By Alex Walker

Bring out the GimpShop

By Alex Walker

Gimp is powerful. Gimp is fast. Gimp is free.

That’s a pretty handy combination by any objective measure, so the question remains. Why aren’t we all using it? While there are probably three major reasons at the moment, one of those may be just about to disappear in puff of hackery — at least for Mac users.

Reason 1 – The Irresistable Force of Habit: Whether it’s our breakfast cereal, our OS’s or our dentist, it’s always easiest to stick with what you know, rather than risk the new for an unknown payoff.

Reason 2 – Industry Standards: Let’s face it. A quick search on generates a list of three positions requiring knowledge of the Gimp. All three bracketed it along side Photoshop skills as a requirement. A similar search for ‘Photoshop‘ returns a results page saying ‘..more than 1000’. In short, at this time you wouldn’t choose the Gimp as a pure ‘career move’.

Reason 3 – The Interface: There’s nothing quite like having the excitement of opening a nifty new application slowly replaced by the feeling of stupidity you get as you begin to realize you can’t fathom the interface. I personally remember LightWave and 3D Studio Max being offenders in this area. I eventually slogged my way through and ended up loving LightWave but I never got very far with Max (yet anyway – I installed GMax last week).

Of these three Gimp issues, the first two are closely linked and can only change over time. When lots of designers are showing their skills with Gimp, employers will naturally call on them. Certainly, most smaller businesses would likely appreciate the simplifying effect of the open source licensing model.

As Firefox demonstrates, ingrained habits can be broken when the motivation is compelling enough. The Mozilla team were also clever enough to realize the importance of making the transition to their software as simple as possible. Whereever they could, they kept things like buttons configuration, menus and shortcut keys exactly the same as the then standard — IE6.

Scott Moschella has taken a very similar approach to the Gimp. Gimpshop is 40M of hacks designed to retrofit the Gimp to look and behave much more like the industry standard — Adobe Photoshop.

To quote his site “My original purpose for GIMPshop was to make the Gimp accessible to the many Adobe Photoshop users out there. I hope I

  • Now that is impressive

  • Very interesting. I’ve used GIMP before when I was broke and couldn’t scrap up a good copy of Photoshop. The only hard part for me (since I wasn’t looking for a career in it or use to anything else) was the interface. It opened in all new windows. I ended up solving this with a XP Powertool.

    This looks promising though.

  • This is phenomenal – my biggest complaint about switching was the dramatic difference from Photoshop. Once one spends a few years in Photoshop on any regular basis – changing tools can be a nightmare. This should make life easier – and is OS X friendly.

  • pixelguru

    Considering that until GIMP, Photoshop had no real competition, I welcome the pressure on Adobe – especially in the area of program STABILITY, which Adobe has been slipping in IMHO.

    Unfortunately, the lack of CMYK support in GIMP is a bit of a deal-breaker for me since I do both print and web design, and I often need to open/edit/convert CMYK files to RGB jpegs and gifs. Having to switch back and forth between GIMP and Photoshop would defeat the purpose of switching.

  • Thanks for pointing this out. I’ve tried using gimp on machines where I don’t have PS, but its usually a very frustrating experience. I’m definately going to give this a shot.

  • ChiliJ

    The interface issue with GIMP is not only about restructuring the menu and renaming the commands. A lot of things are done differently with GIMP compared to Photoshop.

    Consider copying and pasting in GIMP. A photoshop user would go “what the? what are those floating selections for?!” They might not even notice the floating layers.

    A different/unique interface is not necessarily bad. I like what the Blender team has done by creating movie tutorials (, I hope someone will do the same for GIMP.

    There are still other areas I feel lacking. I am not an expert on the GIMP, nor am I a graphics professional. I acknowledge some of this could be due to ignorance on my part.
    – There is no equivalent to layer styles, which is one feature I find very useful in photoshop. Script-fu can perform some of the function, but very crudely: no preview, can’t turn-off styles later.
    – text/fonts. The text tool in GIMP still looks premature and cumbersome to use. Could not scale text layers. The fonts does not render quite as nicely as other graphical applications.
    – gradients. is there a way to customize a gradient without creating a preset? Is it even possible to create your own preset?
    – brush sizes. is there a way to adjust brush sizes without using the mouse? Photoshop has keyboard shortcuts for this which makes brushing a breeze.
    – on Windows, where we don’t have multiple desktops by default, the way that GIMP spawns separate windows really messes up the taskbar and destroys the user experience.

  • dakira

    The windows compilation was done by Hybr1s and you can get the installer here:
    GTK, the Gimp Deweirdifier and the native windows theme (GTK Wimp) are included (8mb alltogether)

  • Let’s see if this really does get Adobe motivated to create some improvements to their product.

  • Anonymous

    There are a lot of updates to it since this article has been released. Check the homepage,, or, for more information and downloads.

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