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Adobe Photoshop dominates the image-editing world. It's estimated that more than 70 percent of all image editing is done in Photoshop, and it is the overwhelming program of choice for professional level imaging. It's extremely powerful and very versatile. But power and versatility come with a relatively steep price tag. The full version costs around $500.

Not everybody needs the power and capabilities of Photoshop...and not everybody has the budget to afford it. Fortunately, there are other image-editing applications available. There are programs out there that can do much of what Photoshop can, without the hefty price tag. While most of these programs do have their limitations, overall, they're remarkably good in doing what they're designed to do. And most have some interesting features or capabilities that set them apart from the competition.

Surprisingly, there are very sophisticated image editing programs available that are actually free. (Something to keep in mind when you're searching for free image editing downloads is that all too often, programs that come up are actually just free trial versions. With some of these programs, there are time limits, generally 30 days. After that you either have to input a registration number or the program doesn't work anymore. Other free trial programs add watermarks to any images manipulated in them, if they haven't been registered.) What you're looking for is a free, full functioning, program that doesn't have a time limit on it and doesn't imprint watermarks into images.

There's sometimes the misconception that, if it's free, it can't be any good. In reality, there are several free programs available for download that actually are very good. One of the more popular free image editing applications, the one that seems to get the most press, is Gimp. I've played with Gimp on and off for a number of years. It's loaded with functionality. It has all the image optimization and manipulation tools that you might need; including sophisticated capabilities of working with layers, levels and color channels, just like in Photoshop.

More recently, I've started playing with a different image-editing program called PhotoScape. It's an application I'm really impressed with. With more than 26 million downloads in less than a year from CNET's alone, I'm not the only one who's discovered it. PhotoScape is a collection of seven different modules that cover everything from accessing images to outputting them. There's an asset management module called the Viewer, an Image Editor, a Batch Editor, a Page module, a Combine module, a GIF animator, and a Print module. All can be accessed from drop-down menus or from an opening menu wheel.

The image editor includes a complete selection of editing tools. While the structure is a little different, they work much the same as the tools in Photoshop. They are very sophisticated. The Brightness/Color tool, for example (which is similar to Photoshop's Brightness/Contrast option), has nine different control sliders, making it possible to come up with just the right brightness and contrast levels. Almost ever command has an extensive selection of control options like that.


PhotoScape Image editing Software


Many of the adjustments that can be made in the Image Editor can be applied to multiple images in the Batch Editor. Brightness, Contrast, Sharpening, Backlighting, Film Effects and Vignetting are just some of the controls that can be used to modify any number of images, automatically.


PhotoScape Image editing Software Review


One of my favorite modules is the Page module, which automates page composition layouts. There are over 100 different templates that can be used to create multi-image layouts. It's a simple process of dragging and dropping images onto the pre-defined image positions. The program does all the basic resizing and positioning. The final size and position of each image can be adjusted individually by the user.

PhotoScape Image editing Software Tips


But that's only the half of it. Once the images have been placed, it's possible to apply a wide variety of edge effects and creative filters. These are applied to all the pictures on the page, individually, rather than to the page as a whole. The result is a very creative page composition that can be saved as an image file.


PhotoScape Image editing Software Tutorial


The Combine module assembles multiple images into row and column patterns. Again, there are controls for things like borders, image spacing and background colors. Each group of photos can be saved.

PhotoScape Image editing Software Tutorials

Dropping multiple images onto the GIF Animator creates a GIF file that pages through the various images at user defined intervals. There really isn't an easier way to create GIF animations.  The final module is the Print module, which simplifies multiple image output and thumbnail creation. Besides the individual modules, there are various other tools, such as a Raw Converter and a configurable Screen Capture option, that add functionality.


Image editing Software Review  Image editing Software Reviews


Image editing Software Tutorials


PhotoScape is an interesting and versatile program that deserves a close look by anybody that needs a wide range of image editing capabilities and output options, even photographers that might have the budget for Photoshop, but want to try something different.

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