Marcia Hansen

Go From Drab to Dramatic Photos with 5 Easy Online Photo Editors

Picnik photo before fix Picnik after autofixIn my last post on photo editors, I discussed using these tools to create easy digital art projects. In this post, I’d like to give you a quick dive into five great online photo editors that you can take advantage of — even with just a spare 30 minutes or less. What this means is that not only can you make the most of your time, you may also be able to save hard drive space as all of these tools can be accessed online rather than installing software on your computer.



According to their homepage, Picnik is “photo editing made fun.” PCWorld, Macworld, O-The Oprah Magazine, TIME, and Mashable are among it’s fans. You might also be interested to know that Picnik is part of the Google family.

The auto-fix, crop, exposure, colors, sharpen, and red-eye features are highly useful. I used the auto-fix feature on the photo above, which saved a too dark photo from the trash bin. I can easily see how to use these tools on my own digital photos and be able to make them look way more professional — to go from drab to dramatic in a good way.

Picnik also has created a community around editing and sharing photos. You can upload your photos from a number of online locations like Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa, and with Picnik you can also share your edited Picnik photos to your social networks.

Other upload options include a Firefox plugin, an IE extension, and a bookmarklet you can add to your browser of choice to enable you to upload photos directly.


FotoFlexer PhotoFotoFlexer touts itself as the world’s most advanced online image editor. That may be a huge claim, but CNET and TechCrunch both give it a thumbs up. Plus, I can vouch that it’s really easy to use the tool and apply photo effects.

Some of the photo effects are quite humorous and frivolous. If you’d like to amuse yourself and create some unique cube art, you can make swelled or pointy heads using the distortions effect. I don’t know how I’d ever use the Heart Bokeh, Heartify, Patchwork, or Circle Bokeh effects, but if you’ve got a free five minutes maybe you can check it out and let me know in the comments below.

I’m also intrigued by some effects and how I might get more creative using these features. Lomoish applies a soft black effect on the corners and sides of photos. Comic and cartoon effects are similar, but I was able to get a little more color distinction using the comic effect (see above photo). The popart and old photo effects were really interesting ideas that I’d try and use for posters or scrapbooking to create a more dramatic effect.

On the other hand, it’s easy to take some effects too far. The beautify effect enables you, with a click of the mouse, to smooth or sharpen parts of an image as well as fix blemishes or apply wrinkle cream. I was able to significantly distort an original image by clicking the mouse too many times. It was worse than when you get too much blush or paint on your brush and end up with a big blob. Instead of getting a quick face lift with these features, it was drab to dramatic in a gruesome way.

If you’re into scrapbooking, you might also check out features like collage, borders or posters. Using collage, you can automatically layout photos and space on a background. With borders, I was able to add rounded corners or photo corners to an image that would look nice printed or added to a digital scrapbook. I could imagine the poster effect being used to create a title page for your scrapbook or section image.


lunapic reflecting waterLunaPic garners one of the top spots in my simple Google search query, and if I needed to create a Myspace animation, it is the tool I’d choose to accomplish the task.

It does have some of the same features as Fotoflexer and Picnik, and you can open photos from many of the popular social networks.

Another nice component of the tool is the easy access to tutorials, forums, and FAQs to help visitors make use of the site tools. All appear to be well used by site users.

I was amazed to see that users can upload and edit videos to shorten the length, set the number or frames, slow/speed up, as well as turn them into animated gifs. I didn’t expect to find that kind of functionality in an online photo editor.


Pixlr InterfacePixlr bills itself as the most advanced online image editor in the world. If I didn’t have a copy of Photoshop on my computer, it’s the tool I’d turn to to edit photos and create effects. The interface looks similar to Photoshop with the tool pallet on the left and the layers pallet on the right. If you’re accustomed to using Photoshop, you might want to give it a whirl.

Pixlr is a flash based tool, which will work on most computers, and it offers many effects, animations, and editing tools like the other choices above to help you make the most of your photos. Plus, if you need a photo editing tool for your website, the API is available for your use.

You might check out the Pixlr blog or find them on Twitter or Facebook. Each blog entry is devoted to teaching you about a component of the tool or has an announcement of a new feature they have added.

Photoshop Tools

photoshop toolsPhotoshop also has some online tools that you can try out to edit your photos. Plan a few extra minutes to create an account if you’d like to use anything other than their basic photo editor.

Photoshop Express Editor offers some basic editing and decorating effects, similar to the tools and effects offered on the other tools. It was a little sluggish on the day that I tried using it, but that slowness could have just been my network connection (a factor you’ll need to keep in mind as you’re choosing the best tool for your needs).

Of interest, Photoshop also offers something they call Photoshop Express Organizer with uploader that enables you to backup, organize, and share photos. I imagine that it’s something like Flickr. I didn’t take the time to create an account to check it out further. Let me know if you’re a fan of this tool. I’d be interested to learn more.

Photoshop Express Style Match is a tool that lets you upload a photo effect you want to copy. So if you’ve seen a photo you like, you can try something similar with one of your photos. It sounds like a compelling feature. Again, if you’ve tried it, please drop a comment below to let me know what you think.

I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts and learn what you think of these online tools. I’m interested in your opinion and what tool you use to take your photos from drab to dramatic.

Marcia Hansen

About Marcia Hansen

Marcia works as a digital storytelling marketing strategist for iQ and the Intel digital newsroom. She joined Intel in July 2010 after her pioneering work in social media at Allstate Insurance. She loves words, movies, photos, and world travel. Marcia holds an M.A. from the University of Missouri where she completed a thesis on digital literacies.

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