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 has a deep hole after you buy it. But Photoshop isn’t the only image manipulation tool on the block. The leading open source alternative to Photoshop, GIMP, has plenty of power under the hood as well.
It is, however, not quite as feature complete as Photoshop on its own, so people can add functionality to GIMP by adding plugins and scripts. The range of functionality which can be added by these is practically limitless, so you’ll find plenty of things that may interest you. The library of GIMP plugins and scripts is huge, but here are my top picks for some impressive extras.
Layer Effects is a script which replicates plenty of the same functionality found in Photoshop. You can recreate anything from borders to drop shadows, inner shadows, bevels, embossing, and glows. You can also use them similarly to how they’re used in Photoshop, except that you’ll find them in a different location and that each effect is applied by creating the effect on a new layer.
Therefore, you cannot go back into the settings and change the parameters – you’ll have to undo what you’ve already done or delete the layer which adds the specific effect, and then re-select the layer which you wanted to place an effect on. You should get the hang of it after a bit of messing around.
Save The Web
Save for Web is a set of GIMP plugins which allows you to become a pro at saving images which will be used on the Internet. It offers a number of different formats and quality settings, as well as a preview window. This is great because small changes in the quality sliders can significantly reduce the overall size of your image while minimally affecting the perceived quality of that image. This can be done, experimentally, with the Export tools which come with GIMP, but these tools with the preview window make it so much easier.
Photo Effects is another set of plugins which let you apply different photo effects onto your images. These can be seen as image filters, but don’t expect them to be similar to those found on Instagram. While the popular photo sharing service mainly includes filters which affect the colors of your image, these effects add more – you can turn your images into cartoons, stained glass, pastel, color pencil, and much more. They’re fun to play around with to make your images a bit more complex.
Read in RAW Images
A lot of high-end professional cameras save their images as RAW data files. As the format isn’t nearly as common as .jpeg images, it takes some special software (and processing power) to load and edit these RAW images. By default, GIMP isn’t able to load these, but with the UFRAW plugin, it’s made possible. After it’s installed, it’s simply a matter of finding the image to load.
Don’t be surprised if GIMP acts a bit sluggish after loading a RAW image – the file is pretty big, after all!
Last but not least, may I introduce you to the Liquid Rescale plugin. Back when Photoshop CS5 was introduced, one of its biggest features was content-aware scaling of images. This was fantastic, because Photoshop was aware of what parts of the image was important, and could therefore cut out the less important parts in order to make the image smaller without squishing anything you cared about. Of course, the same applied to when you wanted to make images larger – it would know what to leave alone and what it should replicate to fill the new space.
The Liquid Rescale plugin essentially does the same thing as Photoshop’s content-aware scaling. The only difference is that you’ll have both options available in GIMP after installing the plugin – the regular scaling and the Liquid Rescaling.
With these five GIMP plugins, you’ll be adding quite a bit of Photoshop muscle to your GIMP configuration. Of course, there are plenty of other fantastic plugins which can be added to GIMP. You should be able to find these through a simple Google search or by checking the GIMP plugin registry. Most plugins are easy to install, as you’ll just need to copy the necessary files into either the plugins or scripts folder. Windows users can find these folders in C:\Program Files\GIMP, and Linux users can find them in /home/<user>/.gimp.
What are your favorite GIMP plugins and scripts? Do you think GIMP is a good Photoshop replacement? Let us know in the comments!