I am always looking out for ways to help people in regards to the cost aspect of post processing. We currently have a few options out there, some of which includes free software such as Gimp or Paint. However, I recently stumbled upon another option.
If you have a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements, there is a plugin that brings over many of the features from the full version of Adobe Photoshop (120 of them, in fact) right into Elements. You may even have a copy sitting around if you recently purchased a Wacom Bamboo as most of them come with it.
The plugin, Elements XXL, recently introduced to me by PopPhoto, essentially allows you to take Adobe Photoshop Elements and bring over many incredible features that make the full version of Adobe Photoshop great.
It is important to note that at the moment it is for Windows only. It costs $40 at the moment and will back to $50 after the middle of this month.
I have yet to personally test this out, however you can read about the new features below along with images of the interface.
You can also read more about the product through their site here: http://thepluginsite.com/products/elementsxxl/index.htm
Actions, Scripts, Filters & Adjustment Layers:
Open and run Photoshop actions and scripts (Elements 6 and higher)
Up to ten new filters: Curves, Exposure, Vibrance, Color Balance, Channel Mixer, Black & White, Selective Color, Sharpen, Sharpen More and Sharpen Edges.
Up to seven new adjustment layers: Curves, Exposure, Vibrance, Color Balance, Channel Mixer, Black & White and Selective Color.
Layer Features, Smart Objects & Smart Filtering:
Many new features, e.g. three new icons, for the Layers panel
Opens images as smart objects, creates smart objects and enables smart filtering
Use layer groups for additional masking and better organization
Use vector masks
Create and work with layer masks (for Elements 1-8)
Adjust the fill opacity of layers
Align layers to a selection or each other and distribute them evenly
Stamp visible function for creating a duplicated copy of all layers
Hide/show multiple layers
Enhanced 16-bit Image Processing:
Convert images from 8-bit to 16-bit per channel and back again (Elements 6 and higher)
Quick Mask Mode lets you create or edit selections with all available filters and tools, e.g. the brush or gradient tool. (Elements 6 and higher)
Edit the channels of a RGB image individually and use them as selections
New Curves, Channel Mixer and Sharpen filters
Apply Image command for blending the image with itself while using an image channels as a mask (Elements 11 only)
Up to 12 new key shortcuts known from Photoshop
Auto-Align and Auto-Blend features for recomposing portraits, creating panoramas and increasing the depth of macro shots (Elements 6 and higher)
Edit the channels of a RGB image individually
Fade and Trim commands like in Photoshop
Apply Image command like in Photoshop (Elements 11 only)
Soft proof option for seeing how your images looks on a certain device or printer
New options: e.g. Non-Linear History, Log History to Metadata, Auto-Update All Documents
Custom pixel aspect ratio
Quick Mask Mode for editing selections with filters and tools, e.g. the brush tool
Transform selections (for Elements 1-7)
Create selections from layer masks, layer opacity and image channels
Larger Font Preview
Three new text anti-aliasing types
Spell check text layers and use Find & Replace on them
Convert text layers to shapes for more creative freedom
Adjust text tracking and use paragraph
Here are a few image showcasing some of the features through the interface:
[Via Pop Photo]