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The Best Web 2.0 Graphics Software

At the 2012 Computer-Using Educators (CUE) conference in Palm Springs, CA there was a gathering of educators to learn about the latest applications and practices for integrating technology into instruction. One of the many sessions attended was one on quality online graphics applications presented by David Hoerger. This post will share a few of the online applications that are either free or require minimal licensing costs to be used by educational programs. Each of these digital image manipulation applications has the ability to:

  • Provide basic editing tools
  • Apply effects to an image or photograph
  • Provide basic capabilities similar to Adobe Photoshop Elements

The top three graphics application programs with the most features that were found to be of particular interest were:

Aviary (

Aviary is a suite of powerful creative applications that are available just by using your Web browser. This includes:

  •  Phoenix, an image editor that utilizes layers, masks, effects, undo history, and other desirable functionality.
  • Peacock, a powerful effects editor
  • Talon, a screen capture application
  • Raven, a vector editor
  • Roc, a music creator
  • Myna, an audio editor
  • Falcon, an image markup application
  • Toucan, a swatch color editor

In addition, Aviary has a fantastic set of tutorials and supports education by providing classroom accounts for educators.

Pixlr (

Pixlr is cited as being one of the most popular online graphics applications in the world. It provides three choices for working on images and photos: Pixlr Editor, Pixlr Express, and Pixlr-o-matic. Each application has different capabilities as described below.

  • Pixlr Editor – provides many of the tools you would see if you were using Photoshop Elements with layer, adjustment, and filter controls that allow you to do almost anything you can think of to your images or photos. It also provides Navigator, Layer, and History panels to assist with tracking and making changes to images and photos.
  • Pixlr Express has a much simpler interface with icons for adjustments, effects, overlays, borders, stickers, and text. Clicking on any choice brings up other icons and sliders for further refinement of the changes to the image or photo.
  • Pixlr-o-matic, the third application and simplest of all, lets you upload a photo and apply an effect, overlay, and frame to an image but doesn’t have the detailed control provided with Pixlr Editor or Pixlr Express.


Phixr is another powerful Web-based photo editor for quickly fixing photos in three steps:

  •  Step 1: Upload a photo from your computer or transfer one from your Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Webshots, Photobucket or SmugMug account.
  • Step 2: Edit your photo.
  • Step 3: Save it on your computer, e-mail it to a friend to share or directly upload the photo to Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Picasa, Photobucket, ImageShack, SmugMug and others.

Phixr includes a lot of basic and advanced features. For example: crop photo, resize photo, rotate photo, remove red eye, flip or “mirror” photo or convert a picture to a charcoal drawing, oil painting, pop-art poster or matrix-printout. It can also create a comic from a photo and insert text into the photo using speech bubbles.

Color tools – Phixr Online Photo Editor can change a photo’s colors in many ways. Starting with the basics, there is, of course, a color balance and histogram-based levels tool, and a tool to correct brightness, exposure, contrast, temperature, saturation and hue. Phixr can also auto-correct contrast, white-balance and color balance. Phixr’s has a broad range of color filters that can convert a photo to sepia tone to make a photo look old, make a picture black and white or invert the colors to create a photo negative. It can also make a photo black and white, except for certain colors (e.g. imagine red lips on an otherwise greyscale photo).

Camera & lens tools – Phixr online photo editor also has some camera and lens related tools. These can create a tilt-shift effect, lomography (lomo) effect, or imitate a Holga or night vision camera. Furthermore, it can add a vignette effect or put the photo behind a bunch of shaped masks such as putting a photo inside a crystal ball.

Blur/soften tools – Phixr can blur and soften photos in a number of sophisticated ways. It can motion-blur, radial blur (rotation-blur) and zoom-blur your photos. It can also pixelize (pixelate) or glass-tile photos, or build them from small toy bricks.

Other tools – Phixr can sharpen photos; imitate HDR images (using unsharp mask algorithms); remove noise; convert photos to charcoal drawings, oil paintings, or spray paintings; and add special effects such as a carving effect, matrix printer effect, or comic-book effect.

It also allows for the ability to geotag photos which provides the ability to save the location at which the photo was shot into the photo file. Phixr can read and write geotags, and allows you to upload/share geotagged photos with all third party services supporting geotagging.

Photos can be saved as jpg (jpeg), pdf, gif or png, directly out of the Phixr online photo editor. You can also print the photo or upload it to the photo sharing site of your choice. With Phixr, you can create stationery, greeting cards or invitations. Phixr has a broad range of special holiday effects and decorations.

So if your TRIO program has a need for photo or image editing, consider using one of these applications to meet your needs.

Source: Hoerger, D. “Digital·Image Manipulation Using FREE Web 2.0 Tools”, 2012 CUE Conference, Session 2083, Palm Springs, CA.

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  • Greg said on August 19th, 2012 #

    The problem with online tools is that it is limited to work on small files, but cameras resolutions is still growing…

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