One of the most frequently asked questions about Chromebooks we get is how to edit photos, and they're valid ones. One of the biggest holes in the Chromebook toolbox has always been content creation apps and utilities. If you need to edit video or audio or do more than some quick touch up work on photos, the tools are few and far between. Luckily, that's starting to change, especially with apps like Polarr Photo Editor, which allows you to do even more advanced editing work.
Best Overall: Polarr Photo Editor
Polarr is a stand-alone program developed for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome. There is even an online version you can use through your web browser. It's a full-featured program, and not what many people imagine when they think of a Chrome app.
The feature set is the perfect mix for casual or advanced work. If you just want to add a filter so your photo stands out a little on Instagram, they are there and can be applied with one click. If you just want to let the app do some automatic magic fixes, it can do that, too. It does a great job of smoothing out the noise and sharpening your photo while not destroying the color balance. When you want or need to do more, Polarr has you covered there, too.
There are very few issues with Polarr; they mostly involve the "subscription" model. Chances are, you already have plenty of subscriptions to manage on a monthly or yearly basis, and Polarr could end up being another one. A big reason why you would want to spring for Polarr Pro is that you gain access to these:
- Selective Adjustments
- Perspective Tools
- Backup Custom Filters
- Access to Polarr Filters for photos
Regardless of whether these are features you need, Polarr still knocks it out of the park. Simply put, it's the real deal. It's one of the best photo-editing apps you'll find and an example of just how good things can be on the Chrome OS.
- Cross-platform support
- Automatic or manual controls
- Real-time photo adjustments
- Cheaper than Photoshop or Lightroom
- Another subscription model
- A few useful features locked require a subscription
The only photo editor you need
Polarr Photo Editor gives you both simple and complex controls, depending on the needs of the photo being edited. With apps on every platform, Polarr works wherever you are. However, there are a few extra features that are locked behind the Polarr Pro subscription.
Best for Multiple Use Cases: Pixlr Editor
Pixlr Editor is on the same level as Polarr when it comes to versatility, usefulness, and ease of use. What sets Pixlr apart is the fact that there are different versions that you can use based on your needs.
Pixlr X is for the starters who need the bare essential editing tools. There are no complicated steps to access the tools you need, and there is even an "auto-fix" to just make your photo pop using Pixlr's AI-editing capabilities. Pixlr E steps things up a notch with its slightly more advanced editing tools, and access to things like layers, cloning, and filters.
Then, there's Pixlr Pro, which still runs in your browser, but is the fully-fledged Photoshop replacement that you didn't know you wanted. If you're familiar with photo editors or Photoshop, many of the tools will look familiar, albeit in different locations. There are templates you can use, easy access to your editing history, and even a tutorial button at the top if you want to get more acclimated.
Unlike Polarr, Pixlr Editor Pro is more for those who want different filters and layers to add to their pictures. With the Pro subscription, you'll get more than 3,000 overlays, 7,000 icons/stickers, and 5,000 decorative texts. Plus, you will get access to Pixlr's new AI Cutout Smart Editing tools, which aren't available with the free version.
- Cross-platform support
- Different photo editors for different needs
- Easy-to-use interface on any device
- Some features locked behind subscription
- Pixlr Pro Editor can be slow in browser
- Some Pixlr versions need Flash to run
Best for Multiple Use Cases
Next-generation photo editing for everyone and everything
Between Pixlr X, E, and Pro, there's an option for everyone and every use case. You can download it on your Chromebook via the Play Store, or use the different versions in your browser. Editing photos is quick and easy or can be more finely-tuned if the situation requires it.
Best for Adobe Fans: Adobe Photoshop Express
Regardless of how you feel about Adobe's pricing, you can't deny that the Photoshop suite is one of the best for a reason. While we don't have a fully-fledged mobile client, Photoshop Express comes pretty close and will do the job for most.
PS Express works across multiple devices, allowing you to sync with your Adobe Creative Cloud account so you can start editing in one place and pick it up on another device. With the Play Store on Chromebooks, you can now download this app directly instead of trying to find a different solution.
As is the case with many useful apps, a few of the features are hidden behind a monthly subscription. These include specially-designed themes, selective editing, advanced healing, and a few more. Signing up for the PS Express Premium subscription still also costs less than opting for Adobe's desktop Photoshop client and it works on your Chromebook.
- Cross-platform support
- Available on the Play Store
- Syncs with your Adobe account
- Quick and easy controls
- Limited feature-set compared to full Photoshop
- Only some editing features available for free
Best for Adobe fans
Best if you already have an Adobe Creative account
Adobe Photoshop Express makes it easy to access your favorite photo editor, albeit with a different set of tools. The Play Store app works on your Chromebook and will sync across your Adobe Creative Account if you already use Adobe products in other places.
The adage of "if you build it they will come" rings true here. Chromebooks are selling well even with a down market for traditional computers, and more and more schools are giving students a Chromebook to help them with their schoolwork. This puts more eyeballs on great apps, and developers like to have eyeballs on their stuff. Add in Android app support through Google Play and you have a ton of choices to sift through to find the best. We did it for you.
If you have a Chromebook or Chromebox — especially if you're all-in and it's your only computer — you need to try it. You can install Polarr for free from the Chrome Web Store and get most of the experience. All the tool features are available but some of the advanced adjustments are locked.
What you get for free is very usable and works great. If you like what you see and want to go pro, Polarr uses a subscription model and costs $30 per year for the pro version. That's about $100 per year cheaper than Lightroom ($10 per month and the things most people who don't need Lightroom would want to do are easy with Polarr.
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