The best AI photo editors in 2023

The AIvolution of Photo Editing: From Pixels to Pixie Dust!

The best AI photo editors in 2023

While AI image generators are getting a lot of attention, AI photo editors are quietly becoming more useful. These apps automatically edit or improve your photos, so you can get the best possible results, whether you're taking selfies or product photos.

I've spent even more time testing the different options available, and based on my experience, these are the best AI photo editors.

The best AI photo editors

  • Adobe Photoshop for a full-featured photo editing and design app
  • Luminar Neo for an AI-powered photo editor
  • Canva for an AI-powered design app
  • Pixlr for an easy-to-use online AI editor
  • Lensa for a mobile AI photo editor

What does an AI photo editor do?

AI-powered photo editing has a long history. Consider Photoshop, for instance: it introduced Content Aware Fill in 2010, followed by the launch of the first AI-driven "Neural Filters" in 2020. Many of its most powerful features now incorporate various levels of machine learning. Unlike AI art generators, which heavily rely on recent major advancements, most AI image editing functionalities are the result of iterative updates to older technologies.

So, what can these applications accomplish? Here are some prominent features found in AI photo editing software:

  1. Enhancing and sharpening low-resolution or blurry images.
  2. Identifying the type of photo you captured (portrait, landscape, etc.) and suggesting appropriate edits or tools.
  3. Effortlessly separating your subject from the background with a single click.
  4. Swapping the sky with a different one while ensuring lighting consistency in the rest of the image.
  5. Automatically adjusting light levels, colors, and contrast for overall enhancements.
  6. "Improving" facial features by smoothing skin, brightening eyes, and making other adjustments.
  7. Restoring or adding color to old black-and-white photographs.
  8. Selecting or masking your subject to enable manual edits.
  9. And those are just the major ones.

Certain features heavily rely on AI algorithms. For example, Photoshop's new Generative Fill functions similarly to DALL·E 2 or Stable Diffusion. Others, such as Lensa's ability to recognize whether you captured a portrait or a landscape, rely on simpler image recognition algorithms.

Regardless, at their core, these photo editors leverage AI techniques like machine learning to deliver an intelligent and automated image editing experience. No matter how you look at it, this constitutes AI image editing.

How I tested each AI photo editor

Run a usability test
Photo by David Travis / Unsplash

With over a decade of experience in writing about image editors, I possessed prior knowledge of the majority of the 30 apps that I had to put to the test. However, given that this is a compilation of AI photo editors, my focus was primarily on assessing the apps' general usability and their artificially intelligent capabilities. Consequently, I did not need to re-evaluate every single feature of Photoshop, but rather specifically examined its AI-centric functionalities.

For most apps included in the list, this entailed editing a few sample photos to observe the automatic adjustments they made, their performance with low-quality images, and their proficiency in accurately isolating complex subjects and removing objects. The majority of apps that failed to make it to the final list fell short in these areas.

Regarding the apps that performed well, I dedicated even more time to experiment and edit images. Additionally, I took into account factors such as overall usability and pricing. Some apps, despite being relatively average, charged prices similar to Photoshop, and this affected their evaluation negatively.

What makes the best AI photo editor?

Photo by Jon Tyson / Unsplash

The current landscape allows for any automated image editing feature to be labeled as "AI" quite easily, and it wouldn't be entirely incorrect to do so. However, there exists a substantial disparity between simple one-click options that enhance brightness and contrast in a photo and tools that genuinely assist you in working better and faster by providing intelligent suggestions and adjustments.

Given the multitude of apps claiming to be AI image editors, I set out to identify the absolute best among them. Here's what I specifically looked for while evaluating each app:

Advanced AI editing features: This encompassed features like built-in generative AIs, automatic subject detection and selection, intelligent upscaling, and an overall emphasis on robust and effective tools.

Full apps with a comprehensive image workflow: While there are numerous exceptional plugins available for Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as powerful AI image generators like DALL·E 2 and DreamStudio, they don't qualify as complete image editors. Only tools capable of handling an end-to-end workflow were considered.

Fast, effective, and intuitive user experience: In other words, the apps had to possess both power and a learning curve that corresponded to their feature set. While Photoshop may not be renowned for its simplicity, its layout and options become intuitive after investing a small amount of time in understanding its functionality.

Delivering good results: Several AI picture editors I tested were excessively heavy-handed with contrast or color adjustments, struggled with accurate subject selection, or simply failed to perform satisfactorily. Given the abundance of exceptional AI photo editors available, it was unnecessary to include any that underperformed in most scenarios.

Customization and control: One-click edits rarely yield outstanding results. Instead, the best AI photo editors provide users with control over the strength of specific edits and the areas of the image affected. Additionally, they offer manual editing tools, enabling users to make their own final adjustments.

Based on my comprehensive testing, I have identified my top five picks for the best AI image editors.

Adobe Photoshop (Windows, macOS, iPad)

Pros of Adobe Photoshop:

  • Offers some of the best AI-powered tools available in any application.
  • Retains the power and control that Photoshop is renowned for.
  • Despite being a three-decade-old software, it continues to feel fresh and cutting edge.
  • Considered the industry standard image editing app.
  • Provides a comprehensive range of features, making it the top choice for a full-featured image editor.

Cons of Adobe Photoshop:

  • Learning how to use Photoshop is not known for being easy.

Adobe Photoshop has maintained its position as the go-to image editing app for over three decades, yet it continues to exhibit a sense of novelty and innovation, unlike many other software programs of similar age.

Initially, I intended to make a joke about how it would be easier to list the tasks Photoshop cannot perform rather than the ones it can. However, I soon realized that I genuinely could not compile a list of things it cannot do. In summary, Photoshop stands as the premier image editor with comprehensive features.

This excellence extends to its AI capabilities. Take, for instance, the recently introduced Remove Tool. While Photoshop has always allowed the removal of unwanted objects, individuals, and artifacts from images, the Remove Tool takes it to another level. Among all the apps I tested, Photoshop outperformed them all in seamlessly removing elements from an image and replacing them with generated content that blends flawlessly. The beta version also features a text-to-image generator called Generative Fill.

In the accompanying screenshot, you can witness both these functionalities in action. The original image is in the center, and with just a single stroke, I replaced Gunther with grass that harmonizes with the rest of the image, including the depth-of-field blur. I also effortlessly substituted the background with a castle, again matching the depth-of-field effect, by simply selecting it and typing "medieval castle." I was even presented with three variations to choose from.

Moreover, Photoshop offers numerous other AI-powered tools. Neural Filters, for example, can intelligently adjust facial expressions, transfer color palettes between images, and remove compression artifacts. The automatic subject and background selection is superb, while the automatic tone, color, and contrast adjustment functions as expected.

Furthermore, Photoshop remains a fully-featured application, allowing ample control over most AI features. Users can always manually edit and integrate the AI-generated elements into their images. In the event of AI-related errors, the toolset provided by Photoshop equips users with the necessary means to rectify them, albeit potentially requiring additional time and effort.

Adobe Photoshop is priced starting from $19.99 per month as part of the Photography Plan, which also includes Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. While Lightroom is a commendable image editor in its own right, it does not possess the same extensive set of AI features as Photoshop. Nonetheless, it is still worth exploring, particularly for photo editing purposes.

Best design app with an AI photo editor

Canva (Web, iOS, Android)

Pros of Canva:

  • Offers a powerful template-based design platform with additional AI features.
  • Exceptionally user-friendly, particularly for creating real-world designs like social media posts, CVs, and invitations.

Cons of Canva:

  • Image editing tools are not as robust as dedicated apps.

Canva has significantly enhanced its already impressive template-based design application with a range of new AI-powered features in the past year. It has always excelled in swiftly generating various designs, from invitations to Instagram posts, and the introduction of AI capabilities has further simplified the design process.

Let's delve into some of Canva's notable AI features based on my testing:

Text to Image utilizes generative AI, allowing users to incorporate custom elements (such as the party panda in the example above) into their designs.

Magic Eraser swiftly removes unwanted objects from images. Although it may not be as reliable as Photoshop's implementation, it suffices for basic clean-up tasks.

Magic Edit employs a similar generative AI as Text to Image, enabling users to replace elements within any image. Feel free to transform a regular cake into a more enticing chocolate cake.

Magic Design revolutionizes the creation process by enabling users to begin with a design element and select a color profile, mood, and other preferences. Canva automatically generates multiple template options based on these selections. This approach was employed to design the invitation showcased above.

Surprisingly, Canva's AI features seamlessly integrate into the application, enhancing its versatility. Whether users opt to utilize the AI capabilities or not, Canva remains an exceptional design tool. However, for those interested in exploring AI-powered layout options and generating content like party pandas using written prompts, Canva caters to their experimentation.

In terms of pricing, Canva offers a free plan with limited access to AI tools. For broader access and higher usage limits, the Pro plan is available starting from $12.99 per month, offering an expanded set of AI tools.

Note: It's important to highlight that Canva's strengths lie in its design capabilities and user-friendly interface, while its image editing tools may not match the sophistication of dedicated editing apps.

Best AI photo editor for being truly AI-powered

Luminar Neo (Windows, macOS)

Pros of Luminar Neo:

  • AI is seamlessly integrated throughout the entire app, playing a fundamental role.
  • Geared towards photographers, providing extensive control over the strength of applied effects.
  • Offers impressive AI-powered features like automatic tone, contrast, and color adjustments, as well as effective sky replacement.

Cons of Luminar Neo:

  • Considered quite expensive for a standalone photo-focused application.

Luminar Neo was one of the early pioneers in embracing AI within photo-editing apps. It stands out on this list for its comprehensive integration of AI capabilities throughout the entire application. While it boasts prominent features like AI-powered enhancements that automatically adjust tone, contrast, and color, and highly effective AI sky replacement (particularly useful for correcting blown-out or uninteresting skies), it's the subtle AI touches that truly distinguish Luminar Neo.

Automated subject detection and appropriate preset suggestions provide a solid starting point for editing. The AI crop functionality adeptly eliminates extraneous elements without encroaching too closely upon the subject. Moreover, features like AI face and skin adjustments allow users to precisely target relevant areas of the image, enabling actions such as enhancing the subject's eyes to draw attention or reducing shine on the skin.

Luminar Neo primarily caters to photographers or individuals who prioritize capturing high-quality selfies. Consequently, the app offers extensive control over the application of various effects. There's no reliance on one-click magic here; each tool comes with a slider, enabling users to fine-tune the strength of edits and achieve their desired photo appearance. This balanced workflow combines the speed and convenience of AI with user control, ensuring that adjustments are not pushed to extreme levels.

Interestingly, Luminar Neo is the only app on this list that truly depends on its AI features. They are so deeply ingrained in the overall experience that it becomes nearly impossible to edit a photo without heavily relying on AI at some point. While basic edits are possible, users will find themselves consistently leveraging AI for optimal results.

In terms of pricing, Luminar Neo offers different plans. The Explore plan starts at $9.95 per month, while the Pro plan, which includes additional AI-powered features like noise removal and upscaling, starts at $14.95 per month.

Best easy-to-use online AI photo editor

Pixlr (Web, iOS, Android)

Pros of Pixlr:

  • Affordable and accessible through any browser without the need to sign up.
  • Separates AI applications, allowing users to easily utilize specific features according to their needs.

Cons of Pixlr:

  • May not be as polished as some other apps on this list.

Among the various freemium photo editing and design web apps available, Pixlr stood out in my testing due to its superior AI offerings. However, even without considering the AI features, Pixlr remains a convenient, user-friendly, and dependable image editor that is worth exploring.

One notable aspect of Pixlr is its approach of dividing features into separate apps, namely Pixlr E, Pixlr X, Photomash, Remove Bg, and Batch Editor, although the AI functionalities in each app are quite similar.

Pixlr X is reminiscent of Canva and provides a template-based design tool enriched with a practical AI image generator.

Pixlr E serves as a Photoshop-style image editor. While it is decent overall, its AI features, such as automatic subject selection and object removal, perform reasonably well.

Photomash employs AI subject selection to deliver "one-click magic" and is the app showcased in the screenshot above.

Remove Bg utilizes the same technology for subject isolation, offering users the option to fine-tune their selections, which proves to be quite useful.

Batch Editor enables users to apply the same edits to a series of images, although it lacks extensive AI capabilities.

Photomash and Remove Bg particularly stand out as the AI-powered photo editing highlights of Pixlr. Both apps are incredibly user-friendly and, based on my testing, effectively handle the extraction of subjects, whether they are straightforward or challenging.

Another advantage of Pixlr is its affordability. It ranks among the most cost-effective AI photo editor apps available, and users can access a limited version of most AI features through the free plan.

Regarding pricing, Pixlr offers a free plan with restricted AI usage. The Premium plan, starting from $7.99 per month, provides access to all features.

Note: Pixlr's strengths lie in its affordability, easy accessibility via web browsers, and the convenience of utilizing specific AI applications. However, it may not match the level of refinement seen in some other applications on this list.

Best mobile AI photo editor

Lensa (iOS, Android)

Pros of Lensa:

  • Exceptional performance in handling portraits and selfies.
  • Offers the ability to save one photo per day for free.

Cons of Lensa:

  • Editing images on a small screen may not be as effective as using a larger screen, such as a laptop.

Lensa is primarily recognized for its remarkable handling of portraits and selfies. While its Magic Avatar feature, which generates unique AI-generated portraits based on a series of selfies, may not strictly fall under traditional photo editing, it remains a noteworthy aspect of Lensa. However, the other AI features offered by Lensa are more than sufficient to position it as the top mobile option.

One prominent tool is the Magic Retouch feature, which automatically identifies and enhances portraits with various styles, including Morning, Day Look, Go Out Look, and Glam Look. The results are surprisingly impressive, particularly for individuals wearing makeup. Lensa also provides additional AI-driven tools for retouching skin, face, and makeup, enabling users to fine-tune their portraits.

Among its other features, Lensa incorporates AI-powered suggestions for filters, making it easier to navigate through the extensive collection. The AI Eraser performs better than most competing apps, although it falls short of the capabilities offered by Photoshop. Notably, the Backdrop Cutout and Sky Replacement tools excel at producing excellent results, even with challenging images. The available options for replacing backgrounds are also commendable.

Moreover, Lensa offers a comprehensive range of regular image editing tools, art styles, effects, and more, all of which are on par with the best mobile apps available. This makes Lensa a well-rounded package, complemented by an intriguing pricing model. On the free plan, users can enjoy all features without restrictions, although they can only save one image per day. For more extensive usage, a paid subscription is required. Lensa's mobile subscription can be quite costly for frequent users, but for those who only utilize the app occasionally, the free plan remains highly generous.

Regarding pricing, Lensa allows users to save one image per day for free. The paid subscription options start from $2.99 per week or $4.99 per month. Additionally, Magic Avatars can be purchased separately, with prices starting at $3.99.

Note: Lensa stands out for its exceptional handling of portraits and selfies, providing users with a wide range of AI-powered features. While editing on a small screen may not be as effective as using a larger display, Lensa offers a complete package with an interesting pricing structure, including a free plan with limited daily image saves.

A Promising Future

In this exploration of various AI-powered photo editing apps, we have witnessed the remarkable advancements and potential of artificial intelligence in transforming the way we edit and enhance our images. From powerful tools like Adobe Photoshop, Luminar Neo, Canva, Pixlr, to Lensa, each application showcases unique AI features and capabilities.

These apps have demonstrated the integration of AI technology to streamline workflows, provide intelligent suggestions, and automate complex editing tasks. The AI-driven features, ranging from automatic adjustments, subject detection, and object removal, to generative image creation, have significantly enhanced the editing experience for users.

While some apps excel in specific areas, such as Photoshop's comprehensive set of AI tools or Canva's template-based design with AI extras, the overall trend indicates a growing emphasis on AI integration to offer more intuitive and efficient photo editing solutions.

As we move forward, we can anticipate even more powerful and sophisticated AI features being incorporated into photo editing applications. The ongoing advancements in generative AI, intelligent suggestions, and seamless integration with real images hold immense promise for the future of photo editing.

The journey has only just begun, and with the rapid pace of technological innovation, we can expect a multitude of exciting AI-driven photo editors to emerge, offering users unprecedented creative possibilities and pushing the boundaries of image manipulation.

In the near future, the marriage of artificial intelligence and photo editing will continue to evolve, empowering users to transform their visions into stunning visual masterpieces with greater ease and efficiency.