The best photo editing apps 2020: top tools to perfect your images

Turn your snaps into works of art with our pick of the best photo editing apps for PC, Mac and more – plus the best free photo editing apps

The best photo editing apps
(Image credit: PXhere)

The best photo editing apps can make your amateur attempts at snaps look more like something a professional would serve up. Or, if you're a pro, it could be the difference between getting that next job or not. Good photo editing software can help you save an otherwise lost moment by enhancing even the most poorly shot snap.

We've taken a look at the different tools on the market to put together this comprehensive guide to the best photo editing apps. This choice list makes it easy for you to find the right software to suit your needs, from Mac and PC to iOS and even Linux, we've picked a selection that will allow everyone to get in on the editing action, no matter their device. And if you're on a tight budget, we've also included the best free photo editing apps.

You might want to make a photo of nature jump with more colour and brightness, or perhaps you shot something at night and need it clearer. Or you may just want faces to look more lively in an otherwise dull light. Whatever the need, these photo editing apps will help you get what you want. 

Whether you're working with shots taken on one of the best cameras or snaps from your smartphone, these tools will help whatever you feed them with. We've even thrown in some free photo editing software so you can give it a try without any commitment at all. So why not?

We've got the best photo editing apps right here, arranged by what stands out from their offerings. You should be able to find the right tool to create your next work of photographic art right here.

The best photo editing apps 2020

The best photo editing apps: Adobe Photoshop CC

(Image credit: Adobe)

1. Adobe Photoshop CC

The best photo editing app overall

Specifications
Platform: Mac/Windows
Image layers: Yes
Price: Subscription
Reasons to buy
+So. Much. Power.+Easy for newbs, complex enough for pros+Simple price structure
Reasons to avoid
-Not cheap-Subscription-based

The best photo editing app is and has been for some years, Adobe Photoshop CC. The decades of experience Adobe has had fine-tuning this photo editing suite, once reserved for professionals alone, means its more powerful yet easier to use than ever. From layers and masks to selecting and cropping, this does the basics but also offers so much complexity that it's the go-to software for photo editing professionals. While this is a deeply complex suite, there is a clean and simple interface that can make the process of learning much easier.

This also comes with Adobe's Lightroom so that allows image browsing and cataloguing too. Don't expect Photoshop to be quick and light, initially, but rather it's like an instrument that you can make beauty from once you know how to use it correctly. With lots of guidance out there it's easy to get skilled, fast. 

Going mobile? New addition Adobe Photoshop for iPad has been built from the ground up specifically for touch and use with the Apple Pencil. That makes this the best photo editing app for Mac, PC and iOS – a bold claim indeed.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

(Image credit: Adobe)

2. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

The best photo editor for organisation

Specifications
Platform: Mac and PC
Image layers: No
Price: Subscription
Reasons to buy
+Superb image organisation+Mobile sync+RAW editing
Reasons to avoid
-No plugin support

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is the perfect partner for Photoshop, offering a more mass-control appeal for batch work. That means it's really well built for organising larger groups of pictures. While Photoshop is more complex, Lightroom is great for everyday editing, including image enhancements, RAW-processing and one-click presets applied to pics. With a huge range of free Lightroom presets, this is a great tool for those newer to photo editing, or those wanting to work fast. 

Adobe has complicated it a little with Lightroom Classic, for desktop storage, and Lightroom CC, for cloud storage, so you'll need to pick a side there. More of a mobile user? Adobe Lightroom for mobile is one of the best photo editing apps for iOS right now.

Affinity Photo

(Image credit: Affinity)

3. Affinity Photo

The best affordable alternative to Adobe

Specifications
Platform: Mac/Windows/iPad
Image layers: Yes
Price: Bought
Reasons to buy
+Powerful system+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-No cataloguing-Complex in parts

Affinity Photo is an affordable way to get professional grade photo editing without the subscription based pricing that Adobe controversially demands. That means support for huge images of over 100-megapixels, 360 degree editing, RAW editing and HDR merging, panorama stitching, batch processing and plenty more. 

If you want to get stuck into some retouching, this is the tool for you with options for cloning, healing, auto object removal, local image distortion effects, retouching tools and plenty more. The fact the price is so affordable for what you get really makes this a hugely appealing option for anyone that doesn't strictly require Adobe.

While this is one of the best photo editing apps for PC it also has an iPad version making it rank highly as one of the best photo editing apps for iOS too.

Adobe Photoshop Elements

(Image credit: Adobe)

4. Adobe Photoshop Elements

The best software for all-round editing that suits all users

Specifications
Platform: Mac and PC
Image layers: Yes
Price: Subscription
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use for newbs+Powerful performance+AI-driven automation
Reasons to avoid
-Can't turn off Auto Creations

Adobe Photoshop Elements is a super powerful picture editor that's also easy to use, making it the perfect partner for anyone new to photo editing. That doesn't mean it's not crammed full of powerful tools though, far from it with the likes of subject selection, to cut out people and even pets, super simply. This has all you'd expect on your phone too, like a smooth skin feature for touched up photos quickly and easily.

You can use the Guided Edits mode to make amendments without knowing how but simply knowing what you want. Or go for the Quick Edits mode which is useful for batch changes. There's also Expert Mode which allows you free reign over all the powerful tools made for professional photographers. Backed by AI-smarts this is not only easy to use but actually fun – something very few pro grade photo editors can attest to.

Phase One Capture One Pro 12

(Image credit: Phase One)

5. Phase One Capture One Pro

The best beautifully powerful pro-grade alternative to Lightroom

Specifications
Platform: Mac/Windows
Image layers: Yes
Price: Bought
Reasons to buy
+Powerful RAW editing+Pro level tethering
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey

Capture One Pro 20 is a super powerful photo editing suite which allows you to work with layers, organise images, control workflow, tether capture, take advantage of graphic acceleration and more. While there are plenty of manual image enhancement tools, you can also take advantage of some really useful preset effects. And if you ever want to rollback a change, the workflow is non-destructive so that's easy. 

You won't be able to get a mobile version of this, so if that's what you're after then you may need to head in the direction of Adobe. But with a more pro-grade focus this benefits from the power of a computer, especially for features like tethered photography shooting straight to the machine, or local adjustment layers and masks. Worth the steep price then. 

Corel PaintShop Pro

(Image credit: Corel)

6. Corel PaintShop Pro

Best for beginners to photo editing

Specifications
Platform: Windows
Image layers: Yes
Price: Bought
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+Integrated help systems+More powerful tools for pros
Reasons to avoid
-Windows only

Corel PaintShop Pro is a great tool for anyone that's new to photo editing and thinks it all sounds a bit daunting. You don't have to know your layer masks from your burn tool to be able to get the most out of this smart editing system. There are lots of helpful guides to walk you through the process and the layout is intuitive. Despite this, there is still plenty of complexity for the more advanced user. 

This is Windows only, which could be a problem for Mac owners, but it does mean the tool has been built specifically. As such this features touchscreen compatibility which can further enhance the ease of use, especially when working on 360 degree images. The copy and pasting of layer styles is another great feature that helps to make this one of the easiest to use photo editors out there.

GIMP

(Image credit: GIMP)

7. GIMP

Best free photo editing software

Specifications
Platform: Mac/Windows/Linux
Image layers: Yes
Price: Free
Reasons to buy
+Basic and advanced options+Easy to use interface+Open source and free
Reasons to avoid
-Tough to learn without help

GIMP is a really powerful free open-source photo editing software that is useful for amateurs and pros alike. The menus are pretty intuitive to use and the options range from basics like cropping and retouching to more complex tasks like layer work and even original artwork creation. It's also readily available across not only Mac and Windows but also Linux OS. This even works well with programming algorithms making it ideal for web designers using the likes of C++, Python, Perl and more. 

The downside is that the learning curve is steep and there isn't a great deal of guidance. So while you can make a saving by going for this free option, just be ready to invest a lot more time in mastering how to get the most out of this photo editor. 

Alien Skin Exposure X4

(Image credit: Alien Skin)

8. Alien Skin Exposure

The best photo editing app for analogue image looks

Specifications
Platform: Mac/Windows
Image layers: Yes
Price: Paid, free trial
Reasons to buy
+Lots of effects+Excellent for image adjustment tools
Reasons to avoid
-No image combination option-No thumbnail preview importing

Alien Skin Exposure is a very specific photo editing tool as it's built to help bring out the analogue image look in every photo. If you don't shoot on film but would like to create that feel from your shots then this is the photo editing software for you. There is a wide selection of effects from grain and light leaks to vignette and fading – this will get that traditional film processing finish just right.

You can still use this for more standard image editing needs too. Stack layers and blend corrections or adjust curves and colors all with modern intuitive interface controls. It'll even organise your photos intelligently with the option to keyword search without the need to import them into a catalogue. You also get enhanced RAW processing making this a really powerful tool even for the more advanced user.