A couple of years ago I could only find three online image editors that I deemed good enough to review for use on my Chromebook.

Today, one of three no longer exists and the other (Photoshop Express) was pulled off the market by Adobe. Obviously it’s time for a new review and my, my what a difference a couple of years makes.

Now there are dozens of online photo editing and layout web apps to choose from. If you weren’t convinced before that the world is moving away from installed apps toward everything cloud-based, this might change your mind.

The new apps have a wide range of capabilities – all the way from Photoshop-like completeness to toy apps for adding stickers to your selfies. A new class of online image editor has also come about. There are now several choices for designing blog covers and social images, complete with free stock photos.

Picking an Image Editor for Chrome

So, how did I go about researching and picking my favorites? Here are the questions that I wanted answered for my review.

  • Does the editor have a similar layout to Photoshop–the most popular and familiar editor of them all.
  • Can it retouch the millions of selfies that get posted every day including blemish removal, airbrush and rubber stamp?
  • Is it able to easily add text to images in order to make cover images and does it include banners or shapes? Bonus points if the editor includes ready-to-go stock images.
  • Can the app be used offline?
  • Does it handle RAW files? (I only found one that could, but there’s an online RAW file converter and viewer: https://raw.pics.io/.)

Online Image Editors for Chrome

If you’re looking for really basic cropping and resizing, keep it simple and use the native tool.

Photoshop Alternatives for Chrome

First let’s look at the real online Photoshop competitors. These powerful tools give photographers granular control of the photo editing process.

  1. Sumo Paint, of all the options I found, looks and acts the most like Photoshop. It has the same toolbar. You can add text. You can have more than one image open at a time. Now, all the tools are manual, so you need to know what you’re doing. You won’t find pushbuttons to fix specific problems with your image. But if you’re used to Photoshop, then this will feel very comfortable.
  2. screenshot of polarr online image editorPolarr runs offline in Chrome, which makes it perfect for taking with you on your Chromebook. Polarr has a more modern looking interface, but underneath are all the familiar controls for adjusting images. A tutorial greets you on launch. The Guide shows you what each of the controls do. One interesting feature is the history that lets you roll back any change, rather than just the last change. It’s built for the web, too. You can export directly to Facebook, Dropbox, or Google Drive. There are a decent number of filters for free, and there are more available for pay. One of the features I liked best was the before/after side-by-side view. I couldn’t find any text or other overlay tools for making designs. Polarr’s killer feature was that it was the only one that could open my ORF Olympus RAW file.

Hybrid Tools

Several options, some new and some that have been around for years, combine photo editing capabilities with design elements. These tools are a compromise between granular control and automatic tools. They also have design and sharing elements built for social media image creation.

  1. screenshot of fotor online photo editorFotor, like Polarr, has modern controls, but without the tutorial, it takes a bit longer to explore the options. Fotor runs online, and the free version is ad supported. Some good options are available free, without logging in, like filters and frames. Fotor is a hybrid tool that has both image editing and design options. It even has stickers. You can save your results locally or share directly to social. This product does a lot of things but is not specialized for any one purpose.
  2. PicMonkeyscreenshot of picmonkey online image editor tools is very similar to Fotor. It has photo effects, touch up, collage, and designs with text that you can share directly to social. Also like Fotor, some features are locked in the free version. The big differentiator for PicMonkey is the approachability of the controls. This is an all-purpose image editor and design tool for people who don’t have Photoshop experience.
  3. screenshot of ipiccy image editor for chromeiPiccy has been around since my last review of online photo editors. Back then, it didn’t give me the smooth and professional results I hoped for, and it had a child like feel to it. It’s basically the same now, but I didn’t throw it out because it has special effects that will appeal to people who work mostly on portraits. Along with its retouching tools, iPiccy has many visual effects like pencil sketch, and posterize (for reducing images to 2 or more colors for projects).
  4. screenshot of pixlr photo editor for chromePixlr web app takes the image editing capabilities of Photoshop and simplifies them. The big buttons makes it seem more approachable, and you don’t need as much knowledge to get started. It lets you do image retouching, design and collage. Pixlr has a good selection of basic adjustments, like crop, rotate, and straighten, plus image fixing and alteration options that are not obvious to the novice, like splash and heal. There are a few canned photo effects. You can add type to your image with 7 fonts. One weakness was the image size is limited to 8MB.

Design apps

While searching for Photoshop alternatives for Chrome, I came across a new class of online image editing apps specifically for creating designs. The focus is less on image editing and more on adding effects to stock photos and then putting text on them. If you want to create blog covers or social images, design apps are easier to use than the image editors above.

  1. screenshot of canva online design appCanva, as you can see from the screenshot, has many specialty designs (e.g. posters, business cards), not just social. Other than basics like cropping, Canva doesn’t do image editing. Canva offers a good choice of filters and fonts. It accepts both jpg and png images, or you can choose from their background photo options. It’s easy to find images by searching, and they are cheap, but they do cost $1. The downsides are that you have to create a login to get started, and it teases you with features that cost money. Canva is a good option for someone who needs to design a wide variety of formats and doesn’t have access to stock photography.
  2. screenshot of snappa.io online design appSnappa.io took a different approach with their freemium model. You don’t have to worry about the font you want costing money, but you only get 5 images a month. Like Canva, it requires login. The backgrounds are free though. Snappa has various sizes to get you started, and you can choose from social and blogging or ad templates. It has an excellent variety of fonts. Snappa’s other strong point is its video tutorials.

Conclusion to date

Not all tools that I evaluated made the list.The Photoshop alternatives are best at helping you edit photographs with tight control of every aspect of the process. The hybrid tools are better for those who don’t have Photoshop experience but need a combination of image editing and design creation. These tools are a compromise, and sometimes the more they try to do, the less well they do it. Finally, the design apps give you less control over the photo editing but add highly specialized features that are perfect for the amateur designer (or blog writer on a budget).

The Top 3 Image Editors

Last time, it was easy to pick only three because there were only a few options. Now there are a number of great choices that will work for most people.

Sumo Paint still does the closest rendition of the Photoshop layout. But, if you need to edit RAW files, you’ll have to go with Polarr. It’s also the best choice if you work offline a lot.

For portrait retouching, give PicMonkey a try first, and if you don’t like that, iPiccy might work better for you.

If you mainly need to make covers or social images, don’t mess with the hybrid apps. Instead go straight to either Canva or Snappa which are both great design apps. I couldn’t choose because it really depends on your situation. Personally I would go with Snappa because I only need to make a few images a month, and I can do that for free. If I had to do more, I would go with Canva because of the built-in stock photo purchasing.

What is your favorite online photo editor and why? Please share with us below.

Happy editing, and until next time,