GIMP vs Photoshop: Which One Is Right for You?

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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.


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 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.

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? What can Photoshop do that GIMP can't? Quite a lot! Learn more in our comparison of GIMP vs. Photoshop. 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.


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 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 .


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.

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 The Best Graphic Tablets and Graphics Programs for Digital Design The Best Graphic Tablets and Graphics Programs for Digital Design We've rounded up the best graphic design tablets and software to use if you want to break into cartoons and other forms of digital art. Read More 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.

And if you do use GIMP, we’ve covered how to install some of the best free brushes 11 Free GIMP Brushes and How to Install Them 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 best GIMP plugins The 8 Best GIMP Plugins and How to Install Them 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 .

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. 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...

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.