2 Free Online Image Editors That Will Make You Toss Photoshop

If you’re a web-oriented person, there’s a good chance you have used some image editing software like Adobe Photoshop. But for most blogging and web content, you simply don’t need the array of tools available on Photoshop. There are about 10-20 tools in everyone’s toolbox that get the most use. So rather than firing up Photoshop to use them, why not use an image editor that’s already built into YOUR website?

With Aviary’s  new HTML5 embeddable image editor, you can now place a high-quality image editor onto any website with ease. It’s as easy to do as embedding a Google Map or a YouTube video using the auto-generated code!But wait, what about a more elaborate solution to image editing? That’s where our second site comes in. Pixlr is another tool that can’t be missed.

Here’s the skinny:

Aviary’s New HTML5 Image Editor (free)

Made with Aviary’s New Editor

Creative web app powerhouse Aviary has just announced its latest product, an HTML5-powered photo editor.

Like Aviary’s other apps, the HTML5 photo editor — code named Feather — is easy to use and surprisingly powerful. Beyond its use of HTML5 (as opposed to Flash, Silverlight or other RIA frameworks), what sets this app apart is that it’s designed to be portable and embeddable.

Aviary already has a very solid Flash-based image editor, Phoenix. It’s been around for more than two years and has a wealth of features. So what makes Feather different and special?

On its blog, Aviary discusses the the rationale for building Feather. First, Aviary says that it knew it wanted to be able to reach out to the world of creativity happening outside of Aviary.com. Because Feather is portable and embeddable, developers can directly integrate it into their sites and apps. That means that users don’t have to leave one page or experience in order to complete a task and then shift back.

Furthermore, as powerful as Phoenix and some of Aviary’s other image tools are, many third parties who use Aviary’s products were requesting a simpler tool. You don’t always need to have a full-fledged photo suite. If a website just wants to make it easy for users to upload a product photo and maybe add a caption, they probably don’t need the ability to create multiple layers, make magic wand selections and add different type of brush effects.

So with Feather, Aviary decided to take the most popular functions of Phoenix and put it in one portable package. Plus, third-party developers can customize what features they want to include or exclude. The great thing about being in HTML5 is that the tool is easier to integrate and embed into third-party solutions. Aviary also says it has plans to open source the editor and create a mobile version too.

Already Everloop, Fashism, Shopify and other companies have signed up to integrate Feather into their apps.

How It Works

If you want to get a feel for Feather and see how it might be useful in your project, head to http://www.aviary.com/html5 and click on the “See it in Action” tab. Then upload an image and get started!

While simple in nature, the app is really powerful. I uploaded a photo from my online collection and then applied one of the pre-formulated “effects” — in this case, “Instant.” The results were a photo with cooler tones and already framed in a Polaroid. I was then able to add text, save the image and download the file.

Super simple, super effective. The fact that developers can take advantage of this portable toolset on their own sites is super cool. Even better, the functionality of this product is totally top-notch.

Is there a separate standalone version of the applications available for students or schools?

Yes. Aviary is beta-testing a special program for students and educators that lets them use Aviary in a completely private setting apart from the rest of the community. To see if you qualify please contact Aviary with details about intended usage.

Pixlr’s Online Image Editor (free)

Pixlr may not let you embed it into your website, but hoo boy is it a powerful online image editor! With nearly as many functions as Photoshop, this free and easy-to-use online editor is the cat’s pajamas. I just gave a few of the functions a whirl using this picture of a school bus:

Then I added some filters and other fun tools to spice up the image. After just 10 seconds of editing, I got this. Ugly I know but still it shows how simple it is to add multiple effects, layers, and toning to any image without much effort.

There are, as mentioned, a host of other fun tools at your disposal. For example, you can whip out a gaussian blur just like in Photoshop and then even add some HDR-like effects. (Probably shouldn’t do that in the same image) Here are a few other examples.

Gaussian blur, Box blur and Unsharp mask

First out is some different new blurs and sharpen. We have added two new blur and one new sharpening method.

All three functions are something the editor has been missing since the launch of the service.

Polar coordinates and Water swirl

Two new displacement filters have been added, the image to the left is made with the polar coordinates filter, before at the top and after is the bottom part.

A newish filter is water swirl, it’s not entirely new but its now a lot more useful. Setting for size, amount and direction are added.

Glamour glow

Glamour glow adds a fuzz, pale and intense effect on your photo. This filter works best on lighter images and you may need to adjust the curves a bit afterwards depending on the image you are using.

Mimic HDR

HDR is a popular effect where you use several images with different exposure and combine them to get a larger range of colors. Our mimic HDR filter tries to add the same effect but with only a single image.

This effect is like the glamour glow, it don’t work on all images but it can create a rather cool effect on the right ones.


I’m quite sure I don’t need to explain this filter so much but for you who have lived on a other planet for the last couple of years it creates an effect that mimics a certain poster ..

Sepia, Solarize and Exposure

Three new color adjustment added to the editor are sepia which gives the image an old feel, solarize mimics an effect from old days and exposure can fix under or over exposed photos.

Added more curves presets and new gradients

In the curves adjustment there are an additional 15 presets that create nice looking photos, my favorites are “The 60’s vintage” and the new “Cross process” but “Light Amber” and “Chocolate” are also nice on the right photo. In the gradients tool and color lookup adjustment they recently added 25 new gradient presets.

Click to zoom

Would You Toss Photoshop?

What do you think? Would either of these applications inspire you to give up on Photoshop? If you’re trying to save some money and don’t have access to Adobe products at an education discount, then these two sites (as well as some others out there) may have you seriously considering not using Photoshop for awhile.

Let me know if you have given up Photoshop in favor of free online editors. As someone considering this option, I’d love to know. Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Iaotech

    November 24, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Been using picot in my classroom for two years now. Great asset for schools.

  2. Matt Arguello

    November 24, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    I've been using SumoPaint.com with my students. It's been kind of glitchy lately but it's a decent tool.