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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.

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  1. Andy Blucher
    July 4, 2017 at 2:56 am

    Thanks for your balanced review, Harry.

  2. Mr.Jack
    June 26, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    It's not about money !!
    1000$ is nothing
    it's all about ... is photoshop worth that amount of money ??
    lets start
    1- hard to use
    simple copy & paste isn't that simple in photoshop ohh no ... it made me so angry I almost punched my 2000$ PC
    also every tool has a freaking 1000000 features ... isn't that kind of over kill ?? I mean WHY ??
    2- confusing
    I was trying to make a skin sticker on photoshop ... the old picture of that sticker did not even change !! I mean WTF !!!
    3- Masks
    the only feature that draws me toward photoshop ... turned out to be a horrible nightmare

    so at last ... after downloading the free copy
    I wouldn't pay a freaking 20$ for it
    unless your buying it to get devastated