Gimp vs Illustrator – Which Is Better?

Gimp and Illustrator have one thing in common – they are the best at what they do.

While Gimp manipulates images, Illustrator designs and edits vector graphics.

These two platforms, though different, have their qualities, benefits, and drawbacks when compared.

For instance, Illustrator may not help much in photo editing, while Gimp won’t do you justice with designing graphics.

It can be pretty challenging to decide which of them is best for your project. That’s why I’ll get into details about each tool to help you settle on what best suits your needs.

What is Gimp? What is Illustrator?

Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is open-source image manipulation and photo editing tool used by designers and photographers.

This powerful, free tool is newbie-friendly, with excellent features you can use for retouching, editing, cropping, and merging pictures.

Gimp is equipped with tools for image enhancement, noise reduction, color adjustment, cropping, customizable brushes, gradients, and more. The software supports downloadable or pre-installed plugins.

On the other hand, Illustrator is a design software for use in designing vector graphics, including images, posters, typefaces, logos, presentations, detailed illustrations, flyers, and other artworks. This powerful vector-based tool helps graphic designers turn art into masterpieces.

If you are an artist or graphic designer, this tool will help you produce pixel-perfect artwork. The software provides design templates and presets and is integrated with Adobe Creative Cloud to help you share your projects across.

Illustrator is not just limited to graphic design; it also has a drawing tool that extends its capabilities to new dimensions.

GIMP was established in 1995, while Illustrator was formed in 1987. Both have grown to become robust tools in their specializations.

Now that we understand GIMP and Illustrator, let’s delve into their comparisons.

GIMP vs Illustrator: Strengths for Each


As a cross-platform software, GIMP leads while others follow. You have the freedom to manipulate its source code and share the changes.

Although free, GIMP doesn’t compromise on its features. It packs loads of quality features and sophisticated tools that every graphic designer, photographer, and illustrator needs to get their projects done.

Its standard interface is beautifully designed and built with a clean, modern layout that enhances performance. The user interface is divided into the toolbox, main editing area, and the paths, layer, channels, and undo section. The image tabs show vital image thumbnails.

GIMP doesn’t have in-depth photo editing features, but its editing features, tools, and commands are superb. It goes beyond the basics to offer the most advanced editing tools such as channel manipulation. The open layers command is one such feature that lets you map an image into another’s layer.

Even if it’s open-source software, GIMP is pretty extensible. You can utilize the customization options and third-party plugin support to enhance productivity.

Explore more Gimp-like tools here.


Illustrator is renowned for its ability to produce pixel-perfect designs. You can use it to create paths that are automatically aligned to the closest pixel grid. This necessitates the production of clear lines and sharp segments.

Illustrator’s Snap to Pixel capability is another thing we can’t overlook. It helps you customize the pixel snapping feature to align your artwork on the exact pixel boundaries.

Its Snap to Pixel options include drawing, moving, and scaling. As you draw, scale, and move vector shapes and paths, Illustrator will align them automatically to the pixel grid.

While working with Illustrator, you’re allowed access to over 90 million images, videos, graphics, and plenty of other creative assets. All the templates and assets are well organized in Adobe Stock.

Here is where you also find a collection and marketplace with all the resources. They’re built into the Adobe Creative Cloud apps, so you can download them easily and use them in your projects.

Illustrator also contains presets that help you start your artwork from scratch. You’ll be able to customize these presets details, including the name, orientation and layout, and the number of artboards in the document.

Check out some of the best alternatives to Illustrator.

GIMP vs Illustrator: Main Feature Comparison

GIMP Features

GIMP is developed with features including original artwork, hardware support, digital retouching, graphic design elements, Swatchbooker, Scribus, and more.

Since it works with UNIX systems and is fully customizable, GIMP gives you the freedom to move and take away the areas and tools you don’t need. This helps you retain and work with only those things you need, and in return, you’ll speed up your workflow.

As mentioned earlier, GIMP is a popular photo editor. The best part is that it’s portable, and you can carry it with you if you want to transfer files to another device.

Some of GIMP’s notable features is the cloning feature. It allows you to remove unnecessary details using the Clone tool.

If you need to modify details quickly, you can use the Healing tool. The rotation option is another feature that lets you rotate photos in any direction and alter their backgrounds.

Its healing tool will let you remove any odd spot from an image. The best part is that you can perform batch processing to minimize the time required to complete large volumes.

GIMP also offers fascinating features like the Droste effect or transforming images into very tiny worlds. This comes in handy when you want to produce creative projects.

Illustrator Features

Illustrator also packs a punch when it comes to features like CSS extractor tool, color synchronization, touch workspace, free transform option.

Dynamic symbols, perspective drawing enhancements, images in brushes, magnification options, shape builder freeform mode, smart guides, and more.

The most important features of Illustrator include downloading editable graphics from the stock image gallery and saving images as SVG in order to recolor graphics in PowerPoint. The Path Simplify feature ensures easy path editing.

Illustrator also comes with an auto spell check feature, efficient control panel, a highly customizable toolbar, and the trim view.

With Illustrator, you can work on any scale since you have beautifully crafted designs and the best graphical presentations and illustrations a click away.

There are plenty of dynamic ways to create your designs and customize them to your liking. Create your designs and innovate them with appealing textual designs.

The best thing about Illustrator is that you can collaborate with other Adobe family tools like InDesign, Premier Pro, and XD for captivating results.

GIMP vs Illustrator: Photo Editing Capabilities

GIMP has some of the best photo editing capabilities in the market. They include;

  • Straightening the horizon
  • Image cropping
  • Improving exposure
  • Correcting white balance
  • Tweaking photo colors
  • Adding photo contrast
  • Removing dust from photos
  • Removing backgrounds
  • Resizing images

Illustrator has photo editing capabilities too. Except it works mainly with vector images. It can also edit raster images by changing the color, adding special effects and cropping photos.

You can resize or scale a vector image quickly without diminishing its quality.

GIMP vs Illustrator: User-friendliness and Flexibility

GIMP has a customizable, intuitive interface that allows you to work fast. It is simpler than Illustrator’s, and every aspect of its functionality is well laid out.

Illustrator is quite user-friendly, too, making it easy to navigate and produce high-end results and compelling graphics. Its style and layout are appealing too.

Flexibility is another factor that’ll help you select the right tool. Both Illustrator and GIMP are flexible tools.

GIMP has both basic and advanced editing features, while Illustrator has basic and advanced graphic creation features. You can add more of these features to GIMP using different plugins.

GIMP vs Illustrator: Which One Should You Use And When?

We already know that GIMP is widely used for image manipulation while Illustrator is widely utilized during image creation.

But which of these should you use and when?

Using GIMP

  • Use GIMP only when your primary purpose is image enhancement or editing. GIMP has the right features to help accomplish this.
  • Besides image editing, you’ll be able to modify existing projects by adding or adjusting colors and other features. GIMP never disappoints when it comes to image manipulation.
  • You have pixel-based artwork or raster-based graphics to work on.

Using Illustrator

You can use Illustrator;

  • When you need to create an image or design from scratch.
  • When you want to work on vector-based projects like designs, logos, flyers, and other projects that need smooth edges, zooming capabilities, and no resolution issues.
  • When you’re looking for the flexibility of design creation.
  • When you want to bring your idea to life, Illustrator has the best tools and features to get the job done.
  • When you need to create documents like brochures, and annual reports, etc.,

By now, you should be able to understand what can work for you between GIMP and Illustrator.

GIMP vs Illustrator: Which Plugins Can You Use?

Extra plugins give software the upper edge. Here are some of the vital plugins to use in GIMP and Illustrator.

GIMP Plugins

  • FX-Foundry – This is a huge plugin packed with 100 different image processing scripts, including image effects, animation, selection effects, shapes, etc.
  • Save for Web – This plugin helps to size and select the file format when saving.
  • Resynthesizer – Resynthesizer lets you choose what to erase or delete from the image.
  • Layer Effects – Layer effects provide various layer effects such as color overlay, emboss and bevel, and drop shadow to work with GIMP.
  • GIMP Photo Studio – This plugin includes designing components like gradients, brushes, patterns, tool presets, patterns, and more.
  • GEGI (Generic Graphics Library) – GEGI helps GIMP to support 16-bit image depths.

Illustrator Plugins

These are the best Illustrator plugins.

  • Cineware – Cineware is meant for those who love experimenting with 3D. You can use it to adjust elements such as view and lighting on 3D videos.
  • Astute Bundle Plugin – This plugin provides features like live stipple effect and intuitive vector sketching to extend your functionalities.
  • Gold Rush – Gold Rush helps you incorporate a shiny texture into your design and make it glitter.
  • Fontself – Fontself helps you to make your own font and personalize your design.

You’ll find these plugins very useful.

GIMP vs Illustrator: Pricing

When it’s about pricing, you’ll need to evaluate the program for value. The good thing is that GIMP saves you the hassle since it’s free to use.

With Illustrator, you have a free 7-day trial before you pay to access its premium features. You’ll receive a good deal if you are a student or faculty member. To get more details \ about Adobe Illustrator’s pricing plans check their pricing page.

GIMP vs Illustrator: Integrations

Between the two, Illustrator is the one that offers app integration. While working on a project in Illustrator, you can edit in Photoshop. The platform also enables you to upload tasks to Behance, a creative network platform.

GIMP does not have any integrations.

GIMP vs Illustrator: Differences

First Release19961987
Type of GraphicRasterVector
Main PurposeImage editingImage/Illustration creation
Beginner FriendlyYesYes
Plugin SupportYesYes
PriceFree & Open Source
FeaturesLesser Features
LayersSingle LayerMultiple objects
Used Particularly inPhoto/image manipulationLogos, Comic Art, Vector Art

GIMP vs Illustrator: Platform Support and System Requirements

GIMP runs on several platforms, including Linux, Mac OS, and Windows. You are free to download any version of the program and install it without a subscription. Its deployment is on-premise.

Illustrator works well on Mac OS and Windows, but you’ll be required to create a subscription account from Adobe CC to operate it. Its deployment includes open API and cloud hosting.

When downloading GIMP or Illustrator, you also have to consider their sizes, RAM, and other requirements.

GIMP requires Intel Pentium IV or faster, while Illustrator requires a Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support. The recommended RAM for GIMP is 256 MB, while that of Illustrator is 8 GB.

GIMP is available for Windows, GNU/Linux, Mac, and other operating systems, while Illustrator is for Windows 10 and Windows server versions.

Illustrator vs GIMP: Customer Support

GIMP doesn’t have a customer support team, but you can submit your issue, and a developer or user will give you feedback.

Illustrator offers customer support via email, telephone, live support, tickets, and training.

GIMP vs Illustrator: Pros & Cons


  • GIMP is open-source, free, and cross-platform. This means you can utilize all its features freely without spending money. If you are tight on budget, you can use GIMP without worry.
  • GIMP is a powerful, feature-rich image manipulation tool with image editing and workflow tools you need in any image editing tool.
  • It comes with a content-aware fill plugin for content-aware tools with plugin.
  • GIMP has single and modular interface options. By default, it splits out each window, but you can choose the option of your preference.
  • GIMP is lightweight compared to other similar software. Being resource-intensive makes it portable to carry around and use it from another location.
  • It is a beginner-friendly platform that allows you to perform basic photo manipulations with excellent outcomes.
  • GIMP offers full channel support.

Illustrator Pros

  • Illustrator integrates amazingly with all the other Adobe software, including Ae, PS, ID, and more.
  • It is an industry-standard platform.
  • It’s packed with advanced tools.
  • Illustrator is equipped with all the vector tools needed.
  • Illustrator has a flexible, non-intrusive interface with small palette menus. You can save multiple menu layouts to make the user interface clutter-free.
  • It offers plenty of tutorials on the internet.
  • Illustrator allows you to access frequent feature updates.
  • The software is easy to learn and work with its tools.


  • The platform does not embrace the OS X application design. This means it will be difficult for Mac users to navigate the GIMP interface.
  • GIMP doesn’t pack many features. You may not find it helpful if you are looking for more advanced features.
  • It doesn’t have adjustment layers. Without adjustment layers, you cannot combine various photo manipulations. You can only see changes by irreversibly editing an image.

Illustrator Cons

  • Illustrator is a subscription model that you can’t use unless you subscribe.
  • Illustrator consumes a lot of CPU space and RAM.
  • It can be very slow even when used on the best computer.
  • When installing illustrator, so many intrusive software and services come along too. It also installs two to three more software that auto starts and runs immediately after starting the OS. One of them is for auto-updating, the other for checking, and some others will collect information.
  • Illustrator doesn’t rely on precision.

Illustrator vs GIMP FAQs

1. Can I use GIMP to design Commercial Projects?

Yes, this is because GIMP is free, open-source, and without any restriction for what you can do with its features.

2. Between a GIMP and Illustrator, which is easy?

GIMP is easier to use. It has a simple user interface that helps you get started fast. It doesn’t take time to familiarize yourself with the platform before you start working on your projects.

3. What is Illustrator generally used for?

Illustrator is used for creating vector graphics.

4. Who is Illustrator meant for?

Illustrator is designed for graphic designers and other artists.

5. Can Illustrator edit images?

Yes, Adobe Illustrator can edit and modify vector images after the creation process.

6. Which tool is great for designing screen media?

Adobe Illustrator offers plenty of benefits when designing the user interface. Illustrator works faster and can be used to create reusable components.

The symbols panel in Illustrator allows you to create a library of icons and form elements to reuse and manipulate several times.

Doing this speeds up the workflow, making your design more consistent.

7. Which platform is the best for digital art?

Illustrator works best in digital art, but this will also depend on the type of illustration. It enables you to create clean, extendable graphics that you can reuse.

Illustrator will ensure clean graphical illustrations. However, we can’t rule out GIMP, which provides photo-based illustrations that need careful photo manipulation and detail. A mixture of both will do some good.

8. Which is the best tool for wireframing and sketching?

Illustrator is easier to use when creating wireframes.

It is in this skeleton-like blueprint that all the designed entities start to form. Initially, you’d start with pen and paper, but now you can start graphics editing right away in the program.

Although you can do this in GIMP, too, Illustrator is easy and quick to use. You’ll easily resize, manipulate, and reuse elements.

GIMP vs Illustrator – Which is Better?

In this case, there is no winner. These two platforms have gone head to head in a very competitive race. The bottom line is that everything depends on what you’re working on and the tools you need for that particular project.

A deeper understanding of GIMP and Illustrator is vital for every creative. This helps you research, identify, and choose the best platform to use for your task with admirable outputs.

As a designer, you have control over your choice of software. However, this shouldn’t prevent you from delivering top-notch projects that appeal to the eye.

The most important thing is to understand the platform you are working with. This will help you utilize every tool and feature to get the most out of your project.

Always look into every software carefully to understand it better and ascertain if it’s what you need. Make sure you can personalize it to suit your particular requirements.

No single software offers perfect functionality. So when searching for one, make sure you first identify what you need it for. Read through the reviews, look for testimonials and go through the feature-set to see if they match what you are looking for.

Always consider elements like your particular business needs, finances, integration needs, business size, and more.

Final Thoughts

GIMP and Illustrator are excellent tools for different purposes – GIMP for photo enhancement and Illustrator for vector making. It is hard to declare one a winner because they work superbly on different graphics.

Every designer has unique needs and demands. There are many factors to keep in mind before employing software solutions such as these. What matters most is the experience and outcomes you get from using the platform.

This review is meant to help you evaluate these tools to familiarize yourself and choose what’s best for your projects. Go through each comparison carefully and make a decision that benefits your outcomes.

About Author

Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.