GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. This may not tell you much but what you do need to know is that it’s free. It was first released back in 1996. That’s over 12 years ago. Since then it has been developed and matured to be recognized as a real alternative for Photoshop.
GIMP is known as the best free alternative on digital image manipulation over well known commercial products. Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro are the kings of the hill, but GIMP is here to stay and it's getting better and better.
It’s updated regularly and it seems, from what I’ve seen this year, that they are investing a lot in improving it and taking it a step further. Photoshop is pretty much the standard these days, but is also a really expensive product and not all of us can afford it. GIMP is a real alternative.
From an amateur photographer perspective, GIMP has the right price and the right features.
(Click on images to enlarge)
Filters Rating Excellent
FiltersIt’s almost impossible to talk about GIMP and not focus a great deal on the plug-ins and scripting functionalities. During the time I’ve been working with GIMP, I’ve managed to find filters and plug-ins to do pretty much all that I needed and used with Photoshop.
GIMP, like Photoshop, includes a bunch of standard filters.
User Interface Rating Average
User InterfaceIf you are a Photoshop user, you will see that GIMP has more or less the same tools in the same places. On the left side you have the Toolbox and the properties of the selected tool. On the right side you have the Brushes, Layers, Channels, Paths, etc. In the center you have the main window with the main menu. There is one major difference with the Photoshop user interface; GIMP uses different windows for each of these sections. This means that instead of one main window with all toolbars in it, you have the toolbars outside the main window. Some like this interface better, while some don’t like it so much. Personally, I got used to it but if I had a choice, I would prefer the Photoshop windows manager any day.
Going through all of the features of GIMP would not fit in any review. It would take a book. Or even more than one. And there are a few out there if you are interested. So, I’ll focus the remainder of this GIMP review on two important add-ons that I use: RAW import and Photoshop Plug-ins support.
RAW Support Rating Excellent
UFRaw SetupSo let’s say that you need RAW file support for your camera in GIMP. Simple: download UFRaw (http://ufraw.sourceforge.net) and install. This plug-in supports Adobe Digital Negative, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus, Pentax and Minolta RAW file formats.
Did I mention that it’s also free? And that you can run it standalone or from within GIMP?
After installing the UFRaw, you just need to open a RAW file normally using File+Open or opening a file directly. Because UFRaw can run as a standalone it means you don’t have to open GIMP to see your RAW files.
UFRaw OpenUsing GIMP, simply go to File->Open and you will have this user interface after selecting a RAW file to open.
As you can see, it’s quite straightforward. If you ever user camera Raw from Adobe you will find some similarities. You have a few interesting controls here. Curves, Levels, a noise reduction option, white balance, etc.
This is one of the tools I consider indispensable as an amateur photographer.
Photoshop Plug-ins support Rating Excellent
This may sound strange to talk about in a GIMP review, but I have to. You see, there are a few Photoshop filters out there that can be a major plus. A good example is VirtualPhotographer from OptikVerveLabs (http://www.optikvervelabs.com/). There is also some commercial Photoshop plug-ins that can save you a lot of time and improve your photo editing experience. So instead of having to find alternatives, why not use those? PSPI (http://www.gimp.org/~tml/gimp/win32/pspi.html) comes to the rescue. This plug-in enables you to use your Photoshop plug-ins in GIMP and, as far as I know, there is no plug-ins that doesn’t work with this tool. And again, its free, the source is available to anyone interested, and it’s also cross platform.
PSPIAfter placing PSPI.exe in GIMP plug-ins folder, start GIMP and you will find a new Menu option under Filters.
PSPISelecting the configuration menu, it will open a Dialog box so you can identify where you will place Photoshop plug-ins.
For example proposes, I’ve installed VirtualPhotographer on my machine and copied the files to the folder I specified. Close GIMP and start it again, and you will notice another menu option on the filters menu.
PSPIAnd here’s how VirtualPhotographer looks like running in GIMP using PSPI.
Conclusion Rating Excellent
I’ve used Photoshop in the past, and quite frankly it’s an amazing product. But it’s an expensive one and my license had to go to a new guy at the company working on web-design. So I had to find a solution for my hobby and decided to give GIMP a go. I’m not sorry I did. It’s an amazing product, with a great deal of people out there using it and willing to help you using it. I’ve shown you here that you can open your RAW files, like in Camera RAW, and I also showed you how you can continue to use your beloved Photoshop plug-ins, if you can’t live without them.
Sure the user interface needs some extra work, and sure it’s not perfect. But it does everything that I need, and then some, and GIMP still allows me to continue to use some of the tools that I got used to in Photoshop. The price tag is attractive but even if GIMP wasn’t free, it would still be a great product. So, despite some glitches and small annoyances I can give it my maximum score without thinking twice.
And thumps up to PSPI and UFRaw also.
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