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Best FREE Design and Photo Editing Apps

From professional photo editing and amazing effects options, to easy to use Instagram Story creators and ad making tools, these are the apps you need to up your digital game.

 

We're living in a digital world. Gone are the days of printing photos, going to professional photography studios, and waiting on retouching. Our generation expects instant gratification. So what do you do when you just have to post a photo today, or a client is nagging you to get their project done ASAP? You learn to do it yourself.


Not only is photography transitioning to the digital space, so is advertising. Digital advertising is the quickest and most effective way to reach thousands more targeted customers all over the globe. You see digital ads every time you scroll on a website to flip through social media. So how do you implement these useful tools in your everyday life? And what if you don't have the professional skills or programs needed?


Fear not! As they say... there's an app for that! There's no need to spend hundreds on fancy software or hire a marketing agency to create impactful ads or experiment with graphic design and photography at home. While the App Store is full of useful and effective design and photo apps, they are not all created equal. We've compiled a list of our tried and tested favorites to take the guess work, and the subscription fees, out of the equation.


There‘s a reason that the highest ranking photo and video editor on the Apple App Store is PicsArt Photo Studio and Collage... it’s really that good. Digital art and photography buffs have a “more is more” attitude when it comes to how many editing apps they have on their phones. But if you want a powerful, all in one app for your editing needs, this app has set the standard. PicArt is truly all-inclusive. They offer users everything from robust editing software to graphic design options and artistic effects.

PicsArt is perfect for the at-home editing enthusiast. They even have an integrated community where users and artists can share their creations, learn from tutorials, and even compete in design challenges. Not only does this app give artists the tools they need, but also fosters an environment to inspire and promote creativity. A few notable features we love:


Photo Editing & Effects

PicsArt offers all your basic and professional adjustments for your photography. Unlike other mobile based editing apps, this program is more advanced and allows users to do everything from cloning areas, distort and reshape, imitate motion, and fine tune color and light. You can even completely crop out images to make transparent backgrounds. If you’re looking to add more excitement to your digital game, they also have a plethora of artistic effects. These range from painterly and sketch effects, pop-art color ways, nearly every photo filter you could want, blur options, and even a whole catalogue of graphic effects that create highly stylized interpretations of your favorite image.


Collages

If you are a true scrapbooker at heart, or have considered investing in a Polaroid, you'll love the collage feature in this app. They give users everything from basic grid layouts to freeform frames and backgrounds for decorating your photos. The tool is incredibly user friendly, and even lets you customize the grids provided to create an individual result. You can also create digital scrapbook-style layouts, outfitted with fun backgrounds, patterns, stickers, and text. If you've hopped on the vision board trend - this one's for you.


Free Drawing

Similar to collages, PicsArt has a whole feature based in creative freedom. All you do is pick your favorite photo or a canvas background and size... which is laid out for you by providing canvases for screen sizes, social media scaled images, and more. You then have the creative liberty to add photos and graphics, paint with a wide variety of brushes and shapes, add custom text, and play around with layers. Think of it as a tiny Photoshop right in the palm of your hand. If you don't have access or need for professional design software, or prefer the convenience of designing on mobile, this app gives you the freedom to create anything you want.



With PicsArt, anyone can be a graphic designer right from their cell phone. They even offer other fun design apps that let you edit video, create animations, and make movable gifs right at home. They do have PicsArt Gold, which gives users unlimited access to more fonts, images, and features for $4.67 a month, but all of the really notable app feature are available in the free version.


PicsArt is available on Apple App Store and Google Play Store.


If you know anything about social media, you’re probably no stranger to the term Facetune. Although the app is often under scrutiny for giving users the ability to alter photos beyond recognition, when used in moderation this app has its perks! Facetune 2 by Lighttricks is the original’s younger, and free, sibling. The app offers many professional grade adjustments and editing tools, previously only seen with Photoshop and retouching software.


While we’re not promoting reshaping your body or face to look like an alien-like copy of yourself, Facetune 2 might be worth a download on your phone for these other, more ethical, reasons.

Our features to watch:


Adjustments

Facetune 2 has some of the best and the most photo adjustment features of any app. The best part is, they’re all free! Everything from your basic brightness, saturation, contrast etc. What really makes this app’s features stand out is the intuitive ability to mask off areas and apply adjustments direct to those places. This is extremely helpful when needing to brighten up only one shadowed area or create a pop of color. Really want to mare your image pop? Desaturate the background while keeping the color vibrant in the foreground with a mask on the places you want unaffected.



Background Effects

If you want to add unique depth and design in your images, but aren’t an ace with Photoshop, Facetune 2 takes all the guesswork out of it. The app‘s background recognition technology allows users to automatically select foreground or images of their choice, and change up the backdrop to anything under the sun. You can opted for a full customizable background defocus, perfect for achieving that professional diffused ambiance. They also provide a ton of creative design options for an artistic backdrop, along with solid colors. If you’re looking to express yourself with a fun backdrop, want to edit yourself into a hot vacation spot, or simply need the clean, proper white background for your marketing, this app does it all easily.



Photo Retouching

Although it is easy to abuse, there is no doubt that the photo retouching features in Facetune 2 rival the best out there. The spot healing and smoothing tools are excellent for removing small imperfections. The whitening tool is meant for teeth and eyes, but also does a great job at brightening and purifying any white in your image. I personally love to use it to whiten walls and even the paper on artwork photos. The detail tool, which is essentially a spot-contrast adjustment is excellent for bringing back the finer aspects in your image like eyes or even text. Our pro tip: never use an adjustment at 100%! It always is too much and ends up loosing the reality of the original photo. Back off the power of the tool to 50% or below. You get the tools full effects without ruining the integrity of the image.


Facetune 2 offers far more useful and free tools than it‘s original older brother, which is available for $3.99 on the App Store. There’s also a premium subscription, which offers more effects and adjustments such as recoloring, makeup touch ups, more filters and effects, and patch tools to remove unsightly objects from the photo. However, unless you plan on only investing in one editing app or really want a specific feature, the free version has everything you need!


Facetune 2 is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.


If you’re trying to get that aesthetically pleasing, cohesive vibe to your social feed you see so much on Instagram these days, then you need A Color Story! Gone are the days of choosing one of the standard filters on Instagram. Not only does an overall theme make your social feed an inviting place to hang out, it’s also becoming more important for branding! A brand identity can include any visual element that is unique to you.

And it doesn’t just end with thematic social media. Whether you work with photography often or want to add a custom style to your website images.

Our top features:


Free Filter Packs

A Color Story comes standard with dozens of professional filters that are all customizable. Whether you’re looking for something subtle, or a super stylized image, there’s something for everyone. They also make sure to give detailed descriptions on what the pack works best for to take the guesswork out of editing. They let you know what packs work best for interior photography, fashion and selfies, skin tones, travel images and cityscapes, and even which ones will make your brunch look best!


Photo Effects

Another great option A Color Story gives its users for free is a pretty hearty starter packs of basic photo effects. For the average garden variety photographer, it has everything you need! From a wide variety of light options like flares and bokeh, to various light leaks, it’s possible to get everything from realistic sun reflections, glowing ambience, to vintage camera effects. There’s also a setting called “skies over” which gives users control on the color and look of the sky in their image.


Custom Presets

One of the less glamorous, but none the less useful, tools that A Color Story offers is custom presets. This gives users the opportunity to save their editing steps as a special preset in the app. For those of you who want that cohesive aesthetic onto many photos, this is a life changer. It also all you to upload your social media feed and mass edit images so you can try out a style before committing to it. It’s not the most fun feature, but once you get accustomed to it, it’s hard to live without.


We also love the upgraded version of A Color Story, which offers over 500 filters, over 100 effects, unlimited social media account access, more advanced adjustments and more for only $4.99 a month. But their price flexibility also stood out for us. They often offer free packages deals for users and let you purchase individual add on packs for just a few dollars. So even if you really want a certain package, there’s no need to commit to a subscription.

A Color Story is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.


Over by Go Daddy is a mobile application that allows users of any skill level create professional ads, branded content, and stunning stories in minutes. This intuitive app lets you personalize predesigned templates with your own individuality and create fully custom designs from scratch. Digital marketing and advertising is increasingly important in this day and age, but you might not be a graphic design wizard. This app makes it easy to create artwork or ads ready to upload to your social media, website, or online advertising.

While the app definitely has it’s vices (like being so tempting to buy the premium version) if you figure out how to make the app work for you, it’s a godsend for digital new-bees.

Our best features:


Templates

Over offers a ton of different types of templates for users to customize and use in their daily lives. These range from digital ads, story templates for social media, artistic collages, and more! If you’re a lover of an artsy, stylish photo edit, want to add a bunch of elements to your images, or have a business and want to take the guess work out of creating marketing materials... this one is for you. All of the templates are editable, so you can stick e the design as is or add your own flare with text and images. They update templates constantly, keeping up with new trends, peak events, and even holidays. It’s the quickest way to create an advertisement or digital marketing for your company, but is also fun for the photography and graphic design enthusiast. Pay mind that they aren’t all free, but they offer free options in all categories. Our tip: if you really want a certain font or sticker not included in the free version, look through the templates! A lot of the free templates utilize elements from the premium version and if you’re savvy with editing, you can customize the design to fit your needs even if all you wanted from it was one element.


Free Design

If you're of creative spirit, or simply cannot find a template to suit your needs, the app offers a free design creator. Users have access to dozens of canvas sizes, fonts, images and design elements to create what ever artistic design or advertisement they choose. One notable feature of the app is the ability to edit and adjust elements of the design. You can change the opacity, blending options, color, and more to get the look you desire. As stated before, the app offers tons of premium features, which are scattered in amongst the free options. It takes some searching, but if you take the time, you’ll most likely find something you were looking for without paying top dollar.



Inspiration

Over is a fantastic app for someone who is new to digital advertising or graphic design. They stay up to date on current industry trends so you will never look out of style. They also have an entire section on the app dedicated to articles, examples, and trend forecasts which are a great way to educate yourself. The blog is filled with information about topics related to digital marketing and design. They highlight preset templates and features so you know exactly how to get that desired style. Over even features success stories from individuals and companies that utilize the app and how you can use their tips to explore the digital space and drive business. They work hard to insure their users are given the tools and inspiration they need to succeed effectively in a technology based design industry.


Over is a great choice for someone who wants a streamlined and simplified way to great digital art. However, it’s tempting to buy the premium version, which starts at around $5.83 a month. It’s not a terrible price, and if you don’t want to invest in professional software, it might be worth it. It also lets you collaborate with teams, upload your branded content, and access all templates and the desktop version.

Over is available on Apple App Store and Google Play Store.


That rounds out our favorite free design and photo editing apps for mobile devices. Did we mention your favorite, or has something else stolen your heart? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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