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Photos look much better when the elements like brightness, contrast, white balance, and color saturation are in optimal range, and looks awesome when a suitable filter effect is applied – it’s also lot of fun applying filters. Filters are special effects that can be quickly added to a photo in just few clicks. I am not talking about the complex photo editing suites like Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, or things like that which need some learning curve, but I am referring to those which are simplistic and so you should be able to use it from the minute you installed it!

Asusual my hunt is only for 100% genuinely free software, and not the half hearted ones that give some features free and then need to activate pro version for using more wanted features. Here goes our 5 best free photo special effects software for Windows.

1. Pixlr



Autodesk’s free version of Pixlr for Windows is a feature-rich and extremely easy program to enhance your photos. In fact Pixlr offers features that are in par with the other paid ones in the market. You can quickly apply autofix to photos that takes care of all basic photo elements including exposure, white balance, brightness, and contrast. It lets you refine the photo manually too if you prefer that way.

Coming to filters, you can easily apply your favorite special filters like Amber, Antonio, Lucas, Vintage, unicolor, subtle, soft, creative etc. to enhance your photo.

Pixlr - Special Filter Effects

Pixlr – Special Filter Effects

Pixlr also lets you beautifully overlay special effects like the one I applied with Butterfly overlay. Likewise you can simply apply overlays including bokeh, canvas, fireworks, flame, etc..

Pixlr - Butterfly Overlay

Pixlr – Butterfly Overlay

Other great features of free version of Pixlr include Borders, Stickers, and ability to add text to a photo.

2. Fotor



Fotor is another great photo effects program that can quickly convert a ordinary photo into a fantastic photo. When you launch the program, you get 3 items to do including Edit, Collage, and Batch. 

Edit workbench lets you do all the photo enhancement and special effects application. You can use Auto enhancement and it does a amazing job for you.

Fotor Features

Fotor Features

Scenes lets you apply filters which are labeled according to common photo-capturing conditions, including: Backlit, Darken, Cloudy, Shade, Sunset, Night, Flash, Fluorescent, Portrait, Sand/Snow, Landscape, Theatre, and Food.

Fotor - Effects

Fotor – Effects

When it comes to filters, Fotor has it all as well including Classic, Lomo, B&W, Vignette, Art, and Texture. You can apply Borders and then choose from thirty options! Another cool feature is the Tilt-Shift which allows you to focus selected areas of your photo while blurring the rest, just like depth-of-field that is normally only possible from DLSR cameras.

Fotor can also make Collage in Free Style mode in which you can choose a solid color as your collage background or select from 22 unique background designs. Other features include Batch Processing, Export, Resize, and Print.

3. FotoSketcher



FotoSketcher can convert any photo into a art effortlessly and with amazing accuracy. You can choose from more than 20 different styles ranging from pencil sketches to watercolor or oil paintings, pen & ink drawings and cartoons.

FotoSketcher Effects

FotoSketcher Effects

Apart from that it can also enhance your photos with simple tools such as contrast, sharpen, simplify image, increase luminosity, color saturation etc.. Other features include adding simple or realistic frames and text.

4. Picasa



Although Picasa is classified as photo organizing software, this free program from Google has several great features that can enhance your photo and so it finds a place in this listing.  Picasa lets you do basic imaging editing activities such as cropping, straightening, removing red-eye, retouching blemishes, or adding text. Of course you do get auto enhancement, but it is termed as “I’m feeling lucky“. If you prefer manual way, Picasa lets you control light, highlights, shadows, and color temperature.

You can also choose to apply from 36 special effects:  Infrared Film, HDR-ish, Cross Process, Sepia, Black and white, Invert Colors, Tint, and more – it all there.

Picasa - Filters

Picasa – Filters

Other features include a beautiful Collage Maker and ability to batch process edit photos.

Picasa - Collage Maker

Picasa – Collage Maker


5. PhotoScape



PhotoScape is a yet another free application that can help you do a lot of photo editing fun like resizing, brightness and color adjustment, white balance, backlight correction, frames, balloons, mosaic mode, adding text, drawing pictures, cropping, filters, red eye removal, blooming, paint brush, clone stamp, effect brush, and more.

PhotoScape - Features

PhotoScape – Features

It doesn’t have the best user interface compared to the other programs listed here, but does provide some unique handsome features including Raw converter, animated GIF creator, Screen capture, Splitting, and combining photos. Other features include Face Search which lets you find similar faces on the Internet, print portrait shots, carte de visites(CDV), passport photos, and renaming files in batch mode.

Download PhotoScape


What do you think of this list? Which of these did you like? Let us know in comments below.


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