Tweak your photos with these Web apps

Adobe Photoshop is the granddaddy of image-editing tools. It's great, and it has a lot of power tucked inside of it, but it's overkill if all you require is a basic image editor.

If you need to make only minor edits to a photo, consider using a Web-based photo editor. These tools let you tweak your photos without much hassle—and since they're online, they can be convenient when you're using a different computer that doesn't have your regular photo-editing application. Here are three Web-based photo editors worth trying out.

Pixlr

Pixlr gives you a slew of effects to choose from. Fortunately, it arranges them in a coherent way so as not to overwhelm and confuse you. Pixlr has three different modes: a basic editor, an advanced editor, and one that's purely for fun, named Pixlr-o-matic.

Our favorite part of Pixlr by far, Pixlr-o-matic offers a huge variety of filters, overlays, and borders—enough to make the likes of Instagram jealous. If you can’t quite find the right effect in the menu, clicking 'More' gives you plenty of additional free effects to play with, and 'Shuffle' suggests some combinations of effects for you to use.

Elizabeth Fish
Some of Pixlr's effects in action.

If you're looking for more-serious image-editing tools, give the advanced editor a try. It includes a number of features similar to those in Photoshop, such as layers. It also offers some tools that basic Web editors may lack, such as the option to crop a photo to specific dimensions and the ability to open more than one image. In our tests, some tools occasionally didn’t work unless we refreshed the entire page, so make sure to save your work periodically.

Pixlr's basic editor.

The basic editor provides simplified menus that include all the options you need for making slight modifications to your photos. It's perfect for reducing red-eye, for instance, or for cutting out the creepy guy lurking in the background of all your party pictures.

Photoshop Express Editor

Photoshop Express Editor is essentially the little sibling to Photoshop, but in Web form. Although it is a basic image editor, it has a few nice touches that make it a good choice for handling general image-editing tasks.

Adobe's Web-based editor is very user friendly. For example, the White Balance tool will tell you which correction is best for your image, depending on the lighting conditions at the time you took the picture. In addition, when you're using tools that provide multiple options, such as Auto Correct, hovering over the button for a change produces a preview of it. To confirm the change, just click the button.

You'll also find a few fun but slightly random effects that you can add to your photo—Pixelate and Crystalize are interesting, but they aren’t all that practical. Cropping and resizing images is easy, but the task can be awkward if you need to stick to certain dimensions. For some people, this Web app may be a little too simple to use, leading to frustration.

Still, if you're seeking tools for basic image touchups without complications, wrapped in a tidy interface, you can’t go wrong with Photoshop Express Editor.

FotoFlexer

FotoFlexer is a lesser-known editing tool, but it has a few advanced features. This Flash-based editor lets you work on photos stored on your own computer, as well as those you've posted to Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, and other sites.

Adjusting curves in FotoFlexer.

FotoFlexer comes with all the basic tools you'd expect: It lets you adjust a photo's brightness, contrast, hue, and saturation, for example, and it allows you to crop and resize your photos as well. It also comes with assorted effects filters, such as a Retro filter, Posterize, and Blur Edges. The effects filters are reasonably well done, and they work decently if you just want to have some fun with your pictures. PhotoFlexer also provides a Curves tool that permits you to tweak the color levels, brightness, and contrast with a little more precision.

Since FotoFlexer is built on Adobe Flash, how well it runs for you will depend greatly on how well your computer runs Flash. Our three-year-old MacBook had a hard time keeping up with FotoFlexer—the tool was laggy and sluggish for us, which made performing some tasks more frustrating than we would have liked. Also, FotoFlexer has a banner ad that runs across the page; that isn't a huge deal, but it does make things a little tight if you're trying to use FotoFlexer on a small screen.

When you're done, you can save your photo to several photo-sharing sites. You can also email the image or save it to your hard drive in JPEG or PNG format.

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