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The best online photo editor 2020: make pictures look amazing in your browser

The best online photo editor
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

With an online photo editor, you can get your snaps looking picture-perfect without leaving your web browser, and we've rounded up the very best around.

Whether you want to fine-tune exposure, remove blemishes, alter perspective or even blend several snaps into a complex composition, there's an online photo editor out there that can tackle the job.

Here we've chosen a range of tools that are suited to different skill levels and purposes. Some are beginner-friendly, with simply systems of sliders and large icons, while others are more like browser-based versions of Photoshop.

These tools are all built using HTML5, which means they'll work in any modern web browser. Best of all, although many of them have some premium features, their basic tools are all free to use.

The best online photo editors at a glance:

  1. Pixlr X
  2. PhotoPea
  3. Canva
  4. Fotor
  5. Polarr
  6. PicsArt

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The best online photo editor - Pixlr X

(Image credit: Pixlr)

1. Pixlr X

The best online photo editor overall

Layers: Yes | Healing brush: Yes | Export formats: JPG, PNG, PXD

Clear, slider-based controls
Liquify tool
Layers with transparency
One-click auto fix

Pixlr X is an extremely impressive online photo editor that puts a lot of desktop software to shame. Its premium features are good value, but even its free incarnation has a tremendous amount to offer.

It's thoughtfully designed too, which shows from the moment you upload an image. If you attempt to upload a particularly large photo, Pixlr X will offer to resize it to a maximum of 3,840px. It’s not unusual for an online photo editor to impose size restrictions, but usually you have to cancel the upload and resize the picture using desktop software if it’s too large; it’s refreshing that Pixlr X does the work for you.

Once your image is loaded for editing, you'll find that Pixlr X's main interface is refreshingly uncluttered. Tools are represented by icons, but even novice users will never find themselves lost; hovering over each icon for a moment reveals a detailed description of its purpose, often with illustrations.

In addition to the usual selection of layers and color manipulation tools, Pixlr X also offers Photoshop-style layers, enabling you to create complex composite images. You can cut out elements and extract them as a new layer, with tools for cutting out shapes, a magic wand tool, freeform selections and a lasso tool. There’s even a liquify tool for warping images.

Pixlr X is an incredibly powerful for an online photo editor, and is our top recommendation for fine-tuning images in your browser.

Read our full Pixlr X review

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The best online photo editor - PhotoPea

(Image credit: PhotoPea)

2. PhotoPea

The online photo editor that's the closest thing to Photoshop

Layers: Yes | Healing brush: Yes | Export formats: JPG, PNG, GIF and 11 more

Supports huge range of file formats
Advanced editing tools
One-click downloads
Could be overwhelming

If you’ve ever used Photoshop, PhotoPea’s interface will be immediately familiar. Indeed, it's the closes thing to Adobe's industry-leading image editor that you can run in your web browser.

Photopea supports a huge range of formats, including PSD, GIF, PDF, JPG, PNG and many more. This is very unusual for an online photo editor, and means you can open and edit Photoshop files while preserving their layers.

Although its interface isn't as attractive and slick as Pixlr X, and might be overwhelming if you’re not used to advanced photo editing software, it's packed with tools that will help you perform everything from simple corrections to advanced artistic work without the need to download any additional software. There’s a liquify tool, lens correction, highly customizable brushes, adjustment layers and much more

PhotoPea is supported by donations, so if you’re a fan it’s worth chipping in a little cash to help keep it online. A pro account will also let you undo up to 60 steps (the free version lets you reverse 30) and removes all ads.

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The best online photo editor - Canva

(Image credit: Canva)

3. Canva

An online photo editor that's an Instagrammer's dream

Layers: No | Healing brush: No | Export formats: JPG, PNG, PDF

Great selection of templates
Wide selection of free tools
Straightforward to use
Limited advanced editing tools

Canva is a fantastic online photo editor for getting creative and bringing your photos to life. It's not a Photoshop equivalent, but it's not intended to be. Instead, this is a fun tool for creating projects that'll bring a smile to the faces of friends and family, whether online or in print.

With Canva, you can easily create striking social media posts, with templates for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more. Fancy creating something to print? There are also templates for greeting cards. flyers and posters. 

Not all of these are free, and some require a subscription to unlock, but there's a great range available to use for no charge. They're well designed, too, helping you make something great looking, even with no prior experience. And if you can’t find something that suits your needs, you can create your own designs from scratch

The tools for editing the photos themselves are a little hidden away, but appear when you click an imported image. These include various color-tweaking sliders, plus a liquify tool, an enormously useful automatic background remover, and funky glitch and slice effects. Your Instagram feed will never look the same again.

Read our full Canva review

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The best online photo editor - Fotor

(Image credit: Fotor)

4. Fotor

An online photo editor that's a solid choice for beginners

Layers: No | Healing brush: Yes | Export formats: JPG, PNG

Powerful editing tools
Video tutorials
15MB file size limit
Few export options

Fotor provides you with three main options: edit a photo, create a collage or create a design. The first two are pretty self-explanatory, and the latter one lets you make social media posts, cards, posters and much more using your own pictures.

The photos you upload must be under 19MB, and unlike Pixlr X, Fotor won't resize them for you if they exceed the limit, so you'll have to handle that yourself using desktop software. A slight hassle.

Once your picture is uploaded, however, get an impressive palette of editing tools to get it looking exactly the way you want. In addition to the usual selection of Instagram-style filters and color adjustments, you also get a healing tool, clone brush (handy for removing unwanted elements from a photo) and even 'makeup'. Many more options are available if you upgrade to a premium Fotor account, but the free selection is a generous one. There are even video tutorials to help you get started

You can also get creative with frames, stickers and text (particularly handy for social media posts) and when you're done, you can export your finished work as a JPG or PNG file. It's a shame PDF isn't an option too (particularly if you want to make posters or flyers) but that's a minor quibble.

Read our full Fotor review

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The best online photo editor - Polarr

(Image credit: Polarr)

5. Polarr

A great online photo editor for more advanced users

Layers: No | Healing brush: Yes | Export formats: JPG, PNG, TIFF

Advanced editing tools
Premium filters clearly separated
Interface may be confusing
Only one file export per day

Polarr’s interface is best described as minimal, making your photo the center of attention and using small icons to represent various editing tools. It looks great, and works well once you’re familiar with it, but can be confusing for new users, who might find themselves clicking around, hunting for the right tool.

We particularly like the way ‘standard’ and ‘premium’ filters are clearly separated, so you can see all the great options that are available if you upgrade to a paid account, but only if you’re curious and there’s no risk of accidentally clicking on one and being disappointed that it’s unavailable.

Unfortunately, you can only export one file per day with the free version of this online photo editor, and useful tools like one-click enhance and access to tutorials are hidden under a small menu icon at the bottom left. The interface also assumes a certain amount of knowledge (such as recognizing that ‘HSL’ stands for ‘huge, saturation, luminance’.

We like Polarr very much, and if you’re already comfortable using photo editing software then it could be right up your street, but for beginners the learning curve may be a barrier.

The best online photo editor - PicsArt

(Image credit: PicsArt; Shutterstock)

6. PicsArt

The most fun you can have with your photos online

Layers: No | Healing brush: No | Export formats: JPG, PNG

Lots of fun effects
Effective auto cutout tool
Choice of export options
Lacks advanced editing tools

You won’t find tools for subtle color grading here, or complex layers and masks. PicsArt's  is all about having fun with your images.

The background cutout and replacement tools are particularly impressive. If your image has a plain backdrop, it cuts out the subject quite neatly and allows you to replace it with a solid color, a gradient, or a texture. An eraser tool is supplied so you can make small corrections, and the edges of the selection are feathered so there are no hard lines.

You can also create neat double exposures using two pictures, try sketch effects (which create a loose outline of your photo’s subject), add stickers and much more. We particularly like the ‘Magic Effects’, which apply various illustration styles to your images and look surprisingly natural.

Once you’re done, you can export your finished image as a JPG or PNG, in a quality setting of your choice (adjustable using a slider). It’s a great took for livening up your photos, particularly if you’re planning to share them online – or you could spend several happy hours just playing with it. Highly recommended.