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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 How to Run Windows Apps & Games with Linux Wine How to Run Windows Apps & Games with Linux Wine Is there any way to get Windows software working on Linux? One answer is to use Wine, but while it can be very useful, it probably should only be your last resort. Here's why. Read More , it’s a lot of hassle and unreliable with something like Photoshop.

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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.

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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 How to Turn Your Next Vacation into an Adventure How to Turn Your Next Vacation into an Adventure Adventure is a state of mind. Take a few ideas from here when you want your vacation to be a compromise between new excitements and familiar relaxation. Read More ) that can offer far more bang for your buck.

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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.

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 What Can Photoshop Do That GIMP Can't? What Can Photoshop Do That GIMP Can't? GIMP can do a lot of what Photoshop can do, but there are some areas it falls short. Here is a summary of the key differences. Read More .

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 Perform These 7 Awesome Photoshop Tricks in GIMP Perform These 7 Awesome Photoshop Tricks in GIMP Read More , 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.

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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 Mark Zuckerberg Launches "Charity", Adobe Kills Flash... [Tech News Digest] Mark Zuckerberg Launches "Charity", Adobe Kills Flash... [Tech News Digest] Mark Zuckerberg secures his baby's future, Adobe signals the beginning of the end for Flash, Microsoft seeks peace for Christmas, Google launches its Santa Tracker, and Uncanny Valley unsettles gamers. Read More it’s still going to be around for a long time until everyone stops using it Why Flash Needs to Die (And How You Can Get Rid of It) Why Flash Needs to Die (And How You Can Get Rid of It) The Internet's relationship with Flash has been rocky for a while. Once, it was a universal standard on the web. Now, it looks like it may be headed to the chopping block. What changed? Read More .

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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.

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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.

Wrapping Up

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.

  1. Leopardmask
    September 17, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    "If you're on a budget" "If you don't use it regularly" Well, I guess GIMP would be the option for me then! Currently I have a program installed called FireAlpaca - it sort of works for what I do with it, but it's a little clunky and hard to use sometimes. I've heard GIMP uses a different UI from other programs, but if I ever find myself with some extra time to learn maybe I'll download and check it out!
    (Although I do seem to remember attempting to download GIMP and it being too complicated/confusing a process somehow)

  2. Marshall Brown
    August 28, 2016 at 2:41 am

    Just an aside; My first company computer was a MAC and had a pirated beta version of Photoshop issued to some tester if I recall. This would have been in about 1985-1990. The authors were at the University of Michigan and were brothers I think. This would predate the sale to Adobe by a couple of years. I didn't need it for work but it was fun to play with.

  3. Nics
    July 31, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    All I see is "if you're on a budget"! So GIMP it is. Even though I am a Photographer. My computer is ancient, I'm using VISTA 32 bit and only have Service Pack 1, so I'd even need a new laptop to start using PS! I am new to photo editing though, so I plan slowly learning and gaining experience on GIMP, and then one day hopefully move to Photoshop and Lightroom somehow.

  4. Mr. Fred
    July 30, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    The review mentions the capabilities of other tools than PS in comparing with GIMP, such as Illustrator and InDesign. That makes no sense. Compare PS features with GIMP, not other Adobe product features with GIMP. InDesign corresponds more with Scribus in the free software world ... make that comparison instead.

  5. mazhar
    July 10, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Thanks. it really made my way

  6. Rich
    June 11, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    These articles need a timestamp...

    • Rich
      June 11, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      Nevermind, found it on top of the header image...

  7. Justin W
    April 26, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Adobe today reminds me of Microsoft back in the days when it was the king of technology--mediocre customer service and high prices. With Adobe's subscription software you are continually paying for software which seems to see few real improvements. Adobe subscriptions is good for the stockholders but not all that good for consumers.

  8. SilverDragonSys
    April 26, 2016 at 1:24 am

    As someone who has used GIMP almost since its inception, I love how GIMP is always pinned as an underdog to Photoshop when, with the right plugins/modules, you can do everything PS can do (including CMYK and RAW support) and much more. I can use any Photoshop plugin in GIMP, can open, edit and save PSD files in GIMP, can edit image metadata in GIMP, etc. And yet PS cannot do a single thing with native GIMP files!

    Now it is true that GIMP takes a bit of time to set up for professional image editing but it is more than a capable replacement for PS without the monthly expense, IMHO. I have used GIMP to create/edit hundreds of images for professional print use on several mediums; paper, cloth, acrylic, etc.

    I have also collaborated with several other professionals who do use PS primarily and have only encountered one issue, several years ago, using GIMP.

    I guess GIMP will have to start charging $1.00 a year in order to get a honest review of its true capabilities. ;)

    • Nics
      July 31, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      That's really encouraging to hear! Thank you for this comment.

  9. marijke.groothuis
    April 25, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    I have used GIMP for personal work for years and taught image manipulation using GIMP the last 5 years before I retired. Having used both Photoshop and GIMP extensively I can say this: if you wish to be locked into a piece of software without understanding what you are doing, use Photoshop - there are a lot of good photoshoppers out there. But if you wish to understand image manipulation and want to retain control, use GIMP. And as far as OS is concerned, I have had no problems using Gimp in any of the OS's mentioned, but again, you need to know what you are doing; the vast majority of computer users haven't a clue as to how their computers work...

  10. Myron Wallace
    April 23, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    I'm ashamed to say i hadn't heard of Gimp.

    Thanks for this article!

  11. ewan
    April 16, 2016 at 9:25 am

    What about paint .net

    • Joe Can
      June 16, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      I really like paint.net too. Probably a better free alternative to gimp if you're on windows, but if I wanted more advanced things, I would consider Gimp.

      Gimp is good enough for an advanced user, but professionals who grew up suckling the teet of photoshop really need not consider anything else.

  12. Stephen Jones
    April 15, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    If you use Gimp and you like free, then use Lightzone for your Raw processing

  13. Davin Peterson
    April 14, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    Their are many inexpensive or free alternatives to Photoshop that can do much of what Photoshop can do.

    Adobe is one of the most expensive software developers

    • Harry Guinness
      April 15, 2016 at 11:22 am

      Many of them have the same problems as GIMP. Either they don't have CMYK modes, handle RAW files, catalogue photos, or many of the other advantages of Adobe.

      Pixelmator, Affinity and CaptureOne are all awesome but limited in some respects. There's a lot to be said for using the industry standard.

      • Mr. Fred
        July 30, 2016 at 11:31 pm

        There's also a lot to be said for "free."

  14. Fischmuetze
    April 14, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Use Affinity Photo if you need the (near to) power of Photoshop and refusing inflated utopistic price or rent models

    • WindowsTen
      April 14, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Affinity is coming soon to Windows! Also Nik Collection is now free to use. You can hook it into GIMP.

      • Fischmuetze
        April 15, 2016 at 7:30 am

        Windows? Don't know who needs it. .. Nik Collection is also usable by Affinity Photo

        • Jess
          April 15, 2016 at 10:55 pm

          People using Windows? Windows is still the most used OS in the world, compared to tiny OSX and Linux market share.

    • Harry Guinness
      April 15, 2016 at 11:23 am

      I tried Affinity out when it was in beta. Great app though a bit more limited. I'm really interested to see where they go with it.

    • Harry Guinness
      April 15, 2016 at 11:23 am

      As for Nik Collection. I think it having gone free is a bad thing; I suspect Google won't be supporting it any longer. Be unusable in a year or two.

  15. Hildegerd
    April 14, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Use Pixelmator if you are on a Mac.

    • Harry Guinness
      April 15, 2016 at 11:24 am

      I love Pixelmator but it's still more limited than Photoshop. It's by far the best alternative for _most_ people though.

  16. fcd76218
    April 14, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    "While Adobe has now killed it off it’s still going to be around for a long time until everyone stops using it."
    Flash is going to be prominent and around as long as the p0rn0 industry insists on using it. Once they switch to HTML5 or some other product, Flash will die quickly.

    • Harry Guinness
      April 15, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Hahahaha true! Which is easier to make work with VR? That'll be the real driver of it!

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