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Best photo editing apps 2020: the 8 best apps for sprucing up your snaps

VSCO
(Image credit: VSCO)

Looking for the best photo editing apps for Android, iOS and iPadOS? Good news, we've spent countless hours playing with adjustment sliders and radial gradients to bring you our pick of the very best photo editing apps around today. 

Photo editing once required desktop machines packed with RAM. Not today. Even a basic Android phone has the clout to tackle editing your snaps – which is just as well, given that it’s likely used to capture most of them. 

For some people, though, only high-end pro camera kit will do — and so can mobile devices deliver where it matters when it comes to perfecting pics in the edit? The answer is yes, as you can see with our number one pick for best photo editing app, Affinity Photo. While other apps in this list are great for lightweight tweaks, Affinity Photo is a desktop-quality editor that you can take on the road. 

This evolving list looks at our favorite photo editors for iPad, iPhone and Android. We explore features that make each entry stand out, and explain why we think it should be a part of your mobile toolkit – whatever your skill level. 

Be mindful that even if you’re wedded to particular products, branching out is useful – you could find it beneficial to prefer a tablet-oriented app on iPad, but go for something simpler, sleeker and swifter on your phone. Whatever your needs, these are the best photo editing apps around right now...

Best photo editing apps 2020:

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Best photo editing apps

(Image credit: Future)
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Best photo editing apps

(Image credit: Future)
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Affinity Photo

(Image credit: Affinity)

1. Affinity Photo (iPad)

  • US$19.99/£19.99/AU$30.99

Having presumably spotted a gap in the market, what with Adobe charging monthly for its pro-grade creative apps, Serif audaciously rocked up with the low-cost/high-quality Affinity Photo. Even more audaciously, this iPad app soon showed up — and had feature-parity with its desktop sibling.

In fact, minor interface tweaks for the touchscreen aside, it’s basically the same app. When using a suitably powerful iPad, you can blaze through complex photographic edits comprising multiple layers and apply effects in real-time.

Smartly, the app supports a wide range of formats. It’ll load, edit and save PSD. There’s a dedicated pre-processing workspace for raw files. You get a range of color space options, non-destructive masks and blend modes, and the means to save changes within a document, allowing you to revert them later.

This is impressive, desktop-grade stuff. The only downside is a learning curve if you’ve arrived from Photoshop. But once mastered, Affinity Photo is the best full-fat photo editor you can buy on mobile.

Snapseed

(Image credit: Snapseed)

2. Snapseed

  • £free

From the best photo editor you can buy to the best that's available for free. Snapseed was a one-time iPad indie darling that Google subsequently gobbled up. Fortunately, it remains in active development – now also for iPhone and Android.

For a free app, you get a surprisingly wide range of tools and an interface that rewards every level of user. Need to make the speediest of fixes? Open a JPEG or raw file, head to the Looks tab, select a filter, and export. Want to dig deeper? Check out Tools, where you’ll find everything from basic cropping and tuning to grunge filters and grain.

Unlike most free fare, Snapseed offers non-destructive editing. Prior changes can be individually turned off and on in the edit stack. Should you create a stack you’re particularly happy with, you can save it as a custom look and apply it to other photos with a single tap.

All these smarts perhaps still won’t tempt pros from their desktop apps, but as a freebie for on-the-move quick fixes, Snapseed is essential.

Best photo editing apps

(Image credit: Future)

3. Pixelmator Photo (iPad)

  • US$4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

We hear these days how entire careers will be eradicated by the rise of the machines. Pixelmator Photo seems to fancy itself as the first step to replacing photo editors.

Load a snap from your camera (raw is supported) and tap the ML (machine learning) button. Based on what the app’s gleaned from being trained on 20 million professional images, it’ll attempt to automatically fix your photo.

Does it always work? No. During testing, the odd sunset was ‘fixed’ to daylight, and some moody gig shots bathed in neon light were shifted to more ‘realistic’ colors. And yet, the button does frequently get things right.

Also, ML is a starting point, not a destination. Tap the tools button and a sidebar with sliders appears, giving you precise control over dozens of adjustments. Anything ML’s already affected will be labelled accordingly.

Throw in loads of presets, color replacement, a handful of creative tools (monochrome; grain; sepia), and edits being non-destructive and you’ve a massive bargain – and the best quick-fix photographic tool for iPad.

Adobe Lightroom

(Image credit: Adobe)

4. Adobe Lightroom

  • Android (£free or from US$1.99/£1.79/AU$2.99 per month)
  • iPhone/iPad (£free or from US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 per month)

Lightroom is a popular, powerful desktop app for cataloguing, managing, and editing a large collection of photos. On mobile for Android and iOS, the experience is cut down, but nonetheless provides a solid selection of tools – regardless of whether you’re an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber.

For free, you get no-nonsense adjustments married to plenty of fine-grained control. A ‘Lens profile correction’ switch makes short work of correcting snaps shot with phones. Elsewhere, cropping and adjustment tools (light; color; effects; detail) are immediate but have enough depth to make subtle, considered changes to images. It all feels focused and refined.

If you’re fully immersed in the Adobe ecosystem, the app takes things further, with a smart perspective repair tool, selective adjustments and healing. The last of those is easily replaced by TouchRetouch on mobile, but the others are a great bonus in your pocket if you pay for Creative Cloud. And if not, Lightroom’s worth grabbing anyway, due to its mix of efficiency, class, smarts, and quality.

TouchRetouch

(Image credit: TouchRetouch)

5. TouchRetouch

  • Android (US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)
  • iPhone/iPad (US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Early mobile photo editors were focused tools, but today’s increasingly mirror desktop-oriented and feature-loaded suites. TouchRetouch feels like a throwback to a time of one-trick-ponies — in a good way.

The app, available for Android and iOS, is about getting rid of unwanted objects. Got the perfect snap, if only it wasn’t for that annoying cable cutting it in two? Use the Line tool to remove it. Fuming at a blemish on a wall, or an object lurking on the ground that you’d not spotted while setting up a shot? Paint them out and have TouchRetouch weave its magic, or go properly old-school with a spot of manual cloning.

This kind of thing is far from unique on mobile – even freebie Snapseed has a healing tool. But in focusing on photo repair/healing, TouchRetouch is more impressive than its rivals on Android and iPhone, and gets you results that in many cases match or better those from pro-grade iPad fare — at least when you’re in a hurry. For the outlay, it’s essential.

Mextures

(Image credit: Mextures)

6. Mextures

  • iPhone/iPad (US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 + IAP) 

Many of the best photo apps tend to be about refinement – taking an existing image and fine-tuning adjustments, cleaning blemishes and realizing your vision of a flawless shot. Mextures has no truck with that – it wants to take your pristine creation and add all kinds of grime.

That might sound like grunge textures in Snapseed, but Mextures has a far more diverse selection of filters to work with. You get access to all kinds of dust, grain, color overlays, light leaks and bokeh. These can be applied as individual layers and combined/tweaked to suit, or you can save time by plumping for pre-existing ‘formulas’.

What makes Mextures a winner is its flexibility. You can stack dozens of layers, but revert a prior edit at any point. The iPad app could do with an update (it’s resolutely portrait and not optimized for iPad Pro), but otherwise Mextures is bliss for photo editors who occasionally favor character and grit over polished perfection.

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Adobe Photoshop

(Image credit: Adobe)
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Best photo editing apps

(Image credit: Future)
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Pixelmator

(Image credit: Pixelmator)

7. Adobe Photoshop for iPad

  • iPad (US$9.99/£9.99/AU$16.49 per month)

Having spent a long time insisting no-one wanted to do proper creative work on an iPad, Adobe finally relented and in November 2019 released a version of its desktop giant for Apple’s tablet. And we deliberately say ‘a version’, because this isn’t (yet) full Photoshop.

To Adobe’s credit, the foundation in Photoshop for iPad is there. The code base is shared with the desktop product, and there’s file compatibility. The interface feels familiar, despite having been optimized for a touchscreen/Apple Pencil experience.

But there’s an awful lot missing. Sure, you get core retouching and compositing features, and solid Pencil support. But every time you open a menu to find a ‘this feature isn’t supported on mobile’ label, or hunt for something that’s just not there, reality hits you in the face.

One for the future, then, unless you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber wanting to pick up edits on the move. Otherwise, the monthly outlay currently seems excessive when for two months of Photoshop you could have the more versatile and feature-rich Affinity Photo (above) forever.

Read our in-depth Photoshop for iPad review

VSCO

(Image credit: VSCO)

8. VSCO

  • Android (US$19.99/£19.49/AU$32.99 per year)
  • iPhone/iPad (£free or US$19.99/£19.49/AU$32.99 per year)

Get past the obnoxious ‘doorslam’ (this app really wants you to sign up), and ignore – initially – the subscription, and VSCO dumps you in a feed of people showing off their snaps. That’s nice, but you’re not here for another social network — you want to edit.

Import a pic and VSCO, on both Android and iOS, provides you with a bunch of tools that sit in a strip across the bottom of the display. You can crop/skew/adjust with ease, even if the mobile-friendly workflow isn’t quite as sleek and speedy as Snapseed’s. Still, changes made can be saved as a ‘recipe’ and applied to subsequent edits with a tap.

Most people don’t come to VSCO for the editing tools, though — that kind of thing can be done elsewhere; they come for the presets. Inspired by vintage film, these bring new character and life to even the most mundane of pics and are on the whole superb — although be mindful that for free, you only get a small taste of what’s on offer. To enjoy all 200+ presets, you’ll need to subscribe.