NOTE: This isn’t a true genealogy article. However, many genealogists also collect old and new family photographs and those photos often need “improvements” performed by photo editing software. If you have an interest in photo restoration, I suggest you read on.
For many years, the most famous photo editing software has been Photoshop, produced by Adobe. In fact, it is a very powerful product, available for both Macintosh and Windows, and is used by professional photographers everywhere. There is one huge drawback to Photoshop, however: it is very expensive. The later versions of Photoshop are available only as monthly subscriptions. For a single user, the price is $20.99 US per month. That’s $251.88 US per year, and most subscribers will want to use it for several years. In short, you can expect to pay $1,000 US or more over the next few years for the use of Photoshop.
One popular substitute has been Photoshop Elements, a lower priced product with fewer capabilities. But even Photoshop Elements is too expensive for many people at $99.99. Luckily, Photoshop Elements isn’t subscription based and won’t require payment year after year.
However, there are several FREE competitors that perform most of the same functions as Photoshop. For years, GIMP (an abbreviation for the “GNU Image Manipulation Program”) has been available as a very powerful image editor FREE of charge. The biggest drawback of GIMP is its unusual user interface. Learning to use all the power in GIMP takes many hours of study.
If you don’t like GIMP and you don’t want to pay an exorbitant price for Photoshop, you might want to look at Photopea.
First of all, Photopea is available FREE of charge. Next, the user interface is so close to that of Photoshop that the user might think he or she is using the high-cost product. Even the menus and keyboard shortcuts are almost identical.
Finally, Photopea is web-based software, so there is no software installation required. All you need to do is open a web browser and go to the Photopea web site to use it. It works with most web browsers. The program works well on Macintosh, Windows, Linux, and even Chromebook computers. It will even work on Android devices, iPads, and iPhones although you might find the small screen sizes of those devices to be awkward to use for photo editing.
Photopea runs completely in your device, just like Sketch or Photoshop do. It does not upload any of your files to the Internet. You can load Photopea.com, disconnect from the internet and keep using it completely offline. None of your files ever leave your computer unless you specifically upload them manually yourself or you store the photos in a folder on your computer that automatically copies the files to a cloud-based file storage service (Dropbox, Google Drive, or any of the dozen or more similar services).
Photopea is an advanced image editor. Unlike most free or low-cost editors, it can work with both raster and vector graphics. You can use it for simple tasks, such as resizing images, as well as complex tasks, such as designing webpages, creating illustrations, processing photographs and more. The Photopea website will even teach you how to use the program with step-by-step tutorials.
Photopea was created by programmer Ivan Kutskir from the Czech Republic. He says that it was merely a hobby project during college and he still works on it by himself. It took 7,000 hours of work (around 5 hours a day during 3.5 years) for Ivan to start making some money out of Photopea. Still, the software doesn’t generate income from subscriptions, but from advertisements.
Like many free programs, Photopea will occasionally display advertisements. However, you can optionally purchase a license that grants you an ad-free experience for $20 for 90 days or $9 for 30 days. Once the license expires, advertisements will once again appear. Of course, you can always choose to renew the license.
Photopea internally uses the PSD file format as the main format for storing image files with additional information. Again, that is exactly how Photoshop works as well. All files that you open in Photopea (such as JPG, PNG, JPG, Sketch) are converted to PSD (when they are not PSDs already). When you finish editing, the result can be saved in PSD format or copied to other formats.
You can also change the resolution of the output image. One of the many options is to resize images (File – Open, File – Export – Format, enter the new size …).
Photopea also has all of the following capabilities:
- Layers – to split images into several parts
- Layer masks – just generally useful
- Blend modes – specifying, how layers “combine” with each other
- Selections – choosing, which pixels of layer you want to edit
- Procedural adjustments – changing brightness, hue, saturation, convolutions (blur, sharpening …) etc.
Question: Is Photopea Fully Equal to Photoshop?
The quick answer is: “No.” Photopea performs MOST of the operations as Photoshop, but there are always a few advanced features missing. I would say it is closer to Photoshop Elements but adds a few features not even found in Elements. However, when I compare the prices, I think I can live without the few missing features.
What’s not to love? Photopea is free, powerful, user-friendly, works on almost all computer operating systems that have web browsers, and requires no installation.
I suggest you try Photopea for yourself and see what you think. If you decide you don’t wish to keep using the program, you can always stop. Since there was no software ever installed in your computer, there is nothing left behind to uninstall.
You can find Photopea at https://www.photopea.com.
Once you connect, you will see a web page that contains choices for File, Edit, Image, Select, Filter, View, and other selections. In short, it looks almost the same as any other photo editing software’s main page.
There is also a choice for Account, but you only need to create an account if you wish to purchase a license for ad-free operation. I will suggest you skip that option the first few times you use Photopea. Don’t sign up for an account immediately, but just use the program for a bit to become familiar with it. You can always purchase a license for ad-free operation at a later date, should you wish to do so. The ads don’t bother me, so I probably will never purchase a license.
You also might want to look at the user’s manual and the step-by-step tutorials by beginning at https://blog.photopea.com/introduction.html.