GIMP and Photoshop are two of the most well-known image editing tools. However, the difference between them could not be any greater: One is free and open source, while the other is premium software that you need to pay to use.
However, which one is better for editing photos? Is it worth paying for Photoshop when you can edit photos for free using GIMP, and is GIMP lacking when it comes to editing features and tools?
Or, does GIMP have just as much functionality as Photoshop, making a Photoshop subscription unnecessary?
Which tool is easier to use, and which one has a steeper learning curve?
In this article, I will compare GIMP and Photoshop side by side on a wide range of issues. By the end of this article, you should have a pretty good idea of which tool is better for you.
Let us get into it.
GIMP is also an online photo editor that is quickly becoming a popular alternative to Photoshop. Not only is it free, but it is open source (more on what that means and the benefits of that later).
GIMP allows you to do much of what Photoshop allows you to do, but there are crucial differences.
Photoshop is a raster graphics and image editor, created and published by Adobe. It was first created back in 1988, so it has been around for a while.
Adobe Photoshop is often considered to be the industry standard when it comes to photo editing online. When people see that a photo is edited, they will often say that it was “photoshopped.”
In that sense, Photoshop has turned into a verb, similar to Google or Uber, which are also industry standards in their respective industries.
However, Photoshop is not for everyone. It costs money, and not everyone needs all the features and tools that Photoshop has to offer.
Both GIMP and Photoshop are advanced image editing tools. Don’t get me wrong: GIMP is not a simple tool.
However, if you only need to do simpler edits, GIMP might be a better choice.
As I just said, GIMP has a lot of advanced photo editing features and tools. In fact, for many people, GIMP will allow them to do whatever they would be able to do with Adobe Photoshop.
However, GIMP will never rise to the level of Adobe Photoshop when it comes to the vast selection of tools, including editing tools, selection tools, and more, that Photoshop offers. Adobe Photoshop will give you an edge over GIMP any day if you need to make advanced edits.
However, on the flip side, that also means that GIMP is a better choice if you only need to complete simpler edits. Whether you are an amateur or a professional, if your goal is to make less complex edits, GIMP should work just fine, and it will save you money.
Not only that, but too many options and features may overwhelm you.
Photoshop was designed for professional editors. It was made to be an industry standard for photo editing, photo manipulation, graphic design, and the like.
Professional graphic designers and photographers would be better off using Photoshop than GIMP. There are more selection tools, more editing features, better color support, and more.
Which platforms does GIMP or Photoshop support, and how many computers or devices can you download each program on at once?
GIMP works on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. Since GIMP is free, you can install it on as many computers or devices as you want.
The downside of GIMP is that there is no mobile GIMP app. However, there is an app called XGIMP, which is an adaptation of the main GIMP app for mobile devices.
XGIMP is available for both iPhones and Android devices. It is designed to provide all of GIMP’s features and tools on mobile devices, but it has many bad reviews.
While some reviewers complain that XGIMP has too many ads, most say that the interface is just extremely difficult to use and that it is not adapted well for mobile devices.
Other reviewers, on the other hand, say that once you learn how to use it, you will find that XGIMP is one of the most powerful image editing and manipulation tools available on mobile phones.
Photoshop, on the other hand, only provides native support for Windows and Mac computers. However, it is still possible to use Photoshop on Linux devices using a virtual machine or Wine (this was not always possible in the past).
Nevertheless, if you work mostly on Linux devices, you might find it easier to just use GIMP, as it provides native support for Linux.
Photoshop, unlike GIMP, does have a mobile version for Android and iOS devices, called Adobe Photoshop Express.
However, it is not exactly the same thing as Photoshop on a desktop. Instead, it is a mobile-optimized version to allow you to edit and touch up photos on mobile devices.
One downside of Adobe Photoshop is that with an individual license, you will only be able to install it on up to two computers. In addition, you will only be able to use it on one computer at a time.
If you have a third computer, you will have to deactivate your license on one computer, as you can not have it installed on three computers at once.
GIMP and Photoshop have different licensing models. Let’s explore them here.
GIMP is open-source software (available on GitLab). In other words, the source code the software tool is based on is open to the public.
An open-source license means that not only is the software free to use, but anyone can modify the code and distribute the software, as is or in a modified version. That is why people can make apps like XGIMP to adapt the software to mobile phones.
The benefit of software being open source is that you can take the source code and change it based on your needs. That gives you more customization and flexibility.
GIMP has a strong community of developers and users behind it. This community helps contribute to fix bugs and add features that can benefit users.
The downside of software being open source is that there is less incentive to update it, improve it, and provide new features.
The community of developers is contributing for free; many of them have jobs or other projects they are working on and can’t dedicate themselves to any particular open-source project full time.
Unlike Photoshop, GIMP does not have a company behind it. That is why you won’t get as many updates and new features added (though since it is free, you can’t really complain).
Photoshop is a proprietary license. In other words, it is owned and released by a specific company (in this case, Adobe), and they do not make the source code public.
While you can’t edit and customize the code, Photoshop gets updated more frequently. It also has a cost, but the cost is a lot more affordable than it used to be; I will talk more about pricing later.
It would be impossible to choose between GIMP or Photoshop without understanding at least some of the different editing tools and features offered by both programs.
Here, I will go over some features that may give one software an advantage over the other.
Tools like distort, curves, scale, perspective, warp, and other staples are there in GIMP.
Yes, GIMP does have all the staple editing features.
However, as of now, GIMP is lacking some advanced features. For example, while it has a wide range of selection tools, Photoshop just offers more selection tools, and those selection tools are also better than GIMP.
Adjustment layers and layer filters are also not supported by GIMP as of now, though they are planned in future versions. Photoshop, on the other hand, does support adjustment layers.
What are adjustment layers, and why are they important? Well, without adjustment layers, you are left with destructive editing.
While non-destructive editing is planned in a future GIMP release, it is not available now. That means that when you add layers and effects or filters to those layers, it will affect the layers underneath it, and there will be no going back.
Destructive editing gives you less control over your pictures because if you don’t like what you did when you edited a layer, you will have to start all over again or go to the limits of the undos allowed and then redo all the things you did not want to undo.
You can not undo a specific edit a few undos down the line without undoing everything else.
Adobe Photoshop fixes this problem by supporting adjustment layers. That allows you to make adjustments to specific parts of the image by layering parts either black or white.
According to Reddit user therealfakemoot in this comment, nondestructive editing can be thought of like a time machine. Imagine you can go back to a particular edit in your image editing history and change it, remove it, or even rearrange the history.
I think that was an amazing way of describing it.
Non-destructive editing also helps preserve the quality of the image. The reason for that is that it allows you to make edits to parts of the image without changing the pixels or the data of the image.
With GIMP, however, non-destructive editing is not implemented across the entire platform. While some specific tools may allow for non-destructive editing, GIMP still has a long way to go before non-destructive editing will be possible across the entire GIMP software.
Photoshop arguably also has much better and beautiful styles, as well as a better style interface.
In addition to the editing features, it is important to look at the color schemes available on either platform. They are important for the way many of your images or drawings will look after editing, especially if you plan on printing them straight away.
Both GIMP and Photoshop allow you to create custom brushes as well as mix brushes with different colors for a more realistic effect that looks more like a real painting. However, GIMP does not support CMYK colors.
What are CMYK colors? The CMYK color scheme is used in a lot of printing, and native support for CMYK editing is important if you do a lot of desktop publishing.
Unfortunately, GIMP does not support the CMYK color scheme, which can make it a less attractive option for those doing desktop publishing.
GIMP does plan to include support for CMYK in the future. However, as of now, it is quite a way off, so don’t count on it coming out very soon.
Photoshop, on the other hand, does support CMYK. That means that when you are publishing stuff, you can be sure that the colors you are using are accurately read and printed by the printer and that there won’t be any color variations.
Likewise, Photoshop adds support for UCR and GCR for printing. UCR stands for Under Color Removal, while GCR stands for Grey Component Replacement.
They are both used in printing to make the end product come out more balanced and look better. While Photoshop adds support for UCR and GCR, GIMP does not; nevertheless, they are advanced techniques that most people will not need to use.
Which program is easier to learn, Photoshop or GIMP? Also, which one has a better and more streamlined interface?
One of the most common complaints about GIMP is that its interface isn’t very intuitive or easy to use. Many users complain that the interface is kind of clunky and that it can be difficult to find the tools you need.
The truth is that GIMP’s interface is not as streamlined and straightforward as Adobe’s. It is more clunky overall, and it can be harder to get things done quickly if you are not familiar with the software.
However, that last line is crucial. Once you do get used to the GIMP interface, things become a lot easier.
If you are used to Photoshop, you will likely find GIMP clunky and many users even describe it as extremely frustrating. On the other hand, if you are willing to give GIMP some time until you get used to the way the interface looks, you will likely have fewer problems overall.
There are tutorials, documentation, and blogs online with tips for using GIMP. These can help you figure out how to use the software overall or how to find specific editing tools and options.
Photoshop has a better interface overall; it is more streamlined and straightforward. It is easier to get used to, although there may be some additional options that you don’t need, which can also be a bit confusing.
Nevertheless, Adobe wins overall when it comes to the interface. Since it is a paid program, that can be expected.
There are also more tutorials and helpful blog posts and videos online explaining how to use Photoshop or how to perform specific actions. That is because Photoshop is a lot more popular than GIMP and has a lot more users.
The demand for Photoshop-related content is therefore higher, and content creators simply react to that demand.
If you only have limited space on your computer, should you download GIMP or Photoshop? Which program uses up more space?
GIMP is not nearly as large as Photoshop. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Photoshop has more features and tools available.
In any case, if you are short on disk space, GIMP might be a better option than Photoshop. It won’t take up as much space on your computer, and it won’t slow down your computer or use up your CPU.
Photoshop is bigger than GIMP overall, so make sure you have enough space. You need at least 8 GB of RAM, and ideally, you should have 16 GB of RAM, as well as 4 GB of empty hard disk space, before downloading Photoshop.
You can check out the system requirements for downloading Photoshop here.
The minimum recommended RAM for GIMP, on the other hand, is only around 256 MB. That is a fraction of what Photoshop requires!
GIMP is a very light software program, and you can even store it on a USB drive and install it on other computers from the USB drive. For memory conscious users, GIMP would be a better choice.
Both Photoshop and GIMP have various third-party plugins that allow you to customize the software and add new functionalities.
Many of GIMP’s plugins are created by developers from the community. However, it can be hard to know which ones are best for you.
Many plugins for GIMP were created by developers who stopped maintaining them. They are also not all displayed on a single page online, so you might have to search the web a little until you find a good one that gives you the functionality you want.
Photoshop’s plugins, on the other hand, are often created by well-known brands and companies. You can see available Photoshop extensions and app integrations in this library.
Finally, let’s discuss pricing.
As mentioned, GIMP is open source and entirely free to use. If you see a paid version of GIMP being sold on a random website, do not buy it.
Instead, go to the GIMP Download Page to see official downloads for different operating systems.
Photoshop used to cost hundreds of dollars for a license. In the past, Photoshop was out of reach for the average person looking to do edits for non-business reasons, as well as small-time photographers or graphic designers who could not afford hundreds or even thousands of dollars for Photoshop and other Adobe products.
However, Adobe has since switched to a subscription model. That means that instead of paying a huge fee upfront, you can now pay a small fee every month (or year) for continued access to Photoshop and other Creative Cloud tools.
The good part is that pricing starts at just $239.88/year (which comes out to $19.99/month, paid annually) or $20.99/month paid monthly. If you pay yearly, you will get access not just to Photoshop but to Lightroom as well, in addition to increased storage space.
Lightroom is another tool by Adobe that is not as advanced or comprehensive as Photoshop. However, it provides for an easier workflow and allows photographers to import a lot of images at once, organize them, and edit them.
You can see updated pricing on this page. Keep in mind that pricing can also vary based on region and that the above-mentioned prices are for the United States.
So, Adobe Photoshop is now a lot more affordable than it used to be. However, GIMP will always be cheaper, simply because it is free.
|More Advanced Tools||✗||✓|
|Better Interface & UX||✗||✓|
|CMYK Color Support||✗||✓|
|Native Linux Support||✓||✗|
|Mobile App||✓ (XGIMP)||✓|
If money is not an issue, I would say to stick with Photoshop. It is easier to learn, the interface is not as clunky, and it will allow for more advanced edits.
GIMP is good, and the fact that it is free is something Photoshop can never beat. However, it just can’t compare with Photoshop overall.
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.