The 10 Best Free Photo Editors for Mac

Try these no cost editing tools for super photos

There's no getting around the fact that the best Mac photo editors on the market come associated with some pretty hefty price tags, and most of the free options that you'll find on the App Store are meant primarily to dress your shots up for social media.

If you want a little more flexibility and functionality, we've compiled a list of the best free photo editors for Mac, from the very basic, to decent App Store options, to more powerful editors that you won't find on the App Store.

Every photo editor on this list is totally free. There are a lot of great premium Mac photo editors out there that offer a free trial of some sort, like Luminar, Photoshop Elements, and Affinity Photo, but they aren't actually free.

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Photos for Mac

A screenshot of Apple Photos on macOS.
What We Like
  • You already have it

  • It's really easy to use

  • Integrated with iCloud

What We Don't Like
  • Extremely limited capabilities

  • Better for organizing than editing

  • Filters are fairly basic

This free app comes pre-installed on every Mac, so it's the natural starting point if you're looking for a free photo editor that runs on macOS. It does really good work in terms of finding and helping organize your photos, with iCloud integration and a lot of custom options, but the photo editor part is severely lacking.

While the Photos app good enough to handle basic and occasional editing tasks, you'll want to look elsewhere if you're serious about your photography or want more than the very basic options that you get here.

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A screenshot of the Gimp photo editor on macOS.
What We Like
  • Photoshop-like functionality for free

  • Tons of options and features

What We Don't Like
  • Can be confusing and unintuitive if you're used to Photoshop

  • Loads really slow on some hardware

  • No CMYK support

GIMP is essentially a free alternative to Photoshop, which makes this a powerful tool for your image editing arsenal. The general rule of thumb is that if you can do it in Photoshop, you can probably do it in GIMP. There are exceptions, and some tasks are really easy in Photoshop while being exceedingly complicated in GIMP, but this is still one of the only must-have free image editing apps.

The biggest argument in favor of GIMP is that it provides Photoshop-like functionality for free, while the biggest problem is that the interface is archaic and often confusing. While it's pretty easy to pick up the basics, you'll need to look up online tutorials to perform more complicated tasks.

The other issue with GIMP is that it doesn't have any support for CMYK, so keep that in mind if you need to do any print work.

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A screenshot of Seashore on macOS.
What We Like
  • Good basic image editing

  • Attractive user interface

  • Easy to pick up and use

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks advanced features

  • Built on GIMP's tech, but missing a lot of GIMP features

Seashore is an excellent free alternative to GIMP if you aren't a fan of GIMP's archaic and confusing interface, and if you don't need some of GIMP's more advanced features. This app is actually built on the same code as GIMP, but it uses Apple's Cocoa framework to provide a much more attractive user interface that's also easier to pick up and start using.

Since this is essentially a repackaged and distilled form of GIMP, its image editing capabilities are fairly basic, but you still get access to tools like multiple layers, text, and brush strokes that are missing from most free image editing apps.

This app is definitely worth a look if GIMP is giving you headaches, but GIMP really is worth learning if Photoshop isn't in your budget and you're serious about image editing.

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Pixlr X

A screenshot of Pixlr X on macOS.
What We Like
  • Web-based

  • Speedy performance

  • Really easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks advanced features

  • Poor replacement for Pixlr Editor

  • Requires internet connection

Pixlr X is the only web-based app on our list, but it's definitely worth a look. This free tool provides some automated tools that make it really easy for beginners to dive right into. Since it's web-based, you don't even have to download and install anything, just head over to the website and start editing.

Pixlr offers a number of different web-based apps in addition to Pixlr X, including a Photoshop clone called Pixlr Editor, which has been discontinued. Pixlr X is a poor replacement for Pixlr Editor, but it is useful for basic photo editing tasks.

The main drawback of Pixlr X is that it requires an internet connection to use. Being web-based makes it really easy to start using, but it also makes it a poor choice if you need something that will run even when you don't have an internet connection.

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Photoscape X

A screenshot of PhotoScape X on macOS.
What We Like
  • User-friendly interface

  • Lots of tutorial videos

  • Works with RAW files

What We Don't Like
  • Some features locked behind pro version

  • Pro version not available on Mac

Photoscape X is a free image editing app that packs a lot of great options and features into a user-friendly product. It isn't as advanced as apps like Darktable or RawTherapee, but it has the same basic capabilities of working with RAW files and virtually developing your photos to improve them.

If your camera can shoot in RAW, and you've never done so before, Photoscape X is a great place to start. The app is really easy to understand, with simple sliders that are clearly labeled, and you can see your changes in real time without needing to have a deep understanding of what you're doing.

You'll also find a ton of tutorial videos on the official Photoscape X site, which is useful if you're trying to achieve a specific effect or fix a particular issue with a photo.

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A screenshot of Raw Therapee on macOS.
What We Like
  • Works with RAW files

  • Easy to pick up and learn

  • Good batch editing tools

What We Don't Like
  • Editing tools and options aren't as good as some competitors

  • Poor organizational tools

  • Cluttered interface

This free image editing app is the closest that you'll get to Adobe's Lightroom without paying. It offers most of the same functionality, including the ability to work with RAW files, non-destructive editing, and deep, powerful editing options.

The catch is that RawTherapee isn't as user-friendly as Lightroom. The interface looks similar to Lightroom on the surface, but it feels cluttered and poorly thought out, and it can be exceedingly difficult to figure out how to do some tasks without turning to a tutorial.

If you can get past the interface and devote some time to learning the app, RawTherapee provides deep control over your RAW photos, including truly fantastic color correction capabilities. This one definitely isn't for beginners, but it's worth learning if you're serious about your photography and don't have room in the budget for Lightroom.

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A screenshot of the Polarr photo editor on macOS.
What We Like
  • Lots of tools and options

  • Comparison mode lets you see your changes

  • Lets you create your own filters

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't support RAW files.

  • Advanced features locked behind pro version

Polarr is a free alternative to Lightroom that's really easy to pick up and start playing with. The free version includes all of the tools and options you need to perfect your photos, including color, light, and detail adjustments, curves, toning, and more. You can also apply a number of free filters and even create your own.

The main issue with this app is that it doesn't support RAW files, and it lacks some of the advanced functionality you get from Lightroom and even free alternatives like RawTherapee. You can add a lot of that functionality, including RAW support, by paying a monthly fee, but at that point you'd be better off with Lightroom.

If you aren't shooting in RAW, but you want to start playing around with a more advanced image editor, this is a great place to start.

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A screenshot of the Fotor photo editor on macOS.
What We Like
  • Lots of adjustments and tweaks

  • Includes smart filters and effects

  • Built-in RAW converter

What We Don't Like
  • Missing advanced features

  • Some features locked behind paid version

  • Ads in free version

Fotor is a free image editing app that's capable of converting RAW files, and it has an interface that's really easy to understand and use. It doesn't have some of the more advanced features and options that you get out of similar apps like Lightroom, and some of its features are locked behind a paid version, the free version is more than adequate for any hobbyist or beginning photographer.

This app is a bit more advanced than alternatives like Polarr that lack RAW support, but it lags behind competitors like Darktable and RawTherapee in terms of functionality. That puts it in a good place as an easily-understood stepping stone if you've just started shooting in RAW but don't have the time or inclination to learn a more complicated app.

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A screenshot of Darktable on macOS.
What We Like
  • Works with RAW files

  • Non-destructive editing

  • Similar feature set to Lightroom

What We Don't Like
  • Sluggish performance compared to similar apps

  • Overly complicated interface

  • Difficult to pick up and learn

Darktable is a fantastic free alternative to Adobe Lightroom, which makes this a great option if you're looking to take your photo editing to the next level without a big monetary investment.

If you have a camera that's capable of shooting in RAW, you can use this app to non-destructively develop your photos using a virtual light table and dark room, adjusting various settings and applying effects without changing the original photo.

The biggest problem with this app is that it's really complicated, so you'll have to dig into some online tutorials and devote a significant amount if time if you want to get the most out of it. The app also seems to run a bit slower than competitors like RawTherapee and Lightroom.

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A screenshot of the macOS photo editing software Picktorial.
What We Like
  • Good organizational tools

  • Lots of options and adjustments

  • Excellent color correction

What We Don't Like
  • Somewhat confusing controls and interface

  • Limited editing functionality in the free version

  • No RAW support in free version

Picktorial is an image editing app in the vein of Lightroom that includes great organizational tools and allows for non-destructive editing using RAW files, but only in the paid version. In the free version, you're limited to JPEG.

With advanced features like a split assistant viewer that allows you to see a zoomed-in and zoomed-out image at the same time, this would be a strong contender if it wasn't for the fact that the free version is severely hamstrung.

If you opt for the free version of Picktorial, you're limited to just two local adjustments per JPEG, which is likely to cramp your style in your quest to perfect your photos. You can lift that draconian limitation by paying for the paid version, but at that point you have to consider whether a free alternative like Darktable would suffice, or if it would be better to pay for something like Lighroom.

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