One of the odd realities of digital technology is that we carry around high-end, megapixel cameras, take hundreds of photos a week, and end up printing and displaying very few of them.
It’s very convenient to capture many moments, but most of us don’t take the step to bring them out of the digital realm and into the real world. Social media streams and image curation sites can be virtual repositories for our memories, but sometimes, for special ones, “virtual” is not good enough.
We have good news. Software for editing and printing some of these images can be convenient, relatively easy, and free.
We’ve put together a list of 10 of the best free photo printing for software Windows 10 and smartphones to let you move the memories off your screen and into the real world. Print photos, photo books, invitations, posters, collages, postcards, calendars, keepsakes, and more (printed with your HP printer of choice, of course).
1. HP Smart
For 10 years, the free and easy solution bundled with HP equipment was HP Photo Creations. It was retired on November 30, 2019. But not to worry; it has been replaced by a robust and free app that you can use either on your computer, or directly from the same smartphone that you took the pictures with. Meet HP Smart.
Android or iPhone
Available on either Android or Apple iOS 11 or higher, HP Smart is a powerful printing solution, directly in the palm of your hand that integrates with all your stored images, on your phone, or in the cloud.
Print Facebook photos
Facebook is an amazing storehouse of your images throughout the years, but getting those photos into a usable form, beyond the Facebook app, has always been a problem. The HP Smart app solves that problem, with a “Print Facebook Photos” section that leads you quickly into bringing them from the internet to your HP printer, wirelessly.
Print scanned documents
What’s more is that it has a smart editing feature called “Scan to Email,” for sending photos of documents or flyers that uses built-in editing and artificial intelligence (AI) to figure out the angle of the paper, and flatten it perfectly, at the correct angle, for attaching and sending via email.
HP printers for your photos: Spotlight on HP Sprocket
A petite, affordable, Bluetooth photo printer, the HP Sprocket turns your smartphone into a Polaroid camera. This palm-sized micro-printer produces finished photos from your images. Starting at $50.
2. Google Photos
Google’s previous image editing and storage solution, Picasa, has become Google Photos. You can still download and use the last available Picasa software package to use its desktop photo-editing features, just bear in mind that it will never be updated.
The fact of the matter is that you really will not need the desktop tools, since Google Photos, like HP Smart, offers all the same functionality from your mobile device, either on Android or iOS.
Google Photos took the best part of Google’s unsuccessful attempt at a Facebook-killer in Google+ and made it its own service and app, dedicated to image storage and editing.
The best part of Google Photos? The fact that it offers genuinely unlimited storage, with the slight caveat that each photo saved must be less than 16 megapixels. Since even the newest iPhone takes only 12-megapixel photos, this shouldn’t present too much of a problem.
Curating your photos
Editing, sorting, and searching your pictures in Google Photos is easy and intuitive. Cropping, adjusting tone or color, and adding vignettes are all available with a few swipes and presses. A great feature is the ability to apply a set of editing choices to multiple photos with a single keystroke, after selecting them.
Printing is easy
When it comes to printing options, while you can print directly from Chrome, you can actually set up your HP Smart app to print your Google Photos at home for more control over the final print. Or you can outsource it entirely if you’re willing to pay per print. Google Photos can send the pictures you want to print to your local CVS or Walmart, for .25 cents a print, on photo paper.
Adobe’s name is synonymous with photo editing; “Photoshopping” has become a generic word to describe any edits or manipulations to a photograph. For many years, Adobe Photoshop was a high-end, professionals-only, toolset software package that needed a powerful computer setup to run.
And while the full Photoshop program is still a powerful professional tool, Adobe has opened up its tools, offering a smaller subset for simple image editing and collage building, called Adobe Photoshop Express.
Basic tools for free
Photoshop Express pares down the toolset of its flagship product for this free print program into a few basic, but essential and useful, tools. These include “Auto Fix,” a one-click solution that adjusts for the best brightness, exposure, and shadow settings on photos, and a selection of 20 free image filters.
Standard cropping, resizing, and retouching are simple tasks with the uncluttered, easy-to-use interface.
Printing your saved Photoshop Express retouched images is a matter of getting them back to your computer (either via Bluetooth, or emailing them to yourself and opening them with your email client) and printing as normal, or from your free HP Smart app. Like the others on our list, it is available as a mobile application on either Android or Apple phones, and also as a Windows 10 app on the Microsoft Windows App Store.
With the HP ENVY Photo 7855 All-in-One printer, you can print photos, fax, scan, copy, and print from the web, your phone, or computer. Combined with HP Instant Ink, ink cartridges are delivered to your door and your printed photos cost less than five cents per print. Starting at $129.
4. Fotor Photo Editor
Fotor Photo Editor is an online, web application that gives you a powerful suite of image editing and photo retouching tools. Using Fotor, you can easily import and edit photos from your computer, your cloud-based storage service like Dropbox, or from a social media platform.
Filters and retouching
It offers a fun array of templates and stickers, along with enhancements like "beauty" filters that serve as a kind of digital Botox. Much of the site and application functionality is free, but a pay-to-use “pro” feature unlocks more filters and templates.
Fotor's site bills the online tool as "fundamentally Photoshop, online." For the purposes of photo retouching and adding effects and collage creation, they're not too off base in that description. It is a very "Photoshop-like" interface, accessible from any web browser or as a mobile app.
Where Fotor really comes in handy is in its extensive array of templates that integrate your photos. It offers a free invitation maker, free flyer maker, free poster maker, and a Christmas photo editor for your holiday greeting cards. Plus you can print business cards and menus. In only a few clicks and tweaks, you’ll have some truly impressive and professional designs print-ready.
PhotoScape is a free-to-download image editing software suite that offers a wide but sometimes confusing array of features beyond simple photo retouching. Its interface is a little daunting and requires you to kind of follow your nose and tinker around a bit. But doing so pays off.
Worth getting to know
Within this surprisingly robust bit of freeware, there's an image viewer, built-in screen capture tool, and a batch editing function that allows you to apply effects to multiple files. All this, plus a wide range of filters, effects, stickers, and icons to quickly spice up your photos. It even has an animated GIF creation and editing tool.
Great tool for beginners
PhotoScape is an image editing program for beginners more so than image-editing professionals. It presents its options in a kind of fun, "game-like" interface that encourages users to poke around and try different things. While PhotoScape is primarily a photo editor, this label doesn't really do it justice, there is much more to it than basic retouching.
The HP OfficeJet 3830 All-in-One printer is an ultra-affordable wireless network printer that offers copying, scanning, and printing full-size paper or photo prints. Starting at just $59.
IrfanView is named after its creator, a software programmer from Bosnia-Herzegovina named Irfan Škiljan. A refugee from the Bosnian War in the 1990s who fled to Austria, Irfan developed a “one man band” style photo-editing software package in 1996 as a freeware distribution, with a voluntary pay option for professional use.
A free alternative to pricey pro software
From a time when Adobe Photoshop was an $800 piece of software, IrfanView provided a surprisingly agile, efficient, fast, and lean piece of software, offering many of the same features as the Adobe commercial product, for free.
Still a great solution
All these years later, it has been updated to version 4.54 for Windows 10 and remained true to its roots: a small, elegantly programmed tool that still sees 1 million downloads per month from all across the globe. IrfanView’s export features, file format output support, and image optimization often outperform the $4-billion-dollar revenue-generating Photoshop.
20+ years, still a community of loyal users
IrfanView is a scrappy, can-do little program that does a lot of what the others do. But it is more of a homebrew enthusiast’s tool, for DIY computer users who are familiar with getting in and tweaking the controls and settings of their machine, as it sports a wide variety of plug-in and “skin” customization options. This single program and its dedicated user base and fans have supported Škiljan through voluntary donations since its first release.
Paint.NET began its life as a student project in 2004 by Washington State University computer science major Rick Brewster. It started as a “dot NET” replacement/upgrade to Microsoft’s barebones “MS Paint” program that comes bundled with Windows installations.
Grassroots developer community
As a freeware alternative to Photoshop, Paint.NET offers a lot of what the pro-tool has: layers, unlimited undo’s, effects, and plug-ins. What's more, it is supported by a lot of smart and friendly computer-science enthusiasts who are constantly developing new tools and tutorials for the free package.
Download for Windows:
GIMP (an acronym for Graphic Image Manipulation Program) was the original hacker-freeware image editing tool. Initially only released on Linux, a freeware operating system for do-it-yourself computer enthusiasts, it was also a college project. This was a semester-long one, by a team of students in 1995 at the University of California, Berkeley, in their “eXperimental Computing Facility.”
Open source and going strong
Since its first Linux release, a community of open-source programmers have kept GIMP going and expanded it across many platforms; it is now available for both Windows and Mac. While it offers a very robust toolset for image creation and manipulation, be forewarned: it is a computer-science enthusiast’s tool as much as it is an image editor.
Being free and open source is as much of a draw in its popularity among its proponents as anything else about it; so don’t expect a user-friendly install process or an immediate, intuitive experience with the interface.
For high-quality laser printing, check out the HP LaserJet Pro M404n printer. An all-purpose printer for work or photos, it offers wireless network printing via WiFi connection to phones. Starting at $199.
9. Photo Pos Pro
The oddly named Photo Pos Pro is another freeware image editor program, available for download on Windows. It began as a commercial product as a budget alternative to Adobe Photoshop but has since moved to the freeware/upgrade model.
While its interface and toolset look a little dated (it feels like a program from some time in the early 2000s in terms of its menus and windows) it does yeoman’s work in all the basic categories. And it is more than capable of editing and printing out photos on your PC.
FastStone Image Viewer is more of an image organizer and viewing program with a small set of editing tools than it is an image editing program. It rapidly generates and displays thumbnails and helps the user sort and organize folders with thousands of images in them. Its usefulness is mitigated a bit by modern operating systems, which have many native features that provide similar functionality.
The HP DeskJet 2655 All-in-One printer provides affordable wireless printing from your phone or computer. Prints, copies and scans. Starting at $49.
While we’ve presented 10 of the best photo printing software programs that are available for free and easy download, we’re recommending two specifically as good all-around free programs. Both HP Smart and Fotor are ideal for a number of reasons.
HP Smart, in particular, is a must-have tool because you can edit, retouch, and print directly from the same smartphone that you took your pictures on. And Fotor is a free cloud-based app that offers the most Photoshop-like toolset out of all the image-editing programs we’ve explored.
About the Author: Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.
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