Online image editors compared

Online Image Editors Compared

A not uncommon request my web team receives is to do some sort of simple image editing for a staff member. I also sometimes hear that someone is getting Photoshop installed so that they can edit images and add them to their intranet site themselves.

This is crazy when you consider how much Photoshop costs and the learning curve to use it properly.

In this new era of web-based applications I thought it would be worthwhile to see if there were any online image editing tools that would meet these requirements and maybe more.

The Candidates

I looked at the following online image editors:

One service I didn’t include was Preloadr because it only works with Flickr and uses the nexImage technology anyway.

Online Image Editor Features Compared

As well as showing which tool did what, I tried to indicate – where it was useful – which tools were especially full-featured when it came to certain activities, such as applying a wide range of effects or being able to save an image to multiple formats.

Key to Features:

  • : The feature is not available.
  • x : The feature is present.
  • xx : The feature is robust / well-implemented compared with other tools.
  • xxx : The feature is very robust / well-implemented (e.g., very flexible, multiple options).
FEATURESOnline Photo ToolFauxtoPicnikSnipshot
Remove Red Eyex
Edit Canvasxxxx
Multiple Effectsxxxxxxxxx
Add Textxxxxx
Drawing Toolsxxxxxx
Save to Computerxxxxxxxxx
Save to Online Storagexxxxxx
Open From Computerxxxxxxxxxxxx
Open From URLxxxx
Open From Online Storagexxxx
Open From Web Pagexxxxx
FEATURESPXN8VicImagerPicture 2 LifeCellsea
Remove Red Eyex
Edit Canvasxxxx
Multiple Effectsxxxxxxxxxx
Add Textxxxx
Drawing Tools
Save to Computerxxxxxx
Save to Online Storagexxxxx
Open From Computerxxxxxx
Open From URLxxxx
Open From Online Storagex
Open From Web Pagexxxxx
FEATURESPhixrNet ImagerImage Authornex ImageLook Wow
Remove Red Eyexx
Edit Canvasxxx
Multiple Effectsxxxxxxxxxx
Add Textxxxxxxxxxx
Drawing Toolsxx
Save to Computerxxxxxxxxx
Save to Online Storagexxx
Open From Computerxxxxxxx
Open From URLxxx
Open From Online Storagexxx
Open From Web Pagex

Thoughts and Takeaways

Overall, I was very impressed with what’s available when it comes to editing images online. By and large the tools were easy to use and had an impressive array of features.

The majority of the tools had solid basic image editing functionality – crop, resize, adjust color, brightness and so on. Some had unlimited levels of undo and redo, which was especially handy.

Some of the features available were up there with full-blown graphics tools. For example, Cellsea included the unsharp mask function for accurately adjusting sharpness.

Two of the image editors (NetImager and nexImage) allowed you to use layers to apply your changes and effects in a non-destructive way, which was a nice feature.

The tools were integrated to varying degress with online image storage services like Flickr and Photobucket. Some also enabled you to view all the images from a web page and then choose which one you wanted to edit, although apart from Cellsea, this was done via a bookmarklet.

The tools had varying capabilities when it came to uploading and saving images from/to different formats. However, between them all you could probably upload and save an image in most of the main file formats (e.g., JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, PDF, EPS).

My Choice of Online Image Editing Tool

I was particularly impressed with Cellsea and will likely settle on it as the tool I recommend to others. It has a clean, responsive interface with an impressive set of features and can handle a wide range of file formats.

Update: I added three new image editors to the list: Online Photo Tool, Fauxto and Picnik. All of them are good; I am certainly impressed by the quality of the tools that are now available online.

Of the three, I would definitely recommend checking out Picnik, if only to appreciate the elegance of its interface.

27 thoughts to “Online Image Editors Compared”

  1. great comparison. I had most of them in my Now I have an idea which one to use in particular siuations.

  2. Wow, thanks for this list. I tend to have the same problem and hear the same photoshop line over and over.
    Actually I still resized for flickr-accounts of friends untill Flock hit the internet. Now I know what to tell them to do : read your blog 🙂

  3. Does any one know if there is any open source version of anything that does something similar?

  4. Yes, could be a javascript-php type of solution, flash-php or anything combination. I have full server access so its not a problem installing anything, I’m just wondering if anyone built something of the sort, which is also shared…

  5. Does any one know if there is any attempt for something similar with the scriptacolus/prototype pair as a front?

  6. *Beau* – I’m surprised you would leave it at that if they are, as you allege, using your code. I recognize the time and effort it would take to pursue such a case, but isn’t it worth trying to protect your intellectual property?
    *Ran* – re. your earlier question, I don’t know if “ImageMagick”: might be what you are looking for. Re. your last question, sorry, no idea.

  7. Christian, I can’t comment on any action we may take. That said, we need to weigh the cost of any action (even in terms of our time) against the threat. For now, our time is better spent elsewhere.

  8. Anz special reason for rating picnc’s “open from online” higher than phixr’s? The latter definitely supports more sites… and the handling isn’t worse either.
    Phixr also supports “edit canvas”, btw.

  9. You posted this like 6 months too late Christian :), my mum has been hassling me about how to edit her photos on the computer and so she ended up going to a Photoshop class.
    Good post though as I am sure it will come up again.

  10. *Thomas* — thanks for the feedback. I have updated the chart to reflect these corrections.
    *Jermayn* — talk about overkill! Have you shown her Picasa? That’s a great free desktop tool for managing and editing photos really easily. We love it.

  11. Hi Christian,
    Great story!
    I would like to tell you about web-site. I think this site might be usefull for busy person, who wants good quality to photo gallery.
    I have developed
    web-site which makes color / contrast corection extremely easy for digital photos. It helps specially with very badly toned images, eg. wrong color temperature.
    It tunes color non-lineary (like curves in photoshop).
    Site is currently at alpha stage 🙂

  12. How about comparing “Fotoflexer”: as well? It’s quite capable: besides the usual image manipulations, it can import PNG, can draw over the image (no shapes though).
    Would also be great to hyperlink the name of the tool in the comparison table to point to the URL; and to delete the spam comment 21 here.

  13. about a year ago i used an online image editor that was very fun and I can’t remember what website it was on. It allowed you to upload a picture of yourself or a friend and provided you with hats, sunglasses, mustaches, beards, earrings, noserings, necklaces, tatoos, scars, etc. all of which could be resized and rotated prior to applying to your photo. It was loads of fun – anyone here know where that site is?

  14. Hi Christian,
    Thanks for doing a great job comparing these tools. I used most of your post on my blog.
    All the best,

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