5 free photo editing tips and tricksPhoto editing tips using free photo editors

29 April 2011

Want to make your photos look that little bit better? If so, you needn't spend a penny. Here we give you five quick tips and introduce you to the best features of some free photo editing software programs.


Paint is built into Windows. It's basic, but for cropping it's good enough.

1) Crop images using Paint

Paint has been around forever, but in Windows 7 it's more useful than ever. If all you need to do is quickly crop a photo it does the job fine. To do so go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > Paint and open your photo. 

Click the Select tool on the top toolbar. Now click the mouse in the bottom left-hand corner of the area you want to retain and, keeping the mouse button held down, drag to the opposite corner. 

Release the mouse button and you should see a dotted box around the desired section. Now click the Crop button and save your photo.

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2) Resize an image for email in Windows

You don't even need an image editor to resize and email a photo in Windows. Both Windows 7 and Vista can resize and email photos without opening another program. 

To start, go to Start > Pictures. Make sure your computer is set to display large icons (press Alt on your keyboard, then click View > Large icons) and then browse through your photo collection for an image you want to send. Single-click to highlight it, then click the ‘E-mail’ button on the toolbar. 

Select a size from the drop-down menu (Medium:1024 x 768 is a good balance of size and quality). An email will appear with your shrunk-down picture attached - fill out the ‘To’ field and send.

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3) Use Paint.net to remove a blemish

For more advanced edits, the free Paint.net photo editor is a good port of call, and its blemish remover is especially useful. To use it, open a scratched or damaged photo and zoom into the affected area using the ‘+’ magnifying glass button. Now click the Clone Stamp icon in the left-hand tool palette (it looks like a rubber stamp). 

Hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard and click on an unaffected area near your scratch to ‘pick up’ the background. Now release the Ctrl button, click on the scratch and watch it disappear. You may have to click it a few times to cover it up completely.

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Windows Live Photo Gallery

Windows Live Photo Gallery is free to download from Microsoft's website.

4) Remove red-eye using Live Photo Gallery

For more advanced features, Microsoft’s free downloadable Windows Live Essentials package includes Windows Live Photo Gallery, which you can use to make basic edits. One particularly good tool removes red-eye in portrait and group photos. 

To do the deed, just double-click on a photo and zoom into the eyes using the slider, click and drag the image until the eyes are centred. 

Click the Red eye button on the toolbar and drag a box over the pupil part of an eye. Repeat with the second eye.

5) Straighten a photo using Picasa

Google’s Picasa can perform a number of useful editing tasks, the best among them being its easy to use straightening tool. Once you've downloaded and run the program, browse the thumbnails in the Library for a photo that’s on a slant. 

Double-click on it and click the Straighten button in the left-hand Basic Fixes tool selection. A grid will be superimposed over your photo to help you line it up. Drag the slider at the bottom of the image left or right until the image is straight, then click Apply.

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This guide was originally featured in Which? Computing magazine. Sign-up for your trial for more helpful computing tips and tricks.

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