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GIMP – The Best “Free” Alternative to Photoshop

GIMP In Action

Well I can call Adobe Photoshop as the “big daddy” of all photo manipulators out there, it comes with a premium price-tag. And if you are an amateur coder requiring to design an icon/logo for your home grown app or a blogger wanting to put some screenshots on your page with little annotations and a bit retouching, the price might pinch your pocket pretty hard. But don’t be sad, our little friend GIMP comes for our help.

GIMP – The Gnu Image Manipulation Program is a free both, as in free speech and free beer; software to manipulate and retouch various popular raster image formats (files made of pixels – JPG,GIF,PNG etc.) and style them with a host of fancy candy effects. It is a raster image editor with capabilities similar to that offered by Adobe Photoshop. It is in fact the best known and the second most widely used raster image editor. Its free software released under the GNU General Public License. This means that you can get the complete source code and tweak it to suite your requirements if you want to and are willing to dig into the code mess. Its open source.


Its UI is similar (but not a clone) to Photoshop with as usual tow panels – The tools and the other for layers, channels, etc. The difference is the latest Photoshop uses a dark visual style with a lighter background for canvas. But GIMP uses a lighter theme, almost matching with windows native theme with a bit darker background for the image canvas which is very helpful if you are drawing something with transparency. It has got all commonly used tools available in Photoshop albeit with a different but self-descriptive name and icon. I remember my first time encounter with Photoshop and how I was puzzled with the “Lasso”. All the fancy effects such as Blending, colorify and blurring etc. are available as “Filters” in the menu bar.

Its key bindings also have a major difference with Photoshop – things start with ctrl instead of alt and the vice versa. Oh Wait! There’s even something more – The “Colour to Alpha “. This is a fantastic feature that’s completely unique to GIMP. Well with so much research I couldn’t find one for Photoshop! You can use this tool to convert any colour to transparency with a single click. You might be wondering this can even be done with the lasso tool. But no, it creates complete transparency across the image, replacing the entire colour all together. It has even got a path tool that allows you create lines and figures right inside GIMP. GIMP also includes native support for SVG (import only).


Well, to say, no software is perfect. And GIMP is no exception. The major drawback is GIMP was developed originally keeping Linux in mind. It is the work of some enthusiast programmers that ported the entire GTK (The GIMP display toolkit) and in turn GIMP (and some other awesome programs too). Therefore it lacks behind especially in the field of its UI. The first thing is GIMP is still unable to use hardware acceleration for rendering. Though OpenGL rendering is still under development (Photoshop uses OpenGL) and is expected to be out with upcoming releases.

Meanwhile it uses GDI+ to do all rendering which is painfully slow and if you have selected a complex plugin or opened a very large document, then GIMP might hang for seconds, minutes or at worse just crash! There also exist some more rendering issues of icons and tool cursors that might be a small problem. Also the recent version (at the time of its writing v2.8) has a broken colour picker. If you’re a Linux user, you won’t have this issues.

On in-depth examining, the cons are not some violent ones to be a deal breaker but still, to say GIMP doesn’t provide all the effects provided by Photoshop. So it is not a complete alternative yet. Many are being developed, some are already in the process of merging into the mainstream and even some exist as plug-ins. Nonetheless, it hosts all the commonly used tools provided by Photoshop.

GIMP is available for download for various operating systems. Get to the official page and grab your download. Stay tuned to BlogZamana for some more exciting updates on some more cool software and technology.

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