that might be right for your needs. Here are several of the options available to you:
Often hailed as the cream of the crop, GIMP has amassed a loyal and large user base. There are those out there that actually prefer GIMP to Photoshop, and its feature set is amazingly robust for a free piece of software. GIMP is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and a few other operating systems.
This editor is not as feature rich as GIMP, but arguably has an easier to digest interface and tailors itself to making fun enhancements to photos a snap to execute. Worth a look if you’re into adding simple effects to your images.
This is a favorite of pixel artists, as its interface and feature set lend itself well to creating art used in video games and the like. Far from its only use though, the software includes many commonly used features in Photoshop. I’ll often open up Paint.NET to perform simple operations such as resizing when I wish to avoid the overhead of opening the resource hungry Photoshop.
Originally developed for a Japanese audience, Pixia shows its roots by offering an impressive array of tools for the graphic artist. This application is ideal for manga, cartooning, and digital sketching. The windowed interface similar to GIMP, and is a breeze to use after a moderate intital learning curve.
Those are four of the best free image editing applications available, but there are many more offerings floating around out there. Some of them may be more specialized to your specific needs, so don’t be afraid to search around and try as many as you want.