GIMP vs. Photoshop: Which One Is Right for You?

Shianne Edelmayer Updated 05-03-2020

Photoshop is the most popular image-editing app on the market, and GIMP is the best free alternative. However, deciding between the two can be difficult.


Both Adobe Photoshop and GIMP have their pros and cons, so which is right for you? Essentially, which image editor you choose to use depends on what you need it for.

In this article, we pit GIMP versus Photoshop, and help you figure out which of these two image editors is best.

If You Love Linux, Use GIMP

GIMP for Linux

While not everyone will need to contend with this system requirement, there is one situation where GIMP is still the undisputed champion: on Linux.

You can find workarounds to use Adobe Photoshop on Linux How to Install Adobe Photoshop on Linux You can install Photoshop on Linux and run it using a virtual machine or Wine. Read on for all the details! Read More , but it’s a hassle. If you’ve gone to the effort of setting up your own Linux system, you’ve also demonstrated that you know how to handle the complexities of open source software.


You’ve proven that you know how to use forums to troubleshoot these programs, too.

Additionally, if you’re using Linux, there’s a good chance that you’re against the idea of paying for software when there is a decent, open source alternative. In all three of these instances, GIMP is definitely the best app for you.

If You Love Your Phone, Use Photoshop

Photoshop Apps Adobe Photoshop Mix

Over the last few years, Adobe has adapted its advanced photo-editing tools for smartphones. The first iterations of these apps weren’t that great, largely because the processing power of smartphones wasn’t strong enough.


Adobe’s latest attempts, however, have seen big improvements:

  • As part of this collection of apps, Lightroom Mobile brings the best features of Lightroom to your smartphone. It’s available for iOS and Android.
  • Photoshop Fix and Photoshop Mix add some of Photoshop’s most useful features to your phone, so you can edit your work on the go.
  • Even better, the work that you do on your phone syncs back to all your devices through Adobe Cloud.

If you take a lot of pictures with your phone, or you want the ability to work while you’re away from your home or the office, then Photoshop is the best choice for you.

If You’re on a Budget, Use GIMP

GIMP vs Photoshop Is GIMP Free

Photoshop is an expensive app, and there’s no getting around this.


With the special Lightroom and Photoshop bundle, the price is currently $9.99/month. If you want to use Photoshop as a single-app monthly subscription, however, it jumps to $20.99/month.

Even worse, the entire Adobe Creative Cloud suite is $52.99/month. That’s a lot of money, even for a professional designer. And the price keeps going up every year.

If you don’t need what Photoshop offers, or you only use it occasionally, it can be very hard to justify this expense. In cases like these—where you’re trying to weigh Adobe Photoshop versus GIMP—GIMP is the better app.

After all, when it comes to price you can’t beat free.


If You’re a Professional, Use Photoshop

Photoshop vs GIMP PSD Files

If you can write Photoshop off as a business expense—or even better, get your work to pay for it—then Photoshop is the obvious tool to use.

Photoshop is also considered an industry standard app for many design-related businesses. Because of this, it’s the main tool of choice for professionals.

If you’re working with someone else, especially if you’re working remotely, they might send you a PSD file or another proprietary Adobe file format. If you don’t have the tools to handle this file, it’ll create issues for you at work.

As such, there’s very little reason to use GIMP if you’re a professional designer. Here’s a breakdown of what Photoshop can do that GIMP can’t What Can Photoshop Do That GIMP Can't? What can Photoshop do that GIMP can't? Quite a lot! Learn more in our comparison of GIMP vs. Photoshop. Read More .

If You Don’t Need It All the Time, Use GIMP

GIMP Selection Tools

GIMP, despite its limitations in comparison to Photoshop, is a very powerful tool that is better than many other free photo-editing apps.

For some, mobile apps like Apple’s Photos or Instagram’s filter features will be enough for your photo-editing needs. However, very few of these apps allow you to do in-depth edits, such as selections, masks, and composite editing. GIMP does.

If you occasionally need a powerful photo-editing tool, and you don’t require PSD files to do your work, then GIMP is probably the best app for you.

If You’re a Designer, Use Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop Versus GIMP CMYK Support

If you’re a professional designer then GIMP isn’t really an option. While the open-source app is good for quick logo mockups, unfortunately it doesn’t hold a candle to the full force of Adobe Creative Cloud.

Additionally, GIMP’s lack of CMYK support is an absolute deal breaker when you’re designing for print. Being able to design images using a CMYK color profile is a necessity for a designer. Without it, you’re hamstrung.

If You Dislike Adobe, Use GIMP

Adobe Flash Phase Out

While this particular point might seem a little niche, there are people who don’t like Adobe as a company. One of the reasons for this upset is the Adobe Flash Player, and its proliferation on the web.

While Adobe is retiring the product, Flash will still be around until everyone collectively stops using it. As such, it’s vulnerable to exploits. There’s also the ever-increasing price of a Creative Cloud subscription, which is definitely not cheap.

If you hate Photoshop because of Adobe’s other products, or its subscription-based decisions, then GIMP is the better option for you.

If You’re a Photographer, Use Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom

Editing is just one part of post-processing for photographers. You also have to sort through the hundreds of photos that you’ve taken.

On a good day during a few hours of shooting, you can easily capture 500 images or more. A large chunk of these photos will be sketches or failed shots, but there will be at least five to 10 images that are worthy of further inspection. You just have to find them within that cluster.

With Adobe Creative Cloud:

  • You can bundle Photoshop with a subscription to Lightroom.
  • Both of these apps are good for sorting through lots of images and pulling out keepers.
  • You also get a powerful RAW processor in Photoshop that simply doesn’t come with GIMP.

Even when you compare GIMP to Photoshop Elements—another imaging app—Adobe still comes out on top.

For editing an image here or there, GIMP is great. However, if you’re a serious photographer, you need to invest in Photoshop.

GIMP vs. Photoshop: Which Is Right for You?

Choosing between Adobe Photoshop and GIMP gets a lot easier when you consider what you need to use the app for.

If you’re a professional designer or photographer, then Photoshop is the obvious tool. However, if you use Linux, are on a budget, or only need to use the app occasionally, then GIMP is your best bet.

If you do choose GIMP over Photoshop, we’ve detailed how to install the best GIMP brushes 11 Free GIMP Brushes and How to Install Them We'll show you how to install GIMP brushes and several free and useful ones to get you started. Read More and how to install the best GIMP plugins The 8 Best GIMP Plugins and How to Install Them In this guide to using GIMP plugins, we'll walk you through where to get the best GIMP plugins and how to install them. Read More .

Related topics: Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Image Editor.

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  1. lordmax
    May 23, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    If You’re a Professional, Use Photoshop

    If You’re a Designer, Use Photoshop

    If You’re a Photographer, Use Photoshop

  2. Max
    March 6, 2020 at 1:20 am

    A simple question, why Photoshop does not offer a version for linux, since it is the "supreme art" in image manipulation

  3. DMR
    October 27, 2019 at 4:06 am

    You were supposed to compare Photoshop and Gimp, but you mentioned "lightroom" and "illustrator" and "Indesign"... you know... different programs... and for stuff like that.... you did not mention why Photoshop was better, you just said that the suite had other programs in it that could be used...

    But did you forget that there are also other free programs you could get for the other uses as well???

    Gimp ONLY competes with Photoshop... and the other programs should compete with other programs of the same kind...

  4. Mathew
    March 25, 2018 at 3:00 am

    IMO If you're a good photographer you should have more than 5-10 "good" shots out of a 1000.

  5. David
    January 4, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    "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."

    GIMP opens PSD files and even works with the layers in the PSD files.

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

    Thanks for your balanced review, Harry.

    • Robert Wynne
      March 22, 2018 at 3:18 am

      I take it , Mr Blucher, you are being sarcastic. This is a most superficial, biased article. The only way to determine if GIMP meets your needs is to try it. Its not as if you're going to have to pay for it. If it doesnt meet your needs then pay up for Adobe. But dont base your decision on this article.

  7. 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

    • Dennis Novak
      December 30, 2017 at 3:22 am

      you helped me with my decision. Thanks for venting. I agree why so many features you never use.