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Linux users are perpetually stuck in a dilemma. While the freedom of open source What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] "Open source" is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. You may know that certain things are open source, like Linux and Android, but do you know what it entails? What is open... Read More is great, Linux consistently sits between 1% and 2% market share, which means industry standard programs, like Photoshop, rarely give Linux users the time of day.

The great tragedy is that even after all this time, the open platform of Linux still has yet to produce competing software that can really match Photoshop head-to-head (if you’re thinking about GIMP, we’ll get to that later). Photoshop truly is the king of image editing Photoshop CS6: Your Ultimate Overview Photoshop CS6: Your Ultimate Overview Whether you're looking to get the most out of your copy of CS6 or wondering whether it's worth the upgrade, this ultimate outline will teach you all of the tricks and tools. Read More .

But if you’re absolutely unwilling to boot into Windows or OS X, what are your options?

Photoshop on Wine

linux-photoshop-alternatives-photoshop

First things first: don’t give up on Photoshop just yet! With a little knowledge and elbow grease, it may be possible to run Photoshop as-is on your Linux distro. This is done by using an emulator called Wine (which stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator).

Long story short, Wine sets up an area on your system that’s used as a kind of sandbox for emulating Windows. To install a Windows program, you have to install it through Wine using the program’s relevant installer .EXE. Then, when the program is launched through Wine, it runs just like any other Linux program.

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Do be warned, however, that not all Windows applications can be launched through Wine. Fortunately, Wine is constantly evolving and support for newer apps is always expanding.

If you have access to a copy, we have instructions you can follow to install Photoshop CS5 on Linux An Idiot's Guide to Installing Photoshop CS5 on Ubuntu 10.04 An Idiot's Guide to Installing Photoshop CS5 on Ubuntu 10.04 Read More . The same steps might work for Photoshop CS6, but it’s hard to say if it will work with Photoshop CC.

GIMP

linux-photoshop-alternatives-gimp

If there’s any program that could be considered “the open-source version of Photoshop”, it would be have to be GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). GIMP has been around since 1995 — compared to Photoshop’s debut in 1988 — making it one of the oldest open source applications that still exists.

GIMP is pretty flexible out of the box and includes several core features that can replicate a lot of the same effects as Photoshop. GIMP is also built with extensibility in mind, meaning you can add new functionality by installing third-party plugins Better Than Photoshop? Make GIMP Even More Powerful With These Plugins Better Than Photoshop? Make GIMP Even More Powerful With These Plugins We all know that Photoshop is the premiere application for image and graphics manipulation. It simply does everything you could possibly want, which is the reason why most professionals choose it and why your wallet... Read More .

In short, GIMP is powerful enough to suffice in a professional capacity. The only downside is that GIMP specifically avoids copying Photoshop’s interface, so there’s very little overlap between keyboard shortcuts, menu organization, settings, etc.

Inkscape

linux-photoshop-alternatives-inkscape

Seeing as how Inkscape is a vector image editor, it’s actually more in line with Illustrator than Photoshop. However, some people do use Photoshop and GIMP for vector editing, and if that’s the case with you, then you should know that Inkscape would be a much better solution.

Features of Inkscape include basic vector shapes, advanced object grouping and management, gradient meshes, wide support for file formats, and extensibility through plugins (much like GIMP in this regard).

Unfortunately, as is the case with most open source programs, Inkscape’s interface leaves something to be desired. It’s certainly passable enough to work even in a semi-professional setting, but you can tell it’s not as clean or refined as Photoshop or Illustrator.

Pinta

linux-photoshop-alternatives-pinta

On Windows, one of the better alternatives to Photoshop is the free image editor, Paint.NET Paint.NET: The Best Image Editor Available That You Should Download Paint.NET: The Best Image Editor Available That You Should Download We all edit images to some degree. Whether it’s a simple crop or resize, or maybe just adding some text, it’s nice to have an image editor that is reliable, fast, easy to navigate and... Read More . It’s more lightweight than Photoshop (which is admittedly quite bulky) but not as barebones as MSPaint, making it a great compromise.

The Linux equivalent of Paint.NET is Pinta.

Pinta comes with all of the basic and core functions you’d need right out of the box, including unlimited layers, full edit history, and over 35 effects for quick image adjustments. It can also switch between a docked interface and a free-floating window interface.

It’s the ideal solution for quick image retouching and simple edits. For something more substantial, you’ll want to look at something like GIMP mentioned above.

Krita

linux-photoshop-alternatives-krita

Back in 1998, a fellow named Matthias Ettrich tinkered around with GIMP and built a Qt-based interface for it. It caused divisions within the GIMP community, ultimately leading to development of a competing image editor that would eventually be called Krita.

The main focus of Krita is to be a digital painting application. As such, it tries to hide away most of its interface elements in an effort to make it easier to learn for newbies and easier to paint for veterans.

What constitutes “digital painting”? Things like concept art, comics, textures, etc. These are all made easy by Krita’s default package of tools, including several default brushes, multiple brush engines, an advanced layering engine, and support for both raster and vector editing.

Hint: Want to learn how to paint digitally? Check out these awesome Lynda courses for digital artists Learn Digital Art from Scratch With These 22 Lynda Courses Learn Digital Art from Scratch With These 22 Lynda Courses With hundreds of online courses to choose from, Lynda.com is the fastest way to mastery of digital art. Here are a few courses to get you started. Read More and start learning today.

MyPaint

linux-photoshop-alternatives-mypaint

If you’re looking for a digital painting application with a truly minimal interface, MyPaint may be right for you. Like Krita, it’s made for people like concept artists, comic artists, and texture painters who hate the distraction of windows and toolbars.

MyPaint is certainly simpler than Krita, so don’t expect it to be as packed full of features. However, that doesn’t mean it’s lacking. It supports pressure-sensitive tablets, has an unlimited canvas size, and customizable brush options.

If Krita is too heavy for you, then MyPaint is probably what you want. But if you give MyPaint a try and it’s not enough, you’ll want to switch over to Krita.

Other Image Editors for Linux

The beauty of Linux’s open source community is that new projects are always under development, which means it’s possible that there are several hidden gems out there just waiting to be discovered. Do you know of any? Post a comment and let us know!

Which Photoshop alternative do you like best? What kind of artwork do you create? Got any tips or tricks for us? We’d love to hear from you.

  1. Michael Weldon
    June 17, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    I run Puppy Linux, and am quite at home using the GIMP. However, just for the hell of it, I've managed to install, and get running, Photoshop CS2 under WINE. It's not hard to do, and it works perfectly. This is using WINE 1.7.53.

    I got hold of CS2 a couple of years ago, at the time when Adobe were shutting down the activation servers; for a couple of months, via a 'workaround', it was possible to download it for free. So, I did! It may be an old version, but it's still extremely capable.

    You can see it running here:-

    https://appdb.winehq.org/screenshots.php?iAppId=17&iVersionId=2631

    Mine is the first one in the Gallery...

  2. M Ament
    April 17, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    I've been a pro graphic artist since 1973 and I've use about every software package available. I want to say this about InkScape: if your business relies on making vector art don't use InkScape. It is horrible quirky, lacks features and is completely unreliable. There is little worse than being on deadline and having your program rasterize your art for no apparent reason making it un-editable or losing text and it's path when you save the file.

    • Workflow In Mind
      June 22, 2016 at 6:42 pm

      I've switched about a year ago to a full linux setup and I'm relying quite a lot in Inkspace.
      I definitely did not had your experience and I really enjoy it, it is lacking of some features for sure but for the rest once you get used to the UI I find it really powerful and stable.

      Can you elaborate on your issues, inconsistencies ? And are you using any alternative for vector work that you would suggest ?

      Thanks

  3. Kirk Nurse
    January 22, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Fine for digital media, huge pain for print, especially the lack of CMYK support. Yes most rips can handle RGB but if you do not know what you're doing it is a nightmare.

  4. Chris S
    November 10, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Although it has a less polished interface than these other programs, my favorite app for making panoramas is Fotoxx. You won't really need this functionality if your camera creates these for you like my Sony NEX-5R does, but Fotoxx does many other things including organizing photos though this can be a nuisance when you first start the program up and it requires syncing with your directory. Gwenview and gThumb also get honorable mentions for their basic photo editing and photo management.

  5. James Van Damme
    September 1, 2015 at 12:41 am

    I use Gimp a lot, but Digikam is great for photos. And LibreOffice Draw is OK for quick line art. My wife likes XnView because it's easy.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 1, 2015 at 6:55 am

      I always saw Digikam as more of a Lightroom replacement than Photoshop. What do you think?

      • James Van Damme
        September 1, 2015 at 11:21 am

        I don't use DigiKam to sort photos, just the editing tools. The filters can be hard to find on Gimp.

        • Mihir Patkar
          September 1, 2015 at 12:09 pm

          Aaah makes sense. Thanks for clarifying, James!

  6. L. Kimball
    August 28, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    The only thing I don't like about GIMP is the name.

    • Joel Lee
      September 2, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      Haha, I'm with you on that one. It's probably too late to change it at this point, but yeah, I wonder how different the product would be if it had a more "proper" name.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 2, 2015 at 5:41 pm

      I don't think it's too late to change it though, Joel. I mean, XBMC became Kodi, why can't GIMP become Retouch or something like that?

      • Joel Lee
        September 2, 2015 at 5:58 pm

        True. GIMP is more of a household brand than XBMC, but I guess it still isn't really a household name in the bigger picture. I have to hand it to you, Retouch is a pretty cool name!

  7. Katerina Kounavi
    August 27, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    gimp sucks

    • Joel Lee
      September 2, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      I think a lot of people would agree with you. What would you use instead? There aren't too many choices on Linux that can match GIMP's depth or breadth, unfortunately.

      • Mihir Patkar
        September 2, 2015 at 5:39 pm

        You know, more than a PS alternative, I'd love an Irfanview alternative on Linux.

        • fcd76218
          September 2, 2015 at 6:40 pm

          I'm sure Irfan Skiijan has received many, many requests for a Linux version of his program. However, I suspect, he is not familiar with Linux.

          As far as an alternative, don't hold your breath. It has fallen victim to the Linux culture of "choice." Coders/programmers/software developers would much rather churn out endless knock offs of *buntu then "waste" their time on creating needed and wanted Windows-equivalent apps. Irfanview and TurboTax/TaxAct programs readily come to mind. It takes relatively little ability to use the Chinese Menu method to develop a Linux distro. However, it takes solid programming knowledge to design and write an application from scratch.

  8. fcd76218
    August 13, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    "The only downside is that GIMP specifically avoids copying Photoshop’s interface, so there’s very little overlap between keyboard shortcuts, menu organization, settings, etc."
    The assumption being that one is thoroughly versed in Photoshop, has moved from Windows to Linux and is looking for a Linux alternative to PS. However, if one is a Linux user with minimal exposure to Windows, GIMP's dissimilar interface is no problem. I am a Linux user and have not done any image editing ever so for me the learning curve for Photoshop and GIMP is about the same.

    • Michael Tunnell
      August 22, 2015 at 12:30 am

      I agree that it is only an issue for people who are coming from a Photoshop background. I'd say further that the biggest thing that was holding GIMP back from being a good interface was the forcing of each section to be a different window but The GIMP has solved that with the somewhat new Single Window Mode.

    • Joel Lee
      September 2, 2015 at 5:18 pm

      Good point, fcd. I'm sure Photoshop's interface would be annoying for anyone who grew up on GIMP and tried switching over. I only wrote it as a downside because Photoshop tutorials are way more common than GIMP tutorials, and it would be nice if GIMP's design matched enough that those tutorials were cross-compatible.

      I concede that it might be an unfair mark against GIMP, but practically speaking, it is a negative.

      • fcd76218
        September 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm

        "I concede that it might be an unfair mark against GIMP, but practically speaking, it is a negative."
        It's only a negative for Window Fans. :-)

        • Phoenix16_1
          January 5, 2016 at 3:00 pm

          But since it isn't a plus for anyone -> practically speaking, it is a negative.

        • fcd76218
          January 5, 2016 at 5:32 pm

          Not too prejudiced, are you?

        • jdk
          January 5, 2016 at 7:08 pm

          As Lee mentioned, it's a negative toward tutorial fans, which is practically all newbies and veterans alike.

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