GIMP, which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a freely distributed, open source image editing software application.  It is cross platform and available for computers running the Mac OS, Windows OS and the Linux OS.  The latest version is GIMP 2.8.22, which was released on 11th May 2017.  GIMP can be downloaded from their website at

It is very similar to Photoshop.  After familiarizing and getting used to it, it can be an alternative to Photoshop, if you are on a budget.  GIMP includes layers, which is one of Photoshop’s powerful feature, also has highly customizable brushes, filters and automatic image-enhancement tools.  In addition, it supports a huge number of plugins, some of which come pre-installed while others are available for download, separately.

GIMP is an open-source and you can download and use it for free.  Since it is open-source, there is an active community of contributors and this means that is it constantly under development, whether is it squishing the bugs or adding new features.  To date, we still cannot find an image editing application that is even close to GIMP to take on Photoshop.

At first glance, when you start up GIMP 2.8.22, you might think that you have loaded up an alternate UI for Photoshop.  This is because you will find familiar panels for Layers, Brushes, Tools, Paths, etc.  While the UI is not as elegant as Photoshop, it contains similar menus and components, albeit in a slightly different order.

We found that GIMP’s text capability is not as feature-rich as Photoshop’s.  The layout options, built-in effects and warps are missing.  But do not despair.  GIMP, being open-source, has downloadable plug-ins that will plug the gap for these missing features.

As an image editing application, GIMP has just about most of the features that most users wanted.  These include special-effect filters; exposure controls, such as levels and curves; color controls, such as hue/saturation; replace color, bucket fill, paintbrush, eraser, selection tools etc.  They work well and produce nice-quality images.

One major drawback what we encountered is the steep learning curve.  GIMP is not necessarily simple to learn.  It requires one to put in effort and many times, the workflow is not very intuitive.  However, given its complexity, it is by far the most feature-rich image editing application that is close to Photoshop.

So, does GIMP have what it takes as a Photoshop alternative?  Download one and use it to find out for yourself.