Picnik is one of many image and photo editing apps available for Chrome. It’s one of the most popular apps in the Chrome web store, and after our testing, it’s easy for us to see why. Picnik is not quite as complex as Photoshop, but for 90% of image editing tasks, it does the job. (If you do need a full-featured Photoshop app, check out our review of Pixlr Editor for Chromebook.)
If you like, Picnik can import your photos from Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, or Facebook account. Or, you can just grab pictures from an SD card, USB thumb drive or portable hard drive — the usual.
You can save images in JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP, TIFF, and even PDF format from Picnik, with compression settings appropriate to each image format. If you’re not sure what format to use or what to set the compression as, there are tons of charmingly-conversational, but to-the-point explanations of each possible setting.
What we really liked, which we found was consistent throughout the entire app, are the tidbits of helpful (but not annoying) messages to advise you on each tool in the program. More than just tooltips — the makers did a fantastic job of providing explanations that are neither too technical for newbies or too basic for experienced photo editors. To give you an example of how much consideration was put into Picnik, every notch on the JPEG Compression slider in the photo above has its own unique description, such as “big ugly blocks of pixels, teeny tiny file size” and “best quality, huge file size.”
Picnik has a staggering number of available effects, from the very basic (vibrance, black and white, sepia) to advanced photo effects like focus, the clone tool, and curves. There are also a number of surprisingly convincing image filters that imitate the looks of polaroid cameras, lomo cameras, holga cameras, and my favorite (in name only) “HDR-ish.”
The number of fonts alone in Picnik blew me away. I should rephrase that — the number of good fonts blew me away. There are, literally, thousands of dollars worth of professional fonts in this app — most of which look pretty good. But for my purposes, I want to go with a Where the Wild Things Are kind of thing.
Going back to the effects in Picnik: Most of them are free, but there are some that you must upgrade to “premium” to use. Well, you can actually use them in the free edition of the app, but it will put a small “premium effect” ribbon over one of the corners. So, you can test them to see if it’s worth the upgrade to you.
If you want to use Upgrading to Picnik premium for a month costs $2. Two dollars seems like a lot when you come at it from my angle of “I don’t want to spend any dollars,” but then I remember that a copy of Adobe Photoshop costs around $600.
The main thing that’s missing from Picnik, or the free version anyway, is Layers. To edit on multiple layers, you need the premium edition.
Really — and this is coming from someone who’s been using Photoshop since the late 90′s — there’s not that much difference between Picnik Premium and the industry-standard Photoshop. I’m actually having trouble thinking of something Photoshop can do that can’t be done through Picnik’s web interface. I know I’m going to get a lot of flak for saying that, mainly because the interface looks so simple. Rather than having a whole barrage of buttons on the screen at once, the program is divided up into tab pages which lead to more options, which open up further controls.
What sold me on Picnik is its overall sense of being very powerful, but with controls that could easily be understood by someone inexperienced with photo editing. Sure, some basic knowledge is required to use Picnik effectively, but on the other hand it provides some very simple options for things like resizing and cropping photos, and enhancing images. Sometimes it initially appears that there’s not enough fine-tuning control for various tasks, but then you notice the “Advanced” check-box, and quickly find what you’re looking for.
If you want full image editing ability no matter where you are, Picnik is the app for you. It remains to be seen if Adobe will come out with another Don’t be scared off by some of its “seasonal effects” that unfortunately show up on the first page of effects (at first I thought that the only effects available were “camouflage facepaint” and “USA flag.” Just ignore that first page and get into the app to find out how much you can do with it.
If you’re putting together the cover to a major art magazine with Picnik (it’s probably possible) and are disappointed that it’s missing a specific Adobe Photoshop CS5 tool, well… that’s kind of your problem. But for 99% of image editing/photo correction/light photo manipulation you’d ever need to do on your notebook, especially on a notebook at a coffeeshop, Picnik for Chrome is a great tool.
If Picnik is too basic for you, check out the fantastic Pixlr Editor, which is essentially a Photoshop clone that runs in Chrome. Both apps are free.