Basic Editing

Picnik: online photo editing

Written by Gail Bjork

Picnik is a free online service that lets you edit photos directly from any browser. It has many tools and features found in full-fledged image editing programs.

Picnik is now closed: Picnik has been integrated into Google products, such as Google + and Picasa web albums. If you have a Picasa web album account, open an image and click on the edit icon to access the editing tools. In Google +, open an image and click on the Creative Kit link.

A popular alternative to Picnik is Aviary, which offers lots of similar tools and features for editing images online.

PicnikDigital camera owners who don’t do a lot of photo editing to justify the cost of a special program have an online alternative: editing photos directly in a browser; nothing to install, nothing to download.

One such popular and user friendly program is Picnik. It offers more photo editing and enhancing tools than most will ever need. You don’t even have to know much about photo editing to obtain fantastic results. Best of all, Picnik is free!

Picnik in browser

Edit digital photos from your browser

Picnik has many tools found in full-fledged image editing programs such as adjusting exposure, contrast and shadows and highlights. Picnik offers all the basic tools to crop, resize, rotate, sharpen and fix red-eye. It also has plenty of special effects and filters and other advanced controls to fine-tune photos.

Whatever tool or feature you use, instructions are provided in pop-up windows at the time you access them.

No registration required

A sampling of Picnik filters and special effects

A sampling of Picnik filters and special effects: border, postage stamp and reflection frames; focal B&W, neon, pencil sketch and posterize filters.

You can Picnik without registering, though you can only upload one image at a time. Free registration lets you upload five images. Images are saved online and you can edit and save a photo countless times without altering the original.

Most of the tools have sliders so you can control the degree an effect is applied to each photo. You have unlimited ability to undo or redo any of the applied effects. There are a multitude of special effects, from artsy to just plain fun. You can add text and stickers to photos and make collages, greeting cards and scrapbook pages.

If you have a webcam, you can take a snapshot from right from your computer, edit and save it to your hard drive, email or print it, or send it to one of your existing online albums. You can even email a photo directly for printing to a photo processor including Kodak Easy Share, Walmart Photos, Costco, Moblog or a number of others.

Picnik warns when memory is low, so you have time to save your work, close and restart your browser.

Low on memory warning

Premium service

If you want to edit ad-free, you can purchase Picnik’s premium service, which costs about $25 as of this writing. The premium service provides even more sophisticated tools such as Curves, Levels and Cloning.

The premium service also offers full screen editing, the ability to upload 100 images at a time and lots of extra goodies such as layers and an advanced blend mode. It has an unlimited History feature where a copy of each photo and its edits are saved (with the free registration, Picnik keeps track of last five saved photos).

Integrated with social networking sites

Picnik integrates with your favorite social networking and photo-sharing sites such as Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, Photobucket and Picasa Web Albums. You can connect directly through Picnik to edit and enhance photos in existing albums. Or you can edit photos in Picnik and send them directly to your albums.

Picnik social networking options

Picnik is not for everyone

I signed up for the premium service and, while it certainly has some nice additional features, I don’t find it a substitute for editing images with Photoshop. Photoshop lets me do much more precise photo processing such as selecting specific areas of a photo, doing selective color adjustments and working with layer masks.

Photographers who seriously tweak their images with sophisticated photo editing programs will not forgo them for Picnik. But Picnik is fun, effective and is great for casual editing. If you’re away from your computer or traveling, you have a back up.

Those who shy away from photo editing will discover that Picnik has more than enough features and is plenty easy and convenient to use. For most, the free versions will meet their photo editing needs.

Picnik works on Windows, Mac and Linux based computers.

Click images to enlargeClick images to enlarge

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.


  • Dani, Picnik is being integrated into Google products, such as Google + and Picasa web albums. If you have a Picasa web album account, open an image and click on the edit icon. In Google +, open an image and click on the Creative Kit link. You’ll find most of the tool and effects offered in Picnik but will soon have to become a Google+ member to use them. Use Picnik TakeOut to download any stored images before the April 19, 2012 closing date.

    A popular alternative to Picnik is Aviary, which offers lots of similar tools and features for editing images online.

  • Picnik is closing…I hate that! I LOVE it…it’s easy to use, and you get beautiful results.
    Does anyone know of another editing program that is as user friendly as Picnik and has as many features?
    I have searched and searched…either they’re too complicated, or they don’t have enough features.
    Picnik is the greatest, I can’t find another as good….:(

  • I have been using Picnik for about a year and a half now and am a complete novice.  Yet, the images I produce are definitely not something you would expect a novice to produce.  Most people think I use Photoshop or Picassa for my images and I actually have Photoshop CS3, but I don’t.  I learned on Picnik, and I  am comfortable with it.  I’m a terrible photographer, so all of my edited images are from snapshots and cellphone pics.  You can google my images easily by looking me up under fortheloveofFiona.  It’ll give you an idea of what is possible with Picnik.

  • I used Picnik via flickr and as a complete beginner to photo editing (and a slight technophobe)  found it very easy to use and understand.