After all these years I'm still using The Gimp. I'm now using Version 2.2.8
**not unrealistically expensive for a beginner?**
Check the link, it's free.
Remember, you have to download the 'GTK+2 for Windows' and
'The Gimp for Windows' zip files.
Run the 'GTK+2 for Windows' file first.
Read up about it if you're not 100% sure.
I've never had any problems with it.