7 top free online image editors and collage makers
Browsers can handle much more heavy-duty image editing than before. If you’re looking for a photo editor online that’s like Photoshop, you won’t find something quite as powerful. But you’ll be able to get many of the same photo effects online that Photoshop offers.
These Web-based programs can be invaluable tools to quickly create graphics for social media or even for print. You can make a photo collage totally online, either one in neat boundaries or loose ones where you can arrange collage-style images however you wish.
One of the most basic functions is as an online image resizer. Online photo editors let you resize images to any dimensions, and low, medium, or high resolution. Some offer extra high retina resolution.
Another is an online collage maker. You can arrange images in cells, with borders automatically resizing.
They let you save images as jpgs. For more on what a jpg is, see Vector vs. raster for noobs.
What can you do with an online photo editor?
Web-based image/photo editors let you upload your own image or choose from included libraries of royalty-free images. Often, you can share directly to social media accounts.
Most online image editors operate on the Freemium model. So while a lot of it is free, if you want more features, there’s a monthly or annual charge. Some offer a free trial.
Most have filters, text and image overlays, icons, templates, backgrounds, and even layer support. They provide a library of fonts as well as giving the option of letting you use ones installed on your own computer. They allow text enhancements such as outlines, and the addition of vector shapes you can use in designing. You can make cool double-exposure photos, blur backgrounds, and even apply “makeup.”
Here are 7 of my favorites:
A popular free image editor, PicMonkey is highly versatile, with plenty of free options. PicMonkey lets you edit, upload, design, and collage. It also lets you draw freehand.
PicMonkey has a healthy selection of fonts you can use to overlay or caption your images. Its touch-up tools to make faces look better. (Many of these touch-up tools are in the paid version).
It offers well-designed templates for when you don’t want to start from scratch. It’s very simple to use for basic stuff, but also has more advanced things you can do with brushes and filters. For those, it’s best to watch the video tutorials. You can choose high, low, or medium-resolution files to save.
You do not have to log in to use PicMonkey.
You can share directly to social media, such as to your Pinterest boards. PicMonkey does not resize images automatically, and it doesn’t have many premade social media image sizes.
To upload your own image and resize it, choose Overlay.
PicMonkey occasionally runs slowly or glitches for me, and there are a few common tools I wish were free. But I use it a lot—it’s quick, easy, and convenient. It has a “fun” feeling, with humorous messages and a monkey mascot.
Canva is also very well-known. It has thousands of premade templates, many already made to standard social media sizes, such as Pinterest. It has thousands of templates to choose from, from simple to complex, or you can start with a blank one.
Canva is robust, and can be used for professional graphic design. It has an accompanying iPad app. It includes photo effects such as stickers, blurs, badges, charts, presentations, infographics, and book covers. It pretty much has everything.
Canva can indeed be a powerful tool. One problem I have problems with it running so slowly in my browser (I usually use Chrome) that I could not use it, but when it works it works well. Canva is a serious business tool.
Fotojet is a hidden gem. You don’t hear about it that much, but it’s quite powerful, and similar to PicMonkey. The paid version is lower cost than others (at the moment).
Fotojet has premade image sizes if you like creating the image from scratch instead of using a template. Templates can have a lot of fussy little pieces you need to delete, and you spend more time altering a template than you would designing your own piece. But depending on what you want to do, templates can be a valuable tool.
The templates are well-designed and on the traditional side. The creative collage options are cool, with fun effects such as 3D. There are also templates for photo cards and other occasions. There’s a lot to play around with. Fotojet lets you share images directly to social media; remember to put your own link in.
The program is snappy; I’ve never had it run slowly. Like Canva and PicMonkey, it supplies editing effects, fonts, embellishments, templates, and file-saving options. It has quite a few text effects. It’s powerful in image editing, offering advanced filters such as Color Splash and Radial and Tilt Shift for sophisticated photo effects. While it’s not enormous like Canva, there’s a lot it can do.
Stencil stands out for a few reasons. In addition to the desktop app, it offers a Chrome browser extension that lets you choose an image directly from the browser, open it, and then add text and other embellishments. (You don’t have much control over the size, but they’re supposed to be redoing this feature soon). Or, you can upload an image as an icon (overlay) and control the size. You can then add text to it.
Stencil’s big draw is that you can automatically resize images to fit various social media demands at the click of a button. Then you can share them directly to your accounts. So it’s a huge timesaver if you do a lot of sharing.
You get 10 free images per month.
Stencil is a business social tool.If you’re serious about making beautiful images across channels quickly, it may be worth it to invest in Stencil. There are two paid levels; it can get kind of pricey.
Snappa has a ton of premade social media sizes from the obvious to the unexpected, including YouTube Channel Art, Email Header, Twitter Card, and LinkedIn, as well as “eBook Cover” and “Infographic.”
Snappa can automatically resize graphics you’ve made to fit various social media demands.(I do like to make pins, but not to have to keep typing in the numbers 735 x 1102). It lets you upload and save images for later use even in the free version. You have to log in to use Snappa. You can schedule your creations on Buffer directly from it. https://snappa.com?afmc=9s
Like Stencil, Snappa is not that cheap, but can save you a ton of social-media time.
is a photo editor, collage maker, and design tool. It has lots of facial touch-up tools in the free version (unlike PicMonkey). So if you want to retroactively do a makeover, this is the image editor to use. It’s also got templates.
BeFunky partners with Pixabay, a free stock-image site. Its graphic design tools target cards, invitations, even menus. It has lots of social media headers and when signed in, you can save directly to social media. You don’t have to be signed in just to use it. It has a variety of blog headers and graphics sizes.
BeFunky has an arty feel and fun designs and image effects. It’s great for bloggers and designers. Like Fotojet, the monthly fee is low and gets rid of ads.
For bloggers who want to jazz up their sites, BeFunky may be the best one out there. Its paid features filters like “cartoonization” and “graphic novel.” You won’t get bored using BeFunky.
Fotor collage maker is one of the free photo editors online.
It lets you make collages on a grid with your choice or how many cells, borders, and stickers. It lets you choose funky borders for the collages, such as heart-shaped cells with which you can create photo mosaics.
Styles are plentiful: Artistic Collage, Classic Collage, Funky Collage, and Photo Stitching. Fotor has advanced features and photo effects similar to Photoshop, such as Curves to adjust lights to darks, and tilt-shift to blur backgrounds.
Its special features are HDR, which lets you combine three photos of different exposures into one optimal one, as well as some really cool art filters that let you get funky effects. It also has digital enhancement effects such as “weight loss” and “makeup” in the free version. Fotor is a powerful online collage, design, and editing tool.
It also has some free clip art and presized social media images. Fotor has a free and paid version. The paid is a lot cheaper if you get it for a year.
Online photo effects vs. Photoshop
Some of the editors lack useful features like the eyedropper tool, and you can’t open PSD files; I am not sure what the limitations on layers are–but they do provide quite a few features of Photoshop. I like that you can draw freehand in PicMonkey–that isn’t a feature in all of them. They have the “enhancement” parts of Photoshop but not the extensive text tools, brush sets, ability to work with Smart Objects, different file options, and such.
These editors are great for online uses such as memes and social media. But since they allow for high-resolution files, you can also use them to spruce up your photos and artwork for print. They certainly can’t come anywhere near the feature set of Photoshop or InDesign.
Web-based photo editors: in sum
Each image editor has its own focus, so to speak, with PicMonkey more for social media with an emphasis on fun and upbeat (the monkey shows up with cute sayings). Canva is all about variety and endless customization, it has a more structured feel.
Fotojet is a bit of everything—it’s not as large as Canva, but does some things PicMonkey doesn’t. Snappa is efficient and businesslike. BeFunky is creative fun that’s more similar to PicMonkey but larger. Fotor is about creativity and spending some time making something special (or you can work quickly, too).
In writing this, I’ve realized how incredibly complex these online image editors are. I no longer automatically fire up Photoshop if I need to make a graphic. I remember some of these from when they started out, and it’s amazing how far they’ve come.
You can truly use them as free graphic design tools to make things like ebook covers and presentations that you once needed desktop software to do. That’s not to say that designers no longer need desktop software, or that the skill is no longer needed.
Just about anyone can make beautiful designs with these tools, and designers can make eye-catching, original creations—all for free, or a low monthly fee. Try them all!