PicMonkey is an excellent, free image editor that runs in your browser. Unlike Photoshop or Picasa, you don’t need to download anything or dig out your credit card. Here, we’ll show you how to edit and share your photos, no matter whose computer you’re using.

Photoshop might be the gold standard for editing images, but there’s no denying that it has far more features than the average user needs – if all you want to do is crop and rotate your images, fix the colours and sharpen them up a little, you’re barely scratching the surface of what’s on offer. There’s also the fact that Photoshop will lighten your wallet by a considerable amount, and that it needs a decent PC.

Fortunately, there are alternatives, and one of the best is PicMonkey. Not content with offering a great range of powerful image-editing tools in a user-friendly interface, PicMonkey is completely free (albeit with ads), and is entirely browser-based. That means a lot of the computational legwork is done by PicMonkey’s servers, allowing you to edit high-resolution images without needing a high-end PC or laptop. Plus, because PicMonkey is web-based, you can access and edit shots on any PC.

How to edit photos online with PicMonkey

1. On the homepage, hover over the Edit icon at the top of the screen. A box appears underneath, giving you the option of loading an image from Facebook, Dropbox or Flickr; you can also choose an image stored on your PC.

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2. The next screen you'll see is a big preview of your image, but for now we'll investigate the settings menu. From here, you can decide what resolution your image will have. The largest possible file is 4,000 x 4,000.

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3. The magnifying glass icon in the lower right hand corner brings up a slider that lets you zoom in and out; you can also press Ctrl and + together to zoom in, or Ctrl and - to zoom out.

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4. Editing tools are in the left-hand toolbar. These are grouped: the first set of tools is for basic editing such as correcting exposure, adding sharpening or rotating your images. It’s best to zoom in on your image before using sharpening.

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5. If you’re after an instant fix for your image, hit Auto adjust at the top. This boosts contrast and saturation in your images, and is perfect if you fancy some quick-fire photographic improvement with minimal effort.

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6. To choose a new crop for an image, choose Crop in the menu bar and click and drag any of the four corners to produce a new composition. You can lock the aspect ratio using the drop-down box at the top.

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7. A crown icon on a tool means the effect is reserved for PicMonkey’s “Royale” users. This premium version costs $4.99 (about £3) paid monthly, or $33 (about £20) for the year. It also removes PicMonkey’s adverts.

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8. The most interesting tools are in the Effects toolbar. This contains a host of one-click effects such as cross-processing, vignettes and HDR, as well as advanced settings that will be familiar to Photoshop users such as curves (which is only for paying users).

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9. Choose Cross Process. Cross processing is an artefact from film, and produces classic-looking images at the click of a mouse without resorting to hackneyed sepia effects. Simply clicking Cross Process gives you a live preview of how your image will look.

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10. Most of PicMonkey’s tools can be modified. Here, the Fade slider adjusts the strength of the effect on the image - slide it to the right to reduce the effect and vice versa. You also get three popular colour treatments for cross-processing.

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11. Click the paintbrush icon. This allows you to apply localised effects to your images, painting on your required settings rather than having an effect applied globally. Clicking on Effect or Original determines whether you’re painting on your new effect or scrubbing it off.

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12. If you make an edit you dislike, the toolbar above your image includes an undo icon, but Windows’ default keyboard shortcuts work too, allowing you to hit Ctrl-Z to step backwards through your edits.

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13. Click the Touch Up icon (the small lipstick, appropriately) for a range of tools designed for portraiture. Many options are merely standard tools but the descriptive nomenclature makes life easier; Eye Brighten, for example, adds local contrast and boosts exposure.

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14. PicMonkey includes a range of fonts for text: simply click the icon, choose a font and click Add Text. You can click a corner of the box to change text size, and the handle at the top of the box manages rotation.

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15. Text, Overlays (the butterfly icon) and objects from the Themes menu are added as layers, and can be edited and moved until your image is saved. You can also right-click and choose which objects are on top using the “Bring” and “Send” options.

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16. You can export images to the usual social media sites. Click “Share” at the top of the screen and you’ll find links to connect your account, as well the option to email images complete with a caption or comment.

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17. Click Save at the top of the screen and you can save an image to your PC as a lossless PNG file or a compressed JPG. If you opt for JPG you can choose from three compression levels.

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