That doesn't mean it's tough to use, though. Its clean, icon-based interface means you're never overwhelmed with too many options at once.
Some tools are still in beta, but Pixlr X is still relatively new, and future updates will no doubt see significant improvements.
To use Pixlr X, just select an image from your desktop or enter a URL, and you're ready to begin. The interface is based around a toolbar of icons on the left. Most of these are self-explanatory, but if there are any you don’t recognize, hovering over each one will reveal a detailed description of its purpose.
Most online photo editors offer tools for cropping and resizing images, but Pixlr X also includes a selection of cutting tools – shape, lasso, drag and magic – which allow you to move or delete a selected part of the picture, or move it to a different layer. This allows you to create complex compositions from multiple images.
If you’ve ever used an online photo editor before, you’ll be familiar with the system of sliders for fine-tuning contrast, brightness and saturation, but Pixlr X goes far beyond the basics, letting you tweak vibrance, highlights and shadows (the latter of which have much the same effect as adjusting Levels in Photoshop).
There’s also an extensive selection of filters, arranged into categories including Colors, Retro and Instage (a selection of Instagram-style options) and a set of pop-art effects. Each of these is adjustable using its own slider for a more subtle or dramatic effect.
Some other tools (such as the healing brush, which Pixlr admits is ‘slow and works so so’) are still in beta, but will be improved with future updates.
You’ll also notice a layers panel on the right-hand side. You can create image, text or drawing layers, then edit, rearrange and delete them individually.
Pixlr X's drawing tools (which can only be used on a drawing layer) are quite simple at first glance, seeming to only offer three brush styles and a limited palette of colors to choose from.
However, click ‘Advanced’ and you’ll be presented with a whole array of options for creating your own custom brushes, with options for step, angle, aspect and ‘spikes’. It would be useful to have some presets to simulate the effects of different media (pencils, paints and pastels, for example), but that might come with a later update.
Overall, Pixlr X (opens in new tab) is very impressive, and well worth investigating if you're looking for a free photo editor – even if you didn't have a web app in mind.
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- Check out our full guide to the best free photo editor