Adobe Photoshop Vs. GIMP. This is the real challenge of photo editing.
Do you know the differences between these two top-rated programs? If you ask someone to name a photo editor, Photoshop is likely the name you will hear.
The power of this image manipulation software from Adobe is such that not only has it become an industry-standard tool, but it has become a verb.
But anyone who works in the photographic and photo retouching industry knows of the existence of GIMP.
Would you use open source Gimp or proprietary Photoshop software to do a photo editing job?
For years the discussion is sufficiently heated, often based on rumor, and with little scientific basis is decreed better one software against the other.
Before considering the differences between the two programs, let’s go through the history of the two software and their strengths and weaknesses.
Adobe Photoshop, developed and distributed by Adobe, was born in 1990 to simplify and facilitate photographers in their work.
Since the beginning, the vocation of this program was and is professional.
Available for Mac and Windows systems, it can process images by breaking them down into layers and allowing the application of processing filters.
You can safely say that this software is used in all professional environments where graphic content development is required.
It’s quite difficult to summarize all the features in Photoshop without writing a book about it, but you can understand how it works in general and some of its most exciting tools.
Photoshop works directly on image pixels, so it isn’t a completely “non-destructive” editor that lets you rewind changes at any time.
Using its layer system intelligently, you can go back if necessary, but only at the cost of large image files in the proprietary PSD file format.
The layers are the backbone of Photoshop’s capabilities.
You can use non-destructive ‘adjustment layers’ to change the appearance of the image without changing the underlying pixels (so it can be non-destructive in this respect).
But you can also combine image layers to produce sophisticated montages created from two or more images and blended with layer masks and blend modes.
GIMP was born within the University of Berkeley, and in 1997 it officially became part of the GNU project so that the name is an acronym for the Image Manipulation Program.
Born then as a university project, it then spread as a free alternative to image manipulation.
GIMP is a potent tool that can be used both as a simple drawing program and as a professional photo editing program.
It’s also used for producing icons, graphic design elements, and user interface components.
Being expandable with various plugins and extensions, it can do practically anything in the graphic field, such as Photoshop.
The new version of GIMP
If you happen to have used GIMP before 2018, you will notice that the interface has changed, and the menus have a new dark theme that supports symbolic icons and HiDPI support.
The theme and icons can still be changed from the Edit menu -> Preferences > Interface, to have a more explicit theme and smaller or larger images.
The new version of GIMP has several improvements over the previous version:
- Color management functionality without the need for plugins.
- New blending methods and blending tools for blending.
- New unified transformation tool for making multiple transformations.
- New warp transformation tool.
- Digital Painting Enhancements
- Improvements to digital photography filters
- Level and mask enhancements
GIMP can read TIFF, PNG, PSD, and FITS files with up to 32-bit per channel accuracy.
The choice of tools is vast, especially for drawing with brushes, pencils, an airbrush, a copy tool, and transformation tools including rotation, scaling, cutting, and tilting.
Adobe Photoshop Vs. GIMP, the main differences
At the technical level, both software works with levels, with cutting and manipulation tools. With color adjustment, with filters and digital brushes, with layer masks and the possibility to install extensions to add new features.
So as operating tools, the two programs offer the same potential.
According to many people, in discussions on blogs and dedicated lists, the substantial difference is in the ease of use of Adobe’s program, compared to the less versatile free alternative.
In fact, from this point of view, GIMP developers from version 2.4 onwards, have started to completely redesign the graphical interface, giving birth to a new working tool.
The project volunteers are also working on overcoming some limitations on color depth and introducing a new graphics library, already present in part in the current version.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences
There are, however, some differences to point out that may make you decide to choose one software over another.
- Photoshop is not compatible with plugins and scripts for GIMP, vice versa, it is, though with limited compatibility.
- Photoshop doesn’t support the native GIMP format (XCF), while GIMP can read and write the native Photoshop format (PSD), with some limitations.
- GIMP and Photoshop have different color management features. Photoshop supports 16-bit, 32-bit, and floating-point images, Pantone, CMYK, and CIE XYZ color spaces. GIMP supports only CMYK with an additional plugin.
- GIMP provides Python-Fu or Script-Fu scripts, which are very flexible programming tools, but require minimal programming knowledge. On the other hand, Photoshop can program macros and repeat them merely with a play button.
From importing and exporting in different formats, GIMP is second to none.
- It has support for importing and exporting image formats such as BMP, JPEG, PNG, GIF, and TIFF, in addition to the file formats of various other applications, such as Photoshop.
- It comes with PostScript document support.
- It can process data from SVG files and ICO files, images for Windows icons.
- It can import PDF documents, allowing you to work on individual pages.
- It can work with the Raw format, used by many digital cameras.
As a primary setting, GIMP sees the division of space into multiple windows. You can find one for the toolbar, for the work layer, for the layer area, and so on.
Photoshop, on the other hand, has, for years, opted for a unified, single-window user interface.
Getting the same result with GIMP is very simple. Just activate the “Single Window Mode” option from the “Windows” menu.
The interface will be unified and will look more like the Adobe suite.
Levels and other customizations
GIMP, as a primary setting, displays a dotted contour line at each level on the worksheet.
For a user coming from Photoshop, however, this setting may be confusing because it is relative in the Adobe suite to the selection functions.
To disable it, simply go to “Preferences”, choose the “Image Windows” panel, then “Appearance” and then remove the checkmark at “Show Layer Outline”.
If you are used to Photoshop keyboard shortcuts, you can instruct GIMP to use the same paths.
This is quite accessible on Linux and Windows, where it is easy to access the software installation folder, while on Macs, you need a few more steps, via the “Library” folders, both user and system.
The latter may be hidden in the latest versions of OS X, so you will need to enable the display of obscured files beforehand.
GIMP is free is true, but it is without support. Or maybe you can find help in online forums. But there isn’t a department of a specialized company like you find in Adobe.
Which is the best between Photoshop and Gimp?
I believe that the answer lies not only in the use you want to make of these programs but also in the desire to experiment, learn, and get to know.
If you look on the web for images made with one or the other program, you will see that you can create fantastic professional graphic elaborations even with GIMP.
Photoshop indeed still remains a point of reference and an excellent product. However, the development of the open alternative has made great strides and can face Adobe’s software head-on.
The proverb says, “Between the two quarrels men the third enjoys”.
What about Krita? An exciting design and photo retouching software that comes from the KDE project and is having a very interesting development.
Krita, which in Swedish means pencil, was designed primarily as software for digital drawing and painting, but has many useful features for photo retouching.
Although not very mature, it is, therefore, comparable to Gimp and Photoshop and already has many of the basic features useful for working with images.
- Adobe Photoshop Vs. GIMP, who wins? That depends.
- If you are a Linux and free software fanatic, GIMP is your choice. If you are not a professional, GIMP is your choice.
- If you are a professional, Photoshop is the right choice for you, even if you use a device like an iPad to work.
- If you have money, use Photoshop. If you don’t have money, use GIMP.
- If you want dedicated support to use Photoshop if you don’t care about support and like to write in forums, use GIMP.
- If you like to manage everything in a single window, use Photoshop.
- There are many variables to consider. They are both great programs. It depends on the work you have to do.