55 Open Source Replacements for Photo and Graphics Tools

Open source apps to create, edit, organize and share images.
Posted February 13, 2012

Cynthia Harvey

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In recent years, the number of people taking digital photos has increased dramatically -- and so have the number of open source tools available to help users work with those photos.

Photo-sharing site 1000 memories estimated nearly 10 percent of the 3.5 trillion photographs in existence were taken in the last year. It added, "Every two minutes today we snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s." According to the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA), manufacturers shipped a record-breaking 121.5 million digital cameras in 2010 and 115.5 million in 2011. Researchers from InfoTrends predict that by 2015, more than 2 billion cell phones in use will have built-in cameras.

Not only are people taking a lot of photos -- they're sharing a lot of photos. Facebook's photo library includes more than 140 billion photos, half of which were uploaded in 2011. Users uploaded an additional 8 billion pictures to Photobucket and 5 billion to Flickr.

With so many digital images flying around, amateur photographers have more interest than ever in tools to help them create, edit, organize and share those images. Unfortunately, some of the best known software for dealing with photos and graphics retails for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The open source community has responded with dozens of free applications whose capabilities rival or even exceed those of their closed source counterparts. Below, you'll find 55 noteworthy choices. As always, feel free to add any we might have missed to the comments section below.

Photo Editors/Raster Graphics


Replaces: Adobe Photoshop

The GNU Image Manipulation Program, aka "The Gimp," offers professional quality photo editing capabilities on par with what you would find in Photoshop. It includes powerful filters for photo enhancement and digital retouching with support for a wide variety of file formats. Note: if you use Windows, you'll need to download Gimp-win. Operating System: Windows, Linux


Replaces: Adobe Photoshop

KDE's painting app can help you edit existing photography or art or create new digital artwork of your own. The interface is designed to mimic real world art supplies and painting tools. Operating System: Windows, Linux

3. Pixelitor

Replaces: Adobe Photoshop

This Java-based photo editor offers more than 70 image filters and color adjustments, some of which aren't offered by any other tool. However, documentation for this project is a little light, so you'll need to have some experience with other photo editors in order to use it. Operating System: OS Independent

4. Pinta

Replaces: Adobe Photoshop, Paint.Net

Modeled after the freeware Paint.Net, Pinta offers advanced drawing tools and more than 35 adjustments and effects for manipulating your photos. Features include unlimited layers, full undo history and more. Operating System: Windows

5. Seashore

Replaces: Adobe Photoshop

Based on The Gimp, Seashore is a Mac-only graphics and photo editor designed to meet the needs of average users. It offers features like gradients, textures, anti-aliasing for both text and brush strokes, multiple layers and alpha channel editing. Operating System: OS X

6. CinePaint

Replaces: Adobe Photoshop

Although it is a raster graphics editor, not a video editor, CinePaint is specifically designed to be used for motion pictures. It offers a similar set of tools as Gimp, but it supports high bit-depth, which allows this app to be used for touching up individual frames of a film. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

7. MyPaint

Replaces: Corel Painter

Designed for use with pressure sensitive graphic tablets, MyPaint is a fast powerful painting program. The interface disappears when not in use so that you can focus on your artwork. Operating System: Windows, Linux

8. Gnu Paint

Replaces: Windows Paint

Also known as GPaint, Gnu Paint offers a basic set of graphic creation tools, including polygon shapes, ovals, freehand drawing tools, and fill and shadow features. It's essentially the same as Windows Paint, but it supports only the Linux Gnome desktop. Operating System: Linux

9. Paintbrush

Replaces: Windows Paint

Reminiscent of the old MacPaint software, Paintbrush offers Mac users a simple way to create basic images quickly. It supports multiple graphic file formats and includes tools like airbrush, rounded rectangle, eyedropper, zoom and a text tool. Operating System: OS X

10. KolourPaint

Replaces: Windows Paint

This paint app for the KDE interface aims to be easier to use than Gimp with a better feature set than GPaint or Windows Paint. The site includes a helpful product comparison page that highlights some of the similarities and differences between the various painting programs available. Operating System: Linux

11. GrafX2

Replaces: Windows Paint

Originally created for DOS systems, this app traces its inspiration to programs like Amiga's Deluxe Paint and Brilliance. This updated open source version has been ported for multiple operating systems, but it's still best at creating old-school 256-color graphics. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

12. ImageJ

Replaces: Windows Paint

Developed at the National Institutes of Health, this Java-based image manipulation program was intended to for use by doctors and scientists for use in analyzing images from clinical or laboratory settings. However, it can be used to modify many other types of images and artwork as well. Operating System: OS Independent

13. Luminance HDR

Replaces: Adobe Photoshop

This project provides a workflow for high dynamic range (HDR) images. It supports multiple file formats, including raw formats, and it includes helpful wizards that walk users through common tasks. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

14. Tux Paint

Replaces: Windows Paint

Created for the younger set (primarily preschoolers and kindergarteners), Tux Paint helps kids create their own digital artwork. It offers basic drawing tools, plus fun stamps and special effects like sparkle, drip, rainbow and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

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Tags: open source, graphics, open source apps, photo editor

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