Best free photo editing software for Mac

Edited by Nataly Bogorad

November 5, 2021

Looking for the best free photo editor for a Mac? With all the options out there, it's difficult to determine which editor will work best for your needs. In this list, you’ll find program highlights and summaries of the top free photo editors for a Mac along with a list of pros and cons to help you choose the right program.

Quick summary

  • Editor’s choice: Movavi Picverse(free trial)
  • A versatile, professional-grade photo editing tool full of AI features that allow you to spend more time shooting and less time editing. It’s easily one of the best photo editors for a Mac.

  • Best photo auto corrector: Photos for macOS
  • With ProRAW format support, a slider to adjust vibrance, and several auto-correction features, Apple’s Photos app has what you need to retouch any photo at a professional level.

  • Best open source photo editor: GIMP
  • Though the interface has a learning curve, GIMP has a professional toolkit of features. Plus, you can easily upgrade the software with a wide range of plugins and support tools.

  • Best for beginners: PhotoScape X
  • Many reviewers heralded PhotoScapeX as having a user-friendly interface that’s very intuitive. It’s a program that’s easy to pick up and start editing right away, with no experience necessary.

  • Best for quick edits: Google Photos
  • Google doesn’t have as many professional tools as others on the list, but it makes up for it with solid facial recognition and AI capabilities for fast editing.

  • Best transition editor – beginner to professional: Darktable
  • Darktable is a solid photo editor with professional-level tools in an interface that anyone new to photo editing can use. If you want to learn how to edit photos before transitioning to paid professional software, this is a great stepping stone.

  • Best for Finder and Aperture integration: Picktorial
  • The organization with your photos can be a pain, especially after a shoot with thousands of photos. Pictorial has great tools and integration with Finder and Aperture to search for photos and libraries easily.

  • Best Mac exclusive editor: Pixelmator
  • Many photo editors out there have too much focus on multiple platforms. The creators of Pixelmator designed this software just for Mac and updates follow the same focus.

  • Best for basic editing: Seashore
  • Seashore is perfect for anyone who doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles in their photo editing program. Plus, it flawlessly and seamlessly integrates with macOS.

  • Best free RAW file processor: Fotor (desktop version only)
  • If you have photos sitting on your hard drive – or around the house to scan – that you want to hang on the wall, Fotor is perfect for cleaning them up and processing a large RAW file for a great print.

  • Best online editor: Pixlr
  • Editing images doesn’t require downloading and installing software. If you want to skip the download process, Pixlr is a viable option – just be sure you have flash installed.

  • Best free trial: Luminar AI
  • Luminar offers a 30-day free trial of the full version of the software. This goes beyond the typical 7 or 15 day trial of other photo editors for a Mac, and it has no limitations.

  • Best brush selection: Affinity Photo
  • With sub-brushes, combined brushes, wet brushes all in a variety of styles, Affinity has all the tools you need to create the perfect photo. It’s definitely a loaded toolbox.

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Best Mac photo editors

Finding a simple photo editor for your Mac can be a hassle. Movavi Picverse eliminates the stress as it combines full photo editing functionality with an easy-to-use interface.

Every function within Movavi Interface is clear, precise, and easy to understand. And if you have a question or are uncertain, Movavi has pop-up and online tutorials to help guide you through the editing process. It’s a program that beginners can pick up quickly and advanced editors will have no trouble working.

But ‘easy-to-use’ often isn’t enough for advanced or professional editors. Fortunately, Picverse comes equipped with a variety of tools for simple editing – frames, filter application, effects, cropping, etc. – along with a selection of advanced tools for removing objects and advanced retouching.

Even better, Picverse comes with tons of auto-edit options that allow you to transform your photos in a single click. Restoring an old photograph has never been easier, and the program will take you through the process step-by-step in a clean interface – to avoid any confusion.

The program supports a wide range of formats and allows you to save your edits to pick up where you left off. Plus, sharing on social media is easy as it allows you to connect directly with Facebook and Instagram.

If you’re looking for a photo editor for a Mac with a free download, Movavi Picverse should be your go-to option.

What are its best features?

  • The auto editing features are highly advanced
  • UI has almost no learning curve. Pick it up very quickly!
  • AI editing gives better results than much of the competition
  • Tons of tutorials available
  • What could be improved?

    • Large image processing can be a bit faster

Want a free photo editor for a Mac? You most likely already have one! Photos for macOS comes pre-installed on any recent version of macOS – and it’s pretty difficult to uninstall.

The program has a simple, clean interface that’s easy to use. Every tool is available on either the left or right side of the screen based on which window you’re working on, but you won’t have to switch between viewing modes.

Aside from the interface, editing in Photos is a breeze. Before moving the main editing screen, you can get the auto enhancement and rotation out of the way. And to be honest, you’ll most likely only need to let the program auto-correct most photos as it’s one of the best on the market.

But if you want to go a little further when your enhancement, you can do all the standard lighting and balance work quickly. You just move the sliders and if it isn’t to your liking, double click to go back to the previous version. Editing doesn’t get much easier than that.

What are its best features?:

  • Clean intuitive interface
  • Tech integrated facial recognition
  • For a free application, the auto-correction is well above par
  • Nice support for plug-ins
  • iOS Live Photos has fun and interesting features

What could be improved?:

  • Direct sharing capabilities could have more options
  • Add color fringing or geometry controls

GIMP is an open-source, free software that lets users manipulate images however they see fit. It’s not the easiest software to learn as the interface can get pretty cluttered with all the tools and features. But once you’ve got it down, the program is highly ranked by many devotees.

With GIMP, you’re able to do all the things you would expect to do with any photo editing software – color corrections, soften, brighten, darken, etc. And you can do it all with a range of brushes and gradients. Plus, the software has features that allow you to create professional-grade collages and posters.

Again, the program is open source, so there are constant updates and developments. That also allows you to download and integrate a variety of plugins – even ones for Photoshop® – and enhance its functionality.

Just beware that, as the software continues to build upon itself, lagging issues can occur. Have patience, and you’ll be able to create remarkable-looking photos – for free!

What are its best features?

  • Constant improvements
  • Ability to open any image file format
  • They’ve loaded the software with tools and features, and you can expand them with plugins and addons

What could be improved?

  • The interface could be less cluttered. Now, it’s hard to find everything and takes time to master the interface

Photoscape X is your neighborhood’s user-friendly, easy-to-use photo editing software. It has a strong toolset that allows you to do all the basic functions you’d expect – rotate, crop, colorization, resizing – but Photoscape goes above and beyond in many other ways.

The program works a way above average image viewer that can open a wide range of photo formats. It also has a solid screen capture tool and the ability for users to edit in batches. On top of all that, it comes with a solid selection of effects and many filters.

All-in-all, Photoscape X can be a great go-to program for beginner photo editors. The software is simple to learn, but it still has all the functionality you need to create superb photographs. Plus, it has a handy undo button in case you take things one step too far.

Last, the software comes with one of the best RAW image converters on the market. This allows you to convert your photos into something workable like JPEG directly from top camera brands.

What are its best features?:

  • Has screen capture capabilities
  • Wide range of file format support
  • You can edit in batches

What could be improved?:

  • Reduce lagging while editing
  • Add more exporting parameters. Right now, they fall behind the competition

Even though Google recently capped its online storage at 15GB per account, as a photo editor, it’s still a viable candidate as one of the best free photo editors. The program helps users to organize their albums with an interface that’s minimalist and visually pleasing.

For editing, the program offers a decent set of tools that allow you to adjust photos – color, lighting, etc. – as you see fit. The adjustments are subtle and easy to work as they adjust with a clickable slider. The only catch is that there’s no ‘Undo’ feature for what you adjust. You’ll either need to readjust or discard.

If you’re not into manual adjustments, Google Photos has a range of auto-adjustment features that allow you to quickly balance a photo or integrate other filters or effects.

Overall, the program is solid for photos that don’t need deep adjustments. If you want something free, quick, and auto-edit based, this is the one for you.

What are its best features?

  • Obvious, but it works very well with Android – sharing, moving, organizing, etc
  • Facial recognition is top notch
  • Other AI/auto enhancements and effects are proficient

What could be improved?

  • Add an ‘undo a step’ option when editing. Now, it’s either save or discard
  • Add instant tools for removing red eye and other small blemishes

Another open-source program on the list, Darktable works on a wide range of platforms – including Mac – and clearly has inspiration from Adobe Lightroom®. So if you’re a fan of Adobe programs, this one might be right up your alley.

Once you import your images, Darktable has great organization tools that allow you to tag images with star ratings, keywords, or color labels. These features are superb when you need to find your images in a pinch.

On top of the organization, Darktable has one of the best RAW image converters for a non-professional editing program. It keeps most of the saturation and works well on images that are blown-out – the background is much brighter than the subject.

Darktable has an exceptional set of editing tools that allow you to make basic adjustments – tonality, levels, cropping, etc. – along with more advanced editing functions like lens correction and 2D color grading color correction.

This is a great intermediary editing program that can help you make the jump to professional editing – and it’s free!

What are its best features?

  • All industry-standard image enhancements
  • Subtle editing that won’t destroy images
  • Open source and works on a wide range of platforms

What could be improved?

  • Create a mobile or online version
  • Make an editing process a little faster

If you’re looking for a straightforward editor that doesn’t confuse you with a bunch of windows and modes, Picktorial could be your top choice on this list. The program comes with a customizable interface that makes editing fast and painless once it’s all set up.

For editing, you’ll find all the industry-standard features for cropping, rotation, and for colorization. The program also has adjustable curves, which takes it a step above some of the other programs on this list.

What makes Picktorial shine is the editing assistant that allows you to see what you’re doing. Just be careful if you switch images, because the editing pane won’t automatically sync with the new image.

Overall, this is a solid photo editor if you don’t need complex editing functions, and you want to see what’s happening as you go.

What are its best features?

  • The Assistant Viewer is a tremendous help for retouching
  • The integrated search function
  • Natively browsing your libraries in Aperture

What could be improved?

  • Make Assistant Viewer sync with the editing pane
  • Make opening a raw file less laggy

Pixemator mixes the worlds of photo editing, vector illustration, and digital painting. But don’t worry, photo editing is its primary function. If you need quick adjustments, this tool can do the trick, and it can handle some layering and more advanced retouching to boot.

With the other functions within the program, Pixelmator is perfect for anyone who wants to dig into illustration and design along with photography. You can even integrate hand-drawings or paintings into the program, and it’s perfect for posters and infographics.

Pixelmator does everything you need for basic edits and with its ‘Quick Selection’ tool, you’re able to hammer out edits in no time. Just don’t expect to do advanced functions like panorama stitching. They made a program for quick editing that merges with other illustrations or posters.

What are its best features?

  • Interface is straightforward with minimal menus and tool icons
  • Great tools naming that leave no room for confusion – no ‘magic wand’
  • It’s affordable: if you choose to go beyond the 15-day free, non-restrictive trial, the software is much more affordable than most

What could be improved?:

  • Add some advanced editing tools
  • Make a program interface a little better. Now, editing requires opening a lot of windows, which creates clutter on the screen

Basic editing is easy with this open-source editor built for a Mac. With Seashore, you’re able to make adjustments to textures and gradients using a simple system of brushes. Plus, you can do it all in multiple layers.

The developers based the program on GIMP, but don’t expect to find all the professional-level tools GIMP offers. However, it still integrates better with Mac. Seashore is made for people who need basic edits and presents nothing to the contrary.

The user interface is easy to use. And even though the program doesn’t have a lot of the tools offered by competitors, it’s still a superb choice for free, simple photo editing.

What are its best features?

  • An impressive set of editing tools for non-professional editing
  • Multiple-layer editing

What could be improved?:

  • Add professional-level tools
  • Add some basic, common-sense tools offered by the competition – like line bending

To start, Fotor can’t replace powerful, professional editing software, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But for a free tool, Fotor has some exceptional features that make it one of the best free photo editors for a Mac.

The program has a simple three option setup – edit, collage, and design – that gives users an uncomplicated experience when working.

For editing, you’ll find the common industry tools, but the free version has some limitations with the advanced editing options. Regardless, the key feature of the editing section is the one-click editing that does a lot of the groundwork for you.

The collage section on Fotor features many free templates that can help you put photos within a stylish setup. But the big positive for the program is its RAW file conversion on the desktop version. It’s seamless, and for a free program, it amazingly holds on to the quality of the original.

What are its best features?

  • The photo collage tool is very easy to use
  • Converting RAW files with ease
  • The brilliant filters and effects

What could be improved?:

  • Add more editing tools and features
  • Remove lots of ads on the interface in the free version

Basic editing is easy with this open-source editor built for a Mac. With Seashore, you’re able to make adjustments to textures and gradients using a simple system of brushes. Plus, you can do it all in multiple layers.

The developers based the program on GIMP, but don’t expect to find all the professional-level tools GIMP offers. However, it still integrates better with Mac. Seashore is made for people who need basic edits and presents nothing to the contrary.

The user interface is easy to use. And even though the program doesn’t have a lot of the tools offered by competitors, it’s still a superb choice for free, simple photo editing.

What are its best features?

  • An impressive set of editing tools for non-professional editing
  • Multiple-layer editing

What could be improved?:

  • Add professional-level tools
  • Add some basic, common-sense tools offered by the competition – like line bending

Basic editing is easy with this open-source editor built for a Mac. With Seashore, you’re able to make adjustments to textures and gradients using a simple system of brushes. Plus, you can do it all in multiple layers.

The developers based the program on GIMP, but don’t expect to find all the professional-level tools GIMP offers. However, it still integrates better with Mac. Seashore is made for people who need basic edits and presents nothing to the contrary.

The user interface is easy to use. And even though the program doesn’t have a lot of the tools offered by competitors, it’s still a superb choice for free, simple photo editing.

What are its best features?

  • An impressive set of editing tools for non-professional editing
  • Multiple-layer editing

What could be improved?:

  • Add professional-level tools
  • Add some basic, common-sense tools offered by the competition – like line bending

Basic editing is easy with this open-source editor built for a Mac. With Seashore, you’re able to make adjustments to textures and gradients using a simple system of brushes. Plus, you can do it all in multiple layers.

The developers based the program on GIMP, but don’t expect to find all the professional-level tools GIMP offers. However, it still integrates better with Mac. Seashore is made for people who need basic edits and presents nothing to the contrary.

The user interface is easy to use. And even though the program doesn’t have a lot of the tools offered by competitors, it’s still a superb choice for free, simple photo editing.

What are its best features?

  • An impressive set of editing tools for non-professional editing
  • Multiple-layer editing

What could be improved?:

  • Add professional-level tools
  • Add some basic, common-sense tools offered by the competition – like line bending

Summary

Again, don’t let your photos just sit on a phone or some server this year. Use this list and create an original birthday video to celebrate your loved ones.

The video makers on this list are all online, so there’s no need to download anything, and most of them have great step-by-step tutorials to walk you through the process. Plus, most offer free options to save you some money during the process.

Nataly Bogorad

Nataly Bogorad is a content creator and a chief editor. With qualifications in English and American studies and art criticism, she specializes in writing SEO-optimized and user-friendly content. Nataly graduated from Universität Kassel with a bachelor of arts degree and worked as a project assistant for Regionalmanagement Nordhessen GmbH.