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Using GIMP as a Free Alternative to Photoshop

Using GIMP as a Free Alternative to Photoshop main article image
Posted on May 4, 2022 by Claudio Junior

GIMP is a cross-platform image editor available for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows, and more operating systems. It is free software that acts as a great alternative to Photoshop.

Photoshop transcended from being just a piece of software to also becoming a verb that indicates any kind of image manipulation. As you know the Adobe program is a decent investment of money and those without the financial means or interest go out looking for the best Photoshop alternative they can find. Most of the time, that’s the open-source gem GIMP. If the features and tools Gimp offers can’t fully satisfy your needs, but Adobe Photoshop’s cost is still a problem for you, you can look through the possible ways of how to get Photoshop for free and enjoy its image editing capabilities to the fullest.

What is GIMP?

Before we go any further, understand this: GIMP is not as polished as Adobe Photoshop. If you like open-source software, that should come as no surprise. It’s really hard to get UX and UI designers to contribute as much as devs for some reason. If you want the sleek, polished, ultra-professional, modern experience you will likely not be satisfied by GIMP. And that’s cool. There is something for everyone.

But if you’re not scared away by the simple, function UI, there’s a lot of power in this Photoshop alternative.

GIMP, short for GNU Image Manipulation Program, is an open-source image editor that you can use on Mac, Windows, or even Linux (which can’t run Photoshop at all). GNU is a type of open-source license, and it just happens to be the same one our dearly beloved WordPress uses.

GIMP was first released all the way back in 1996 (that’s pretty old but not as old as Photoshop’s 1988 debut). Since that original 1996 release, the community surrounding it has steadily grown, and the functionality has exploded. You can even use Photoshop extensions with it.

Beware of Fake Downloads

Just a quick aside here as a warning. Open-source software comes with its own set of challenges, despite how awesome it is, and GIMP is no different. Years ago someone forked the repo for the editor and made a product called GIMPshop that was meant to be “more accessible to the many Adobe Photoshop users out there,” according to the dev.

But let me urge you not to download GIMPshop under any circumstances. First of all, the original fork did not gain updates in years and years, and secondly (and more importantly), some folks with bad intentions created an alternate version of GIMPshop (with the same name GIMPshop) that is chock-full of malware and viruses.

So between an incredibly old build, dated UI, and bunches of baddies in the code, I urge you to stay away and only download the original and official software from their website.

Getting Started with GIMP

GIMP is local software, not cloud-based, so you have to go download the installer, and get it set up on your system. There shouldn’t be any issues with that any more than any other program you download.

Just be aware that GIMP has a pretty long load time. In my experience, it’s about 3x that of the most up-to-date Photoshop version. I don’t think it is a big deal, honestly, but you should know.

Initial UI

The UI may take some getting used to. It’s a multi-window UI initially and you can see the difference here from opening up the same image in Photoshop and GIMP.

Don’t be alarmed if you hate the multi-window view. You can change it by going to Windows -> Single-Window Mode. Suddenly, things begin to look a lot more accessible and familiar to Photoshop users.

What Can You Do With GIMP?

A lot, actually. While you can see the UI doesn’t have the pizzazz of Adobe’s flagship, it has many of the same features. If you’re a Photoshop power user, then it might be missing that must-have element. For casual users, it’s more than powerful enough to get nearly any job.

The big differences come in the workflow. GIMP doesn’t follow Adobe’s standards for keyboard shortcuts or layout and some features users find standard are missing from GIMP. That’s not to say you can’t do them. GIMP has an incredibly robust and powerful toolset. But keep in mind that you may be dealing with a series of workarounds.

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1 Comment
Paul Smile

November 30, 2022

Excellent and comprehensive Article! Used photoshop and gimp for a long time but gradually transitioned to gimp as it evolved. One of the main reasons why I eventually moved to gimp is I work on both Linux and Windows so with Gimp, I don't have to switch between two different interfaces. Honestly, there isn't much that I feel is lacking in gimp: It has the usual things you'd need for photo editing; layers, airbrush, clone/heal, curves, masks, fuzzy and foreground selection, and filters like Gaussian Blur, Unsharp Mask. It also has some very good photo-related plugins like Wavelet Decompose for skin retouching, and Anisotropic+Patch-based smoothing for denoising (part of the GMIC plugin). On the minus side, GIMP does not yet have adjustment layers, so you'll have to make do with things like extra layer copies and masks. It also lacks basic workflow features like non destructive editing. Also look through this article- , there are some great image editors, too.

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