All of this has led to a consumer boiling point over premium software licensing, and many photographers, photo editors, and creatives in general have been left searching for free or affordable alternatives to Photoshop and other Creative Cloud programs.
Well, luckily for all of us, the Open Source community has been busy strengthening free offerings to help everyday consumers give the “Golden Goose” the “bird” and flock to these awesome alternatives to help keep their creative projects soaring. Most photo editors have landed on GIMP, a.k.a. the GNU Image Manipulation Program, as their software of choice to replace their Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan.
GIMP, the Free Photoshop Alternative
By definition, GIMP is “a free and open-source raster graphics editor used for image retouching and editing, free-form drawing, converting between different image formats, and more specialized tasks.” It works on all popular operating systems (Windows, MAC, Linux), as well as other more obscure Linux and Open Source OS variations. Like Photoshop, it is primarily used to edit and manipulate photos, and it comes standard with plenty of commonly used tools, effects, and image adjustment features to help you create professional-quality photos and compositions. GIMP also uses a layer system to allow you to combine multiple images, add text, add layer effects and blend modes, and add layer masks, among many other things.
It has a variety of tools, with each tool containing additional tool options for further customization, including Selection Tools (known as “marquee tools” in Photoshop), Transform Tools, Paint Tools, a Text Tool, Paths Tool, Transform Tools (like scale, crop, rotate, perspective, and warp), and other miscellaneous tools.
With GIMP, you can also perform simple tasks like scaling an image up or down with minimal quality loss, or converting your image to commonly used file types like JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, PDF, EPS, and even PSD (Photoshop Document). GIMP’s native filetype is .XCF, which allows you to save your projects with all of the original layers still intact – making it simple to return to projects at any time.
GIMP Can Be Combined With Other Free Software
Some of you may be reading this article and thinking, “well, it’s great to have a free photo editor, but what about all of the other programs that I paid for with my Adobe CC subscription?” Fret not, as GIMP can also be combined with other free software to create a similar workflow to what you are used to with Adobe products.
For example, Photoshop comes built with CameraRaw, an image processor that allows you to open and edit RAW files prior to retouching or manipulating them in Photoshop. GIMP, on the other hand, can be integrated with a number of free RAW processors, including Darktable and RawTherapee. I cover how to download and easily integrate GIMP with Darktable in a video tutorial.
There is also Inkscape for vector-based graphics (most similar to Adobe Illustrator), Scribus for publishing (most similar to Adobe InDesign), and Olive for video editing (most similar to Adobe Premiere Pro). If you need stock photos to replace Adobe Stock, you can download them for free from Pixabay.
Tons of Educational Resources and Support
In addition to the developers that work on keeping the software up to date, GIMP also has a huge community of creators that support the program via free YouTube tutorials and affordable online courses. For example, Davies Media Design has over 200 free GIMP tutorials on our website and YouTube channel, including tutorials on the GIMP Basics, photo editing, photo manipulation, graphic design, and more. Additionally, our course has over 200 video lectures and 24 hours of content. If there’s something you want to learn how to do in GIMP, there’s a chance there’s already a great tutorial or course out there on how to do it.
So, rather than emptying your wallet each month to pay for premium photo editing software, switch to the free alternative GIMP.