If Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, and Lightroom Classic are all overkill for you, but you still want to improve or enhance your pictures a bit, Adobe offers the free Photoshop Express. This free photo editing app is available for mobile, web, and desktop platforms. Express features Adobe’s renowned imaging smarts, with a deep supply of tools for correcting and embellishing your photos. Far from being the basic, stripped-down photo editor it was when it launched, Express has a lot of features, most of them aimed sharing online. The catch? You need to pay if you want to use many of its best features.
It’s worth noting that Photoshop Express is not Adobe’s only intro-level app for editing photos—far from it. Most require a Creative Cloud subscription, however, including Photoshop Fix, Photoshop Mix, and the Lightroom mobile app. Another is Photoshop Camera, which, beyond just being a replacement for your phone’s default camera app, lets you apply some zany creative effects to spice up your Instagram feed. None of those, however, offers Photoshop Express’s mix of basic adjustment and layer effects, and several require the more expensive subscription.
As mentioned just above, Photoshop Express is free to download, but you do need an Adobe account (it can be a free account). You can sign up with your Facebook or Google account if you don’t already have an Adobe account. Using some of the product’s more charming features requires paying for a Premium subscription, which costs $4.99 per month, $34.99 per year, with a first-year offer of $9.99.
Windows 10 PC, iPhone, and Google Pixel. That said, the app differs depending on which platform you run it on. For example, the Windows store app doesn’t bother with the Premium option, instead merely proposing that you buy Lightroom in a banner ad. And only the iPhone version lets you Remove background and create a transparent background image.
After signing in to your account, you can decide whether you want the app to be able to access photos on your device, which is necessary for a photo editing app. Some sections of the interface take you through a quick tour of the app’s capabilities.
To use all of the app’s features, you’ll need to shell out for a PS Express Premium subscription. This adds the ability to use any tools marked with a blue star. These include selection, layers, noise reduction, HSL editing, and many themes, overlays, and looks. It’s probably my biggest beef about the app that the premium features are often staring you in the face, but I guess there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Photoshop application, so you can send a picture from Express to the big app on your desktop, or even use some Photoshop effects in the app, such as block collages, reflections, weave, oil paint, and more.
You can open photos from not only your camera roll, but also from Facebook, Google Photos, or Dropbox (but not OneDrive), or you can shoot a new photo from within the app. The in-app camera app isn’t just for taking plain pictures, but lets you apply depth effects, face art, double exposures, or artistic filters. The app works with raw camera files, but only in the paid Premium version on mobile and not at all in the web version.
Cropping is well done in the app: You can choose among preset aspect ratios for common social network applications like Facebook profile and cover images, Instagram squares, and Twitter posts. You can also crop freely or just keep the picture’s original aspect ratio. You can straighten a photo to line up with the horizon, and the mobile apps have an Automatic option for this.
As with any self-respecting photo editing app, Express can adjust exposure, shadows, highlights, color temperature, tint, and saturation. To these it adds Lightroom specialties, Vibrance (to punch up colors) and Clarity (to pump up contrast and sharpness); you don’t however get Lightroom’s newer tools: Texture and Enhance Details. You do get Dehaze and Noise Reduction (of both the luminance and color varieties) if you’re a Premium subscriber.
Photoshop Elements, the often-forgotten relative in the Adobe photo software family.) But that’s not all—you can also send it to WhatsApp, email, or other messaging apps.
You can do a lot of fun and powerful editing in Adobe Photoshop Express, though you’ll often run into a paywall along the way. Creative Cloud subscribers will likely prefer the standard Photoshop app for their mobile devices and the full program for their desktops. And pro photographers will want Lightroom, which offers strong mobile and online apps.
Still, if you just need to do some basic editing and maybe add a bit of social bling to your photos, the free version may well be enough for you. And the paid version only costs $34.99—far less than a year’s subscription to Creative Cloud—and offers a potent if small collection of features and tools. If you’re looking for a simple photo editing app, Adobe Photoshop Express is well worth considering.