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GIMP FREE Photo Editing Software

Updated on July 31, 2014

Free Photo-Editing Software

GIMP is a free photo-editing tool similar to Adobe Photoshop, which can be used for anything from simple red-eye reduction, cropping and image size or file format changing to full professional photo retouching. GIMP was originally written for Linux, but is now available for Windows, Mac OSX and Unix computers too.

So before buying an expensive alternative read this and see if Gimp is suitable for you. Here is a review of this useful software and an explanation of how to download it and get more information.

What is Gimp?

GIMP is an acronym for "GNU Image Manipulation Program" and was written for UNIX or Linux computers, but now is also available for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. I would like to reiterate the word "free". This software is downloadable legally for free and has been developed and supported by the users of the program as part of the "GNU Project". I won't go into the history of this, but the philosophy behind the project is that "people should be free to use software in all the ways that are socially useful" to quote the GNU website:

GNU web-site

Gimp is a photo-editing tool similar to Photoshop, which can be used for anything from simple red-eye reduction, cropping and image size or file format changing to full professional photo retouching.

Why do I need photo-editing software?

Many digital cameras and film scanners come with some rudimentary form of photo-editing software, which may be sufficient for your needs, but if you need more control and features a more advanced tool would be required, for example Adobe Photoshop Elements, which is a cut-down version of the full professional Photoshop. If you were to buy Adobe Photoshop Elements it would cost you about £50 and the full professional version would cost in excess of £500 or alternatively Gimp could be downloaded for free. I have the latest version of Photoshop Elements on my Windows Vista PC and an old version on my old iMac, but rather than pay the full price for Photoshop for my new Apple macbook I opted for a free download of Gimp version 2.4.

GIMP Features

GIMP has most of the same features as other professional and amateur photo-editing software including levels histograms for adjusting colours, contrast etc. retouching tools for removing or adding details on the picture, removing "red-eye", cloning objects and colours, fixing of photograph imperfections such as barrel distortion and perspective distortion. It also has tools for converting pictures to black and white and adjusting the picture and file size.

When retouching a photograph a wide range of different types of brush, pencil airbrush and clone tool can be chosen from the easy to use menu and of course text of any size can be added to the photograph. If the paintbrush you want doesn't exist a custom brush can also be made to your specification. You can zoom right in and see individual pixels for very fine retouching. There are also gradient and blending tools to speed up the process of making your work look natural and multiple selection tools of various shapes. Multiple layers and channels are also supported for more complex photo manipulation.

For me, the most useful tool available in GIMP is the levels tool, which is used to adjust the darkest and lightest areas of the picture and the overall brightness, which enhances the contrast and can transform a picture very easily and quickly. Many pictures will be improved by using this, the more complicated "curves" tool or one of the automatic tools provided in the "colors" menu. Here's an example from my Namibia safari web-site:

Before

After

The crop tool is also essential for improving the composition of your picture and the "scale image" tool for changing the number of pixels. In the "filters" menu there are a large selection of filters that can be applied to the picture to blur, enhance, distort add noise etc. The most commonly used would probably be the Enhance->Red Eye Removal, Enhance->Sharpen or Enhance->Unsharp Mask options. The sharpen tools can be used to improve the edges of objects to give the effect of better focus with various parameters adjustable for the desired effect and amount of sharpening, but use with caution if you don't want everyone to look like they are wearing mascara.

The full range of GIMP's features is too huge to cover in detail here, and in addition to the standard features it is possible to write or download "plugins" and scripts for other specific tasks or customized operations, but there is a list of some of the basic features on the gimp website:

GIMP Introduction

GIMP: Supported File Formats

Most picture file formats are supported including TIFF, GIF, PNG and JPEG and pictures of one format may be read in and written out in another format. If a lot of manipulation has been done to the file it can be written out in xcf format with all of the changes stored and any extra layers generated so work can be continued or undone in a later session, or the file may be flattened and written out as a small jpeg ready for printing or posting on a web-site.

Compact Cameras

Canon Powershot G10 and G11 digital cameras (My favourite)

The Canon Powershot G10 and G11 can output RAW (CR2) image files. I needed to upgrade to GIMP 2.6.7 to support the Canon G10 CR2 output. All versions of GIMP will however support the standard JPEG output from most compact cameras.

How to Choose a Compact Camera

GIMP Installation

To get hold of this very useful program and install it you should go to the www.gimp.org website for instructions. The current released version is 2.4.7. GIMP is written for open source libraries, which come with Linux, so if you have a Linux operating system the installation is easy. If however you have an Apple Mac it is a little more complicated and it is only available for OS X 10.0 onwards. Apples are in fact based on a kind of Unix called Darwin, but you must ensure that the X11 windowing protocol is also installed before installing GIMP. The "Wilber loves Apple" web site guides you through the additional installation procedure:

Wilber Loves Apple

I successfully installed this program on my apple macbook, with very little trouble, although it is not as straightforward as simply popping in an auto load CD. I have not installed this on a Windows PC, but this is possible and details are again given on the web site.

Conclusion

If you are likely to perform simple photo-editing of digital photos I would highly recommend downloading Gimp rather than pay for Adobe Photoshop Elements and if you want full professional functionality, but can't justify the full price of Photoshop I would also suggest Gimp as a good alternative.

Summary: It's free and it's got a funny name (and an amusing logo)

Advantages: It's free and it does everything a professional photographer could want

Disadvantages: It has so many features it could take a while to find your way around

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    • GiftIdeas4Guys profile image

      GiftIdeas4Guys 4 years ago

      I've been using GIMP Free for a few years now, works great!!

    • profile image

      nifwlseirff 4 years ago

      Gimp is a fantastic and free alternative to Photoshop. I've been using it for well over a decade! Light levels are also one of my most oft-used tools!

    • BelleBanks profile image

      BelleBanks 5 years ago

      I have been using GIMP for a while now and love it. The best part is that it is free!

    • mel-kav profile image

      mel-kav 5 years ago

      Let the download begin! Thanks!

    • Svdharma LM profile image

      Svdharma LM 5 years ago

      I run linux so the GIMP is the standard photo manipulation software. Great reveiw.

    • profile image

      JGracey 5 years ago

      Great review here. I've used both Gimp and Gimpshop, but still prefer Photoshop - most likely because I've been using it since ... just about forever (back when there was PS 5, 6, 7). I found the Gimp interface hard to get used to. I did like some of the functions in Gimp that weren't in Photoshop, though, and I never hesitate to recommend to anyone. It's way better to try Gimp first (cause it's free and as a good as PS) and Photoshop second. You can save yourself a lot of money that way.

    • profile image

      dannystaple 5 years ago

      I've been a GIMP user for years, but that is mostly because I am a linux and Unix user since the 90's 9when I left behind my trusty Amiga gear). It is still the software I reach for most when doing manipulations that iPhoto doesn't do for me. I also like to use Inkscape to draw the diagrams I've used on some lenses and for other bits. The two together give a nice toolbox for mixing the photographic and drawn stuff. Anyway - a big thumbs up for lens on one of my favourite bits of software. I still hope a version that is better packaged for OSX (better integration) can be put together - I've been using on my iMac happily. I am not sure my image manipulations can produce quite the result you have with that example file though - I'll have to find out about using the colour curves.

      Blessed - this is a top bit of software.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      I come back for Angel Blessing , I use a lot upir lens to improve my skills on Gimp. Thanks Andy

    • profile image

      chowbiplob 5 years ago

      great

    • profile image

      AlishaRay 5 years ago

      Wow! nice lens about free photo editing tool. I want to share ms exchange mail recovery software that recovers lost or corrupted data of ms exchange database.

      To get more details visit here

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    • profile image

      BarbieJolly 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing, it is such a nice lens. There is convert edb to pst software that recovers lost or corrupted data of edb database.

      To get more details visit here

      http://www.unistal.com/exchange-recovery-tool.html

    • Edwardjames81 profile image

      Edwardjames81 5 years ago

      I tried Gimp but couldn't get on with it so ended up buying Elements instead. A great lens full of information this.

    • profile image

      lensesbyjames 5 years ago

      Thanks I have to check out this program.

    • profile image

      lensesbyjames 5 years ago

      Thanks I have to check out this program.

    • Iain84 profile image

      Iain84 5 years ago

      I've been using GIMP for several months and it's fantastic. I use PAINT.net more for day to day editing but GIMP is great for more complex editing.

    • Iain84 profile image

      Iain84 5 years ago

      I've been using GIMP for several months and it's fantastic. I use PAINT.net more for day to day editing but GIMP is great for more complex editing.

    • vkumar05 profile image

      vkumar05 5 years ago

      Great Tips on using this software. I Must try now and use if to improve my photos. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • profile image

      PizzaPromoGuy 5 years ago

      I have used GIMP in the past and it has really helped me when I needed to make some kind of graphic for one of my other websites! Gimp is a good tool!

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this great information lens and free software . *Blessed* and featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen and also on Photography. Hugs

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Returning to bless your expert advice on GIMP Free Photo Editing...may as well learn from the master!

    • JK Sterling profile image

      Jim Sterling 5 years ago from Franklin, Tennessee

      Thank you for this lens. Finding it today was very timely.

    • profile image

      VillaDejaBlue 5 years ago

      Nice lens

    • profile image

      Amitabh111 5 years ago

      Valuable information about photo editing software, thanks for sharing. I would like to share Quick Recovery software that Convert edb to pst when EDB file gets corrupted or damaged.

      To get more about edb to pst converter software please visit: http://download.cnet.com/Quick-Recovery-for-EDB-to...

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I'm ready for this now. Thank you. Blessed.

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 5 years ago from Valencia, California

      Great lens thanks for sharing

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 5 years ago

      Wow.. how timely, I need this. Yay and THUMBS UP

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Great lens - I have used Gimp but need to take it to a new level. The macro info is very helpful!

    • Rudy145 LM profile image

      Rudy145 LM 5 years ago

      Great piece of software. I have used gimp for years

    • wolfie10 profile image

      wolfie10 5 years ago

      thanks for sharing. i'll look into a bit more

    • profile image

      Spikey64 5 years ago

      This is the first time I have heard of this software I am definately going to give it a try.

    • spartakct profile image

      spartakct 5 years ago

      Gimp is an wonderful software, have used it with linux, Nice lens!!! thanks for sharing!

    • tdogart1 profile image

      tdogart1 5 years ago

      Just learned to use this program its out of this world. I love it.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 5 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      I have Gimp on my older computer, but now that I have Photoshop it just sits there. Great free software for anyone to use.

    • Optionstradingiq profile image

      Optionstradingiq 5 years ago

      Had not heard of this software, glad I found this lens. Thanks Andy!

    • OldStones LM profile image

      OldStones LM 5 years ago

      I love The GIMP use it most everyday. Thank you for this is a very informative article.

    • fiftysquid profile image

      fiftysquid 5 years ago

      I use this software, its great. Thanks to this lens I have a little more information!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      the scope of Gimpis massive and it does take a time to learn

    • tstandiford profile image

      tstandiford 6 years ago

      @alanbowman777: Very true, especially when you get a wacom tablet and the gimp painter addon.

    • tstandiford profile image

      tstandiford 6 years ago

      I love GIMP, and use it all the time. This is an excellent resource on getting started with gimp!

      I run a tutorial teaching people how to use gimp. If you need help feel free to follow me on twitter @alexstandiford or check out my tutorials here:

      http://www.gimpedblog.blogspot.com

    • profile image

      StonerStormcrow 6 years ago

      Good article. I've been using GIMP fror about a year now and love it. Bye bye Photoshop.

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 6 years ago

      Well written and an excellent description of GIMP as a useful tool for digital photo editing. Thanks. Will look at more of your photography pages - photography and the natural world are shared interests.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Knowledge of the many different tools for cropping and editing the subject of focus and photographs is another must. One should know how to remove blemishes and "red eyes" on the subject that might ruin the beauty of the photograph. Also, one should know how to make the edges of the photographed subject smooth and without traces of the old background in order to make the edited photograph look real. Explore more about scanners at film scanner.

    • profile image

      alanbowman777 6 years ago

      I am really surprised that so many use GIMP just for retouching !! It is easy to take a photo and use the photo as a digital canvas to paint , create, draw jazzy birthday cards , scenes or anything

    • profile image

      PsdDude 6 years ago

      hi, would you like to vote in my Photoshop poll http://www.squidoo.com/which-mad-hatter-photoshop ? thanks

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 6 years ago from UK

      A very convincing argument. I have used photoplus for some time ( version 8, I think, which was also free) and I have found it very useful. Still haven't used all the features but, as an artist, it does virtually everything that I want it to. Support for Photoplus does not seem as readily accessible as the main software packages however.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I need to download Gimp to my new computer, I used to have it and found it very good. Thank you for this great Lens!

    • profile image

      NYThroughTheLens 6 years ago

      Excellent. I absolutely love GIMP and I have found over the years that so few people seem to really know about it since Photoshop has better marketing and publicity.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 6 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      thanks for the useful info. an informative lens

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      I will pass this on!

    • HomeDecoratingD profile image

      HomeDecoratingD 6 years ago

      I love Gimp and use it a lot. Great information.

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 7 years ago

      I have been using Gimp for a few years now. It works so much better with Windows 7. But, if you take the time to learn a few basics, you can do quite a bit with it.

    • CastleRoyLisa profile image

      Lisa 7 years ago from Rhode Island

      this is wonderful when I have friends needing a program going to refer them to this lens and GIMP thank you so much for the information.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 7 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Fabulous information! I've just recently starting using GIMP and have enjoyed it so far. Any suggestions of tutorials to get the most out of it?

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 7 years ago

      Good information here. I have GIMP on my netbook. I don't understand all the features, but some basic ones have proved helpful.

    • profile image

      TanyaWhaley 7 years ago

      Truly Awesome lens! Love it! 5 *'s and favorited! Happy New Year! Wish you all the best!

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 7 years ago from Idaho

      I really like gimp, but it is so hard for me to use because it doesn't come with a book...LOL, but I am learning from those that have taken time to write some great instructions for the gimp dummies like me! Great information, and as always love your photos! Happy New Year,

      Linda

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 7 years ago

      Angel Blessings and Happy New Year!

    • profile image

      Themiscorkscrew 7 years ago

      great info and pics 5 stars

    • profile image

      JennySui 7 years ago

      Andy! thanks for writing such a great lens. Gimp is a free photo editing software so i will definitely try this.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 8 years ago

      Hi ! this is great, Thanks, by the way I discovered your lens on Redgage, it is a small world.

      michey

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Some of my photos need a bit of touching up.

      Thanks

      Lizzy

    • Andy-Po profile image
      Author

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      Thanks. No. We don't celebrate the 4th July here, but it wouldn't surprise me if it became popular - after all they really don't teach history very well in the schools ;-) American culture is generally very popular with the kids here. Actually, I usually see fireworks on 4th July from my lounge window (not this year as I was in Berlin) because there are a lot of Americans living in London and I live near an American University.

      [in reply to Tipi]

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Just stopped by to wish you a wonderful day. Do you celebrate the 4th of July? Lol! :)

      Have a great weekend!

      Susie

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      That photo comparison of the leopard is quite convincing Andy!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      I used GIMP for quite a while before I got Photoshop. It worked well for me.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I need to take another look at Gimp, I tried the other week and couldn't figure it out. For much of my editing (resizing, cropping and touching up) I use another great free program called Faststone. It's got a really great viewer and some terrific tools, plus a nice interface. Great lens Andy, 5*****

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      I'm lensrolling this to my CafePress lenses that I have, Gimp is the perfect match for CP sellers. Nice work!

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 8 years ago

      I tried Gimp a year or two ago and didn't have much luck with it, but I didn't know much about photo editing software at that time. I'd love to give Gimp another try once I stop using my current program (PSP). Thanks for the info on the free download!

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this information. I took a gander at this program a while back, at that time it seemed too much for my brain to absorb. It would be a good idea to start with the tutorials, especially because I am working more with my photos lately.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      I have Gimp. I just haven't figured it out. I keep going back to my old software IPhoto Plus. It isn't sold anymore, it's a little limited, but it is a good product. I'll have to go through the Gimp tutorials. Thanks for the share!

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      I have Gimp. I just haven't figured it out. I keep going back to my old software IPhoto Plus. It isn't sold anymore, it's a little limited, but it is a good product. I'll have to go through the Gimp tutorials. Thanks for the share!

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 8 years ago

      Sounds interesting. I have corel already though.

    • Sensitive Fern profile image

      Sensitive Fern 8 years ago

      I got started using Photoshop so I'm reluctant to switch over to GIMP. It's very similar, though, and I think Photoshop better watch out because pretty soon people aren't going to be willing to pay for it when they can get almost the same for free. 5*

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 8 years ago

      Sounds interesting. I have corel already though.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 8 years ago

      Sounds interesting. I have corel already though.

    • profile image

      topstuff 8 years ago

      LOL, what a great lens, I actually just downloaded GIMP today, then I saw your lens, how funny is that. Great info, I tried it on 2 photos and it seems excellent so far, thanks for the info

    • Andy-Po profile image
      Author

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      [in reply to jprpr3]

      Thanks for the comments. Yes. Maybe I glossed over ease of installation a little, but the instructions from "Wilber Loves Apple" (see the link above in the installation section) are very good, but the complications I referred to are that there are slightly different procedures and requirements depending on the versions of software and OS you have installed etc. You may also need to install an extra application called X11. This is all detailed in the instructions and I didn't include them here because they will change as the various tools progress. I found it easy, but quite time consuming compared to a typical Windows installation. Glad to hear that this works well with Windows too.

    • profile image

      jprpr3 8 years ago

      Gimp installs on Windows easily, just like any other program.

      As for vbright's comment that Gimp is hard to get started on: no kidding!

      There are a lot of tutorials out there, but for people who know what they are doing in the first place.

      But, I have been able to do a little.

      What is needed is a real beginner's tutorial, from a BEGINNER'S point of view.

      Maybe I will write one: I certainly can provide a beginner's ppoint of view. :)

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Thanks for this review. It's good to know that pros use it. I've yet to install the software that came with my Canon. I'll see if it meets my (very basic) needs. If not, I'll switch to Gimp.

    • VBright profile image

      VBright 8 years ago

      I think I have GIMP downloaded onto my computer...but I am so non-techy, I couldn't even figure it out! lol. I know a lot of people that do use it though and they love it!

    • profile image

      Tarra99 8 years ago

      I have yet to try GIMP...but I've heard wonderful things about it...and it's great that it's free! 5* and thanks for commenting on my Shepherds Pie Recipe Lens...I appreciate it! :)

    • rewards4life info profile image

      rewards4life info 8 years ago

      I'm using The Gimp about 3 years now, and I think is an excellent photo editing program. Great Lens Andy! 5*

      Digital Information Suite

    • billco1 profile image

      billco1 8 years ago

      What a beautiful photo! Amazing.

    • billco1 profile image

      billco1 8 years ago

      What a beautiful photo! Amazing.

    • profile image

      MobyD 8 years ago

      The GIMP is a great free program! I have a decent Canon camera and while I'm not always shooting pics, I want them to look great, and The GIMP really helps. Who needs to spend hundreds of bucks on photo software? Not me. 5 stars & favorited.

    • RolandTumble profile image

      RolandTumble 8 years ago

      I use The GIMP myself. There are some features of Photoshop that I miss having, but The GIMP handles my day-to-day needs quite well.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I see you have 50 lenses now, my friend. You have been busy. As always, great photos, writing, and content. You give the word lensmaster good meaning! 5*****

    • Andy-Po profile image
      Author

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      It takes no time at all to get started, but it takes a long time to become an expert, although the techniques are similar to other commercially available photo-editing tools, so generic training and books are available.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 8 years ago

      My God the pictures are magnificent! What is the learning curve for this?