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UPDATED April 2012: Unfortunately Picnik no longer exists. 😦 Google is slowly  moving some of it’s capabilities to its Picasa photo software. I also really like PicMonkey or FotoFlexer, they are constantly updating and have very similar capabilities!

I’ve been using Google’s web-based Picnik to edit photos for a while. I store my photos in Google’s Picasa, but I have found that using Picnik for editing my photos provides much higher quality results and more options, than just Picasa’s basic tools for editing photos.

I was happy with using the free version of Picnik, but when I went to twitter to ask if getting the paid premium version is worth it, I got an overwhelming response. After a few months of thinking about it, and having a ton of photos I could play with after our Europe vacation, I decided to take the plunge and pay the $20 for the 1 year Picnik premium membership.

The results? Incredible. It boggles my mind how many options there are and how many different directions I could go with just one photo.

The best way to demonstrate is with an example… so here are some examples of what the premium version of Picnik offers by using a photograph taken of me at the Prague Castle. It’s a lot of face for one post…. but I figured a face shot is the best way to show all the details that can be edited.

Here is the original:

As you can see at the top there is a menu of options.

I’m going to start with the “Touch-Up” tab because it is pretty darn cool. On the left of each photo, I listed the effects that I used.

(click photo to see better)

I separated them to show the effects, but the right photo was created by adding on to the left photo. What a big difference edits make… I look so much better with wrinkles erased and a tan! 😉

Makes you think twice about those perfect magazine spreads… if I can do this myself, imagine what those magazine cover editors can do to models and celebrities!

The effects on the right are more extreme. Burning is a new favorite, it is similar to the sunless tan option but it gave my face not only a tan but a glow. Highlights gave me subtle blonde highlights. I used eye color to give myself blue eyes instead of green (like my sister). Instathin just elongated the photo (as you can see I’m slightly taller on the right). But my face is thinner!

The next best section of Picnik is the “Effect” tab. There is a ton of options, but here are some of my favorites. They were added on to the otherwise unedited, original photo.

Each option has many variations with in it. You can use the effect on the whole photo, or just in one spot, and you can control the strength and size of the effects. Puzzle isn’t necessarily a favorite, (maybe even a little creepy!) but it represents all the fun and crazy ones on the list.

There are also many text, sticker, and frame options that allow you to make pretty much any themed photo you can think of (i.e. Christmas Cards, invitations).

Another fun aspect of Picnik are the collages. There are many different types, but as you can see from the photo collages in this post and all my vacation posts , I stick to my favorite, the less collage-y option.

I also used Picnik to create a slide show of my vacation to show my family.

One down side to Picnik: If you don’t already store your photos in Google’s Picasa, it’s annoying and time consuming to have to upload each photo to edit it. To overcome this: download Picasa to your computer, and all the photos you transfer to your computer will automatically be there and will be easily accessed by Picnik.

This post only portrays a fraction of the things you can do with Picnik. Even the non-premium free version is fantastic, it just doesn’t have as expansive of a selection of everything (frames, fonts, effects, and only a few touch ups).

Do you use Google Picnik? How crazy are those touch ups? What are your favorite editing effects to use?