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Better Than Photoshop? Make GIMP Even More Powerful With These Plugins

Danny Stieben 23-02-2013

gimp pluginsWe 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

gimp plugins

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

best plugins gimp


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

best plugins gimp

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!

Liquid Rescaling

gimp plugins

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!

Related topics: Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Image Editor.

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  1. Michael Biller
    February 1, 2019 at 7:25 am

    I have been using Gimp for years. In fact, I first discovered it back when I still used Windows. The ability to add plugins really can make Gimp a professional level image editor.

    Photoshop is the industry standard and for good reason. For one thing, Photoshop is easier to learn and it has everything needed, for the most part. The problem I had with Photoshop was my copy was a bootleg.

    When I began to do some professional graphics work I felt it was time to either pony or find an alternative. I wasn't yet able to afford a copy and I was concerned by the illegality. It was different when I was just playing around but now I feared potential legal problems.

    Gimp was the only real alternative and it took some time to fully grasp using Gimp but it was time well spent. Plus, I no longer fear any repercussions from using pirated software.

    Now, I feel right at home with it and there is little that Gimp cannot do. The plugins for Gimp help make it every bit as powerful as Photoshop and the recent makeover Gimp received for version 2.10 gave it a nice modern interface.

    Some of my clients are always amazed with the results Gimp is capable of. They find it hard to believe it was done with open source software. Some, even want me to prove it. I do and that's another reason for me to not use bootleg.

  2. Gimp User
    April 14, 2013 at 4:11 am

    The plugin I like most is Save For Web, it's a very handy tool for webdesigner. I personally think it should be a default feature in GIMP, not as a plugin.

    Thank you for suggesting Liquid Rescalling, tested and love it.

  3. Peter Schaffter
    March 2, 2013 at 7:13 am

    I've never used Photoshop, so I have no point of comparison. All I can say is that with the GIMP, if I can imagine it, I can do it. It's an amazing piece of software, a true jewel in the GNU crown.

  4. James Van Damme
    March 1, 2013 at 3:21 am

    Resynthesizer is the plugin that gets rid of objects.

  5. harley bellwood
    February 27, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    I've used Photoshop but prefer Jasc Paint Shop Pro 9.0 (yes it's old but I have lots of plug ins). I have tried GIMP but can't get the hang of it as well as I also have Corel Paint Shop Pro 10. I also like Photoscape.

    • Nancy B
      February 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm

      So for a novice who wants to make tags, gifs etc. which one should one try?
      I know when my niece lived with me she used Gimp all the time and loved it but I couldn't get the hang of it.
      I did buy a Jasc Paint Shop Pro but again I never installed it as I didn't know where to start.
      I tried a trial version of Paint Shop Pro and most I was able to do was put a name beside a photo.
      I'm not quite getting the hang of the layering and such so which is the easiest and has the best Help features?

      • harley bellwood
        February 28, 2013 at 5:38 pm

        For me, Jasc Paint Shop Pro 9.0 was the easiest. It has a great help module and there are still lots of websites that give tips & tutorials. I mostly played with the program & found how to do a lot by trial & error. One thing I recommend, is work on a copy of a picture, not the original, I found that out the hard way.

  6. bvalabas
    February 27, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    It seems you forgot to mention the G'MIC plug-in for GIMP in your essential list :)
    G'MIC is a powerful plug-in that offers more than 400 new filters to play with images (each with a preview window). It's a must-have plug-in for GIMP IMHO.

    [Broken Link Removed]

  7. Paul Girardin
    February 27, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful resources!

  8. A&L
    February 27, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Gimp gets better with each release, 2.8.4 single window mode is great
    check out

  9. Kannon Yamada
    February 26, 2013 at 3:33 am

    Great article Danny!

    I've been using the RIOT plugin for a while now, but have long been looking for an alternative.

  10. ion popa
    February 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    I've never used Photoshop, so I don't know how good it is; but working with GIMP is a very nice experience - that's why I would recommend to everyone. And the results are as expected everytime.

  11. Samarth Hegde
    February 25, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Though Gimp is a good photo editor it cant compete with PS.... Adobe is a leading company with high update levels... PS has good reputation and is better than Gimp in photo editing..... And is better for basic learners.... :)

    • Joy
      February 25, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      Have you used GIMP?

    • Danny Stieben
      February 27, 2013 at 7:26 am

      I have to agree with Joy...define "better". I personally don't find arguments without concrete reasons very convincing.

  12. Brian Smith
    February 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Another great article from MUO. Please keep them coming,

    • Danny Stieben
      February 27, 2013 at 7:24 am

      I'm glad you enjoyed it, Brian! :)

  13. Priswell
    February 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I've been using Gimp as my primary image editor for 4 years, and have made my self at home. Before that, I used Paint Shop Pro (vs. 5, 7, 9). I never could afford Photoshop.

    • Joy
      February 25, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      I was never able to afford Photo shop either. But, I'm ready to stop using Paint Sop Pro now. It's become unmanageable and it has way too many features that I simply don't want or need - I'd really like the option of opting out of the social stuff, but it's becoming harder and harder on Paint Shop Pro.

      • Lisa Santika Onggrid
        February 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm

        Another good software marred by bloats.

  14. Moez Bouhlel
    February 24, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Added to my bookmarks

  15. Gianna Marie Lanete
    February 24, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    i just use gimp for making gif's. ahaha.
    I hate the type tool of gimp. XD

    • Danny Stieben
      February 27, 2013 at 7:23 am

      I honestly thought that animation on GIMP was plenty more difficult than on Photoshop. Maybe I need to reevaluate that notion.

  16. Nevzat Akkaya
    February 24, 2013 at 10:09 am

    I also don't think that it's Photoshop replacement, however, it's free and powerful. It's also a little hard to use, even I find it difficult to manage it :(

    • Danny Stieben
      February 27, 2013 at 7:23 am

      Practice makes perfect! If you can handle Photoshop fairly well, it's simply applying the same concepts using altered techniques. :)

      • Nevzat Akkaya
        February 27, 2013 at 7:25 am

        Yes, you're right, I just need more practice.

  17. Macwitty
    February 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I do not like "Photoshop replacemen" Gimp stand for itself as a very good "image editor" and so do Photoshop. I have introduced it to a lot of people who wanted something more than Picasa and many have continued. Some have got PhotoShop Elements bundled to stuff the bought and I must say Adobe is a bit better to get beginners on the track.

    When it comes to more professional use, I have seen wonderful images from both programs - where it's probably more about the creator. Saying That, yes, I am a PhotoShop user since I work with people who use it. (But I would never buy it for home use!)

    • Danny Stieben
      February 27, 2013 at 7:22 am

      I agree that it is mostly a preference thing. You can do virtually everything in GIMP that you can in Photoshop. The main difference is how easy/difficult it may be to achieve something, or the level of control for certain operations.

  18. Ashwin Divakaran
    February 24, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Nice Article! GIMP is truly a gem in photo editing!

  19. Rigoberto Garcia
    February 23, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Excellent article Danny. I iniciándome in using GIMP and I'm sure will be very helpful in my training