GIMP vs. Photoshop
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A brief overview of the two software: GIMP is basically short for the GNU Image Manipulation Program. On the other hand is Adobe Photoshop, an old software since the early time that helped designers around the globe maximize their potential and continues to do so. GNU is a combination of an operating system and an extensive software collection -- totally free. GIMP is a free tool, therefore, and known for its open-source nature. Adobe Photoshop, on the other hand, is fully commercial. Both are photo editing software, and if you try to be more precise, both are raster editing software in contrast with vector editing software like Inkscape and Adobe Illustrator (vector graphics scale regardless of the canvas size, basically, while raster or bitmap graphics degrade and pixelate).
Photoshop is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, software offering from Adobe. It is the reason Adobe is a household name, almost. Photoshop is indeed a household name. Editing means Photoshop -- the case is so bad (or good?). People edit their photos, no matter on what device, platform, or using which tools or software and if the somebody comments "It's Photoshopped", everyone understands that it essentially means editing. So, this popularity is not in vain. There is a lot behind Photoshop's popularity.
Why choose GIMP?
The most obvious reason is that it's free. But let's be honest, you probably can download a pirated version of Photoshop, it's a no brainer and Photoshop's latest versions are highly seeded on most torrent directories and proxies. In fact, Photoshop remains to be one of the most seeded software on peer-to-peer directories.
But if you don't pirate or don't have the resources to pirate, currently, then yes, GIMP is the software you should go for. It's open-source and highly modifiable. As far as image editing is concerned, sure it cannot beat Photoshop but can do a lot of stuff pretty efficiently.
Besides the price point, another reason is Linux users can't easily use Photoshop (Creative Cloud only available on the desktop on Mac and Windows). And not just Photoshop, most of the other Windows and Mac software, for that matter. Simply because Adobe doesn't port its software for the Linux distributions. They have their own corporate reasons and sure, they are missing out on a sizeable portion of user-base.
As long as the whole world keeps thinking of Linux as nerds-only sitting on command lines all day, stuff isn't going to change by much. However, pioneering graphical technology including games is seeing a decent rise on Linux-based operating systems. Thanks to all parties involved, including Steam. Also, because Linux (let's say Ubuntu, for example) isn't really seen as a commercial platform because everything is basically free that a user might need, corporates don't really think of their users as customers.
To install Photoshop (and much other software not natively supported by Linux), you can use Wine (a Windows emulator, basically) or set up a virtual machine.
More often than not, people use GIMP on Windows because they are tired of Photoshop. This happens and I like to call it software fatigue. Upon using software for your regular work or hobby, you lose the interest and when there is an alternative, you pick that up instead. This might be a short-term tendency, but a lot of people use GIMP for this reason.
Another strong reason to use GIMP instead of Photoshop is the low disk space and RAM it's going to use. Photoshop is not just for editing images and digital painting, it's for much more. It's for typography, animations, large-scale publication design, asset production as part of a larger pipeline, user interface design (including web design), compositing, and more. Photoshop is, thus, extremely bulky. GIMP manipulates bitmap images -- that's it. It's, therefore, smaller.
What that means is that GIMP has a smaller size, it eats up less disk space, it uses less RAM when it's running, it's faster to set up and get running. So, if you have an older laptop that's slow or if you're running out of disk space and need image editing every once a while only, not all the time, then GIMP is a fair alternative. Especially when you are only going to work on photographs and not use the rest of the tools Photoshop has to offer, it makes little to no sense to keep such a bulky software on your system. This makes GIMP faster and more stable for your purpose.
Another good reason is the customization. From the user interface to the core capabilities, GIMP is way more flexible and customizable than Photoshop. So, if you are into tweaking the software you work with (for, say, having a faster pipeline to do some of your work or automate certain tasks) then GIMP gives you a good advantage over Photoshop. You can do stuff as you see fit -- automate certain tasks, re-create your keyboard shortcuts in a quick span of time, speed up your workflow, and so on.
Let's see ideal matches for GIMP users: A traveling photographer running an older machine, a student with no money to spare on Photoshop but who needs image editing, someone who needs image editing only, someone who needs image manipulation tools but every once a while only, someone who uses Linux and doesn't want to set up a virtual machine or use Wine, etc.
GIMP is easier to install, use, and set up according to your preferences. That is a good point for many users. If you can get an image editing software for under 30 MB, it will mean a lot for those users. I used to be one of those users at a time, and GIMP was a lifesaver.
I dual-booted Ubuntu and Windows 7 back in the day when it was new, and it was a heck lot easier to boot my Ubuntu and work on GIMP instead of booting my Windows, launching Photoshop, and getting the job done. I had plenty of time left for other work when I did that, and slowly, I moved away from Windows completely (not right now, though).
Why choose Adobe Photoshop?
Photoshop is desirable mainly for two reasons: amazingly powerful tools and the power to work on a number of mediums. By amazingly powerful tools, I mean stronger processing tools, more flexibility when it comes to brushes, and stronger capability overall. Text processing, font management, image processing, conversions, precise pixel manipulation, complex artwork, processing of levels, curves, and masking -- Photoshop can do a lot of tasks and with both, precision and stability. For example, there's a lot of brushstrokes in Photoshop (and you can download addition too -- the possibilities are infinite). Or, there are four separate healing tools for a number of different applications in Photoshop. Better and stronger (and more) tools in Photoshop: a clear advantage over GIMP. As for working on a number of mediums, let I quote myself from this same article: [Photoshop is] for typography, animations, large-scale publication design, asset production as part of a larger pipeline, user interface design (including web design), compositing, and more [besides just digital painting and image editing].
Handling RAW images is easier with Photoshop. As soon as a camera is connected, the camera RAW importer pops up, giving you plenty of options to convert easily, swiftly, and seamlessly. This requires a separate plugin in GIMP.
A few more niche uses of Photoshop are integration and working with CMYK. If you are a power graphics user who has a full pipeline that requires proper integration, then Photoshop is the right tool. I don't just mean exporting in a number of formats: that is a quality that a number of different software have and integration means much more now.
For example, your pipeline to produce a creative piece of work might need formatted type bodies (Adobe InDesign), vector graphics (Adobe Illustrator), assets for motion graphics, animation, and video production (Adobe AfterEffects and Adobe Premiere Pro) and so on. Photoshop's native artwork and layers have a close affinity to other Adobe software. The non-Adobe software also deserve a mention here because Photoshop documents (PSDs) and Adobe PDFs that you export through Photoshop have a good deal of capability and have a large support in other software too.
As for working with CMYK, you need a plugin on GIMP to convert to CMYK. GIMP only works in the RGB color space. Also, handling of CMYK documents requires better capabilities that Photoshop is sure to provide.
Another decent benefit is the Photoshop-Lightroom combination. This enables you to do non-destructive photo editing. Destructive photo editing means if you accidentally save new data over the old data, the old data is lost. With photographs, a lot of people make mistakes of this kind.
Wrapping up: which one would you choose?
So, which one do you choose? If budget and disk space are not variables in your equation, then it depends on two things.
First? Photoshop comes with a number of tutorials, a community that will answer all your questions, and tools that you will master in no time if you have the time. Go for it, it's surely superior. If you have never used any Adobe software, which is rare, you are still in luck because Photoshop (and other Adobe applications) follow the structure of other software common to Windows like CorelDRAW or even MS Paint. A toolbar, a menu bar, and your good old Windows or Mac windowing interface.
Now, the second factor. If you're a photographer or someone who will need photo editing only, then you are good to go with GIMP. It's lightweight, doesn't consume a lot of resources and thus can run on older Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, and is easy to start using.
If you still cannot decide, I urge you to add your own requirements from the software. That way, I can be of more help in deciding what you want.
There is always the third way, the way in which I went all those years ago. Dual boot an Ubuntu and a Windows. Windows will have a Photoshop and Ubuntu will have a GIMP. When you need to do something fast, boot your Ubuntu and get the job done lightning fast. When there's more at stake and you need to do something more complex, boot your Windows, fire up Photoshop and take your time with it!
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Another great article!
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