The cameras on phones and tablets are constantly improving at an alarming rate and, with a little bit of enhancement from one of the specialized best photo editing apps, the pristine photos these cameras are capable of can become gorgeous works of art.
Don’t worry, however, as we’ve sorted through the Play Store and the App Store and built you a list of the very best photo editing apps for both mobile operating systems and put them to the test. Whether you're looking for an app that's the mobile equivalent of a desktop photo editor to carry around in your pocket, or you just want a simple tool to enhance selfies before sharing them on Facebook or Instagram, we've found the best photo editing apps, regardless of what your specific needs are.
The best photo editing apps for Android
1. Google Snapseed (free)
Google Snapseed is a fantastic app that puts many desktop photo editors to shame with sheer amount of features that are packed inside.
On top of the usual cropping and rotation tools, it also features options that allow you to modify depth of field, perspective (ideal for compensating for distortion created by your phone camera’s fixed lens), curves and brightness.
One of Snapseed's most interesting tools is Expand, which calculates what the area surrounding the subject probably looks like and uses this data to make the canvas larger – kind of like Photoshop’s Content Aware Fill. Weather your expectations, though, as because of the nature of the tool, it’ll work better on a plain or abstract background, rather than out on the street.
Snapseed is also useful for selfies and other portrait photos. It has a useful feature that recognizes faces in pictures and allows you to subtly change the direction they're facing. The app can also identify and brighten faces automatically.
Snapseed also, of course, offers a huge variety of filters, and they’re all fully customizable. This sounds like a lot, we know, but you can breathe easy – Snapseed also offers video lessons to help you master certain filters and tools.
With all of these fantastic features, it’d be hard not to crown Snapseed as the best photo editing app for Android devices, and we hope to see a version for desktops soon.
2. Adobe Photoshop Express (free)
Adobe Photoshop Express brings a selection of Adobe's best photo editing tools together in a streamlined app that's easy to use even on a tiny touchscreen.
Before you do anything with these tools, though, you'll need to sign up for a free Adobe ID using an email address, Facebook account or Google account. You can use this ID to use other Adobe products and services later. Or, if you already have an Adobe ID, of course, you can just use that here.
Once that's out of the way, you can select a photo to edit from your mobile device, take a new photo with the camera or even use an image from the Adobe Creative Cloud. This is an especially useful way to streamline your workflow and makes all your pictures available on whatever device you happen to be using.
Photoshop Express, of course, offers all the basic editing tools you'd expect, including rotate, crop, red-eye correction and brightness adjustment. What makes it stand well above the pack however, is its selection of smart filters designed to correct common issues, including color temperature, fogging and exposure problems. There's also a wide variety of borders and artistic effects, all of which can be adjusted using simple sliders.
Once you’re done editing, you can save the finished photo to your device, upload it to Adobe Creative Cloud or share it using any social media app you have installed.
3. Facetune (£3.99/US$5.99/AU$5.99)
If you’re a selfie addict and you don’t have any reservations about bending the truth a little bit, Facetune is your new best friend.
This sneaky photo editing app lets you blur imperfections, adjust colors, whiten teeth and even completely reshape faces and bodies with a few taps and pushes. Just select the tool you want to use, swipe through the tutorial (or dismiss it altogether with the back arrow), then apply the effect directly to the photo using your finger.
It’s best used moderately – tap and hold the blue button on the bottom right to toggle between the original photo and the edited one and make sure you haven’t seriously gone overboard, and watch out for things like patterned backgrounds that might be distorted by less judicious use of the warp tools.
Once you've finished tweaking your photo, you can add a filter and then either share it on social media or save it to your device.
4. Prisma (free)
You may be understandably skeptical about apps that claim to replicate artistic styles, and it makes sense – the ‘drawing’ and ‘painting’ filters included in many photo editors are downright terrible. Prisma is the exception though and, once you’ve tried it, we think you’ll be convinced.
Although additional filters are available as in-app purchases, there’s a very generous selection included free of charge.
You can share your creations on a special Prisma feed, which works in a similar way to Instagram, save it to your device, send it via messaging or email, or share it on any social media app.
Even if you decide to keep the results to yourself, Prisma is great fun to play around with, and the results are very impressive.
5. VSCO (free)
VSCO is like a more advanced version of Instagram, it has a community feature that lets you follow other VSCO photographers. You can search for contacts and Facebook friends to follow, but since it’s a relatively niche app, you might not know many other users.
VSCO offers all of the tools that you’d expect from a high quality Android photo editing app, including exposure, contrast and temperature correction, as well as a very useful alignment tool for straightening horizons. There are also fade settings, and tools for skewing your image and adjusting tints.
The selection of ambient filters isn’t huge, but the ones provided are very atmospheric and are adjustable via a simple slider.
Once you’re done, you can share your image with VSCO’s community, send it straight to Facebook, or share it via any social networking or messaging app.
The only disadvantage is that you can’t simply save it to your device; instead, you have to email it to yourself or save it to a cloud storage service.
The first time you use VSCO, you’ll also be offered a seven-day trial of VSCO X, which includes various presets and tools that are normally only available for a subscription fee. Bear in mind that you'll be asked to enter payment details before starting the trial and you'll be charged automatically if you don't cancel before the period is up, so you might prefer to skip this and go straight to the free version.