Photoshop is the most popular image editing app out there and GIMP is the best free alternative to it. Choosing which one to use isn’t always easy. Most people don’t want to spend money on an app if they don’t have to, especially when it involves paying monthly.
Which app is right for you depends on what you need it for. Let’s have a look at who should use GIMP and who should use Photoshop.
Use GIMP if You Love Linux
There is one situation when GIMP is the undisputed champion: on a Linux system. While there are workarounds with apps like Wine, it’s a lot of hassle and unreliable with something like Photoshop.
If you’ve gone to the effort of setting up your own Linux machine, you’ve more than demonstrated you can handle the vagaries of open source software, and especially, open source forums. There’s a good chance you’re against the idea of paying for software when there’s a decent open source alternative so GIMP is definitely the app for you.
Use Photoshop if You Love Your Phone
Over the last few years, Adobe has really begun to develop tools for smartphones. Their first apps weren’t particularly good (largely because the phones just weren’t powerful enough) but their latest attempts are great.
Lightroom Mobile brings most of the best features of Lightroom to your smartphone. Photoshop Fix and Photoshop Mix put some of the most useful Photoshop tools at your fingertips. Even better, with the Adobe Cloud, all the work you do on your mobile syncs back to your computer.
If you take loads of photos with your phone or want the ability to work on the go, Photoshop — along with all the extra apps it supports — is the better choice.
Use GIMP if You’re on a Budget
While Photoshop isn’t an expensive app — Photoshop and Lightroom together cost just $10 a month — it is an ongoing commitment. If you don’t need what Photoshop offers or only use it occasionally, it can be hard to justify the expense. There are plenty of other awesome ways to spend ten dollars (like saving up for an adventure) that can offer far more bang for your buck.
Yes, almost anyone can stretch to paying ten dollars a month for a tool they use every day, but if you don’t use Photoshop that much, or are conserving money for other reasons, then GIMP is the better app simply because it’s free.
Use Photoshop if You’re a Professional
If you can count Photoshop as a business expense, or even better, get your boss to pay for it, then it’s the obviously the tool to use. This is the category I fall into. The whole Creative Cloud costs me around €50 a month and I use many of the apps on a daily or weekly basis. While I haven’t (yet) convinced someone else to pick up the bill, it’s still a tax write off at the end of the year.
The best thing about being a writer is that almost everything can be a tax write off—all you’ve gotta do is write about it.
— Harry Guinness (@HarryGuinness) April 4, 2016
Adobe’s tools are also the ones of choice for other professionals. If you’re working with someone else, they might send you a PSD or other Adobe proprietary format. If you don’t have the tools to handle the files, you won’t be working with them very long.
If you’re a professional, unless you fall into one of the other categories, there’s no reason to GIMP and plenty of good ones to use Photoshop.
Use GIMP if You Don’t Need it All the Time
GIMP, despite its flaws, is a more powerful tool than many of the other free photo-editing apps. It might not be the simplest tool to use but you can do a lot with it.
If you occasionally need powerful tools then GIMP is probably the app for you. Plenty of apps will let you crop images or add some brightness or contrast, but with GIMP you can do some real edits.
For most people, apps like Apple’s Photos or even Instagram will be enough for their editing needs, but if you want more, you can’t go wrong with GIMP.
Use Photoshop if You’re a Designer
If you’re a designer, then GIMP really isn’t an option. While GIMP can be a decent replacement for Photoshop for some uses, it doesn’t hold a candle to Illustrator or InDesign — two of the other apps in the Creative Cloud. Also, if you’re designing for print, GIMP’s lack of CMYK support is a deal breaker.
For a quick logo mockup GIMP might get by, but for anything else you’ll need the full features of Photoshop and its companion apps.
Use GIMP if You Dislike Adobe
While this might be a niche category, there are a lot of people who don’t like Adobe as a company. One of the big issues people have is with Adobe Flash. It’s one of the most common vectors of attack for hackers. While Adobe has now killed it off it’s still going to be around for a long time until everyone stops using it.
It might be a little irrational to hate Photoshop because of Adobe’s other products but, if you do, then GIMP is obviously the better option.
Use Photoshop if You’re a Photographer
Editing is just one part of post-processing for Photographers; you also have to sort through however many hundreds of pictures you’ve taken. In a few hours shooting, I can easily capture 1,000 images. Many of them will be sketches or failed shots, but there will be at least five or ten images that are worthy of further attention.
With Photoshop you also get Lightroom which is the best app available for sorting through lots of images and pulling out the keepers. You also get a powerful RAW processor which you don’t get with GIMP.
For editing an image here or there, GIMP is fine, but if you’re a serious Photographer then you need to invest in Photoshop and Lightroom.
Choosing between GIMP and Photoshop gets a lot easier if you consider what you need it for. If you’re a professional or someone who is going to use all the extra tools then Photoshop is the obvious tool. If you have a Linux machine, are on a budget, or only need to use the app occasionally then GIMP is the app to go with.
I’ve only touched on some of the many situations where you’d use one app over the other. Which one do you use and why? Let us know in the comments.