Gimp For Photoshop For Mac

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GIMP is an excellent open-source photo editing program. It has a list of tools for the user to edit their photos. It has plenty of brushes (all of them are customizable), filters, auto image-enhancement tools, and compatibility for a wide range of pre-installed plugins, as well as more available for download.

  1. GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Use GIMP as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc. GIMP is expandable and extensible; it can be augmented with plug - ins and extensions to do just about anything.
  2. Professional, open-source raster graphics editor with advanced digital painting and sketching.
  3. OS X: GIMP is a fantastic free alternative to Photoshop for all desktop operating systems, but on Mac it was a bit of a pain to set it up, because you needed to install X11. Gimp now, however.

GIMP, a popular photo editor for Windows and Linux, is also available for the Mac! In 2012, GIMP was made available to the Mac platform as a standalone app. Here, we’ll dive into GIMP’s features, and discuss some alternatives.

While our cameras take great photos, they sometimes need fine-tuning. That’s where great photo editing software comes into play. Maybe the background blur isn’t quite what you were looking for, or you want to enhance the colors in a photo before sharing to social media.

But is GIMP a great photo editor? Is its feature-set really the best available for Mac users? Let’s dive right in.

What is GIMP?

GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Platform,” which highlights its origins as a Linux app. While Linux as a desktop operating system is typically left wanting for high-profile photo tools, the GIMP editor stands out as one of the best options for that platform.

GIMP for Mac is also popular! An open-source app, the GIMP photo editing software has a robust toolkit. You can edit the color and tone of photos, but also add filters. You can use GIMP for Mac to create original artwork, and as a tool for graphic design. One of GIMP’s main draws is its extensibility; you can use it with apps like Scribus, Inkscape, and SwatchBooker, or programmatically alter images using languages like Python, C, C++, Perl, and Scheme.

How to Download GIMP for Mac

Downloading GIMP is simple. First, head to the GIMP homepage. At the top of the screen, you’ll see ‘download’ on the menu bar, which is the direct link for the GIMP download for Mac (or GIMP OSX, if you’re on a legacy version of macOS); the word ‘download’ should also appear on the banner image up top, alongside the most recent version of GIMP on Mac.

Clicking either download button will take you to a new screen. Here, you can select a GIMP download from two sources: BitTorrent, or direct. Either option is fine.

Once the file is finished downloading to your Mac, head to your download folder and double-click the file named gimp-(file version)-x86_64.dmg. (The file version identifier is unique to each new version, but will look something like “2.10.14”.)

Once the file is opened and the download is complete, a new window named “GIMP 2.0 Install” will open. You’ll see an icon for the GIMP photo editor, and an arrow to an Applications folder. This is asking you to add GIMP to your list of Applications. Simply drag the GIMP icon to the Applications folder to do so.

GIMP Photo Editing Software: Key features for Mac users

Most will use GIMP as a photo editor, and the GIMP app is great for this purpose – so we’ll focus on that here. To open an image for editing in GIMP, got to File > Open in the menu bar when the GIMP app is open.


Find the file you want to edit (we suggest adding the images you want to edit to your desktop to make finding them simpler), and select “open” on the bottom right. Your image will open in the main GIMP window, ready for editing.

On the left side of the window, you’ll see various icons for things like adding blocks of text, or cropping the image. You can also draw or paint on your image. Below the icons, you’ll see options that change with the tool you have selected. Here you can do things like change the cropping size you want to use (handy if you’re trying to crop images for use on the web, or for social media), and fine-tune tools like the brush (it allows you to change the size and opacity of the brush head).

On the right side of the screen, you’ll see a “Mode” menu, where you can do things like edit the shading and color of an image. This is also where you’ll find a list of the layers you have for your image, which can be hidden or edited independently of one another.

GIMP on Mac is a powerful tool, but it’s a bit clumsy. Some may find its interface too difficult to master. One major feature of any photo editor is filters, and GIMP has them – but they’re buried int he menu up top. While “Filters” having a spot on the menu bar is great, it’s far different from other apps, and the granular options for altering those filters is not straightforward. You simply have to tinker with the filters a bit to find the effect you’re looking for.

Meet advanced GIMP software alternatives for Mac

If the GIMP app doesn’t sound like your cop of tea, there’s nothing to worry about. Though powerful, the app leaves many people looking for something more suitable to their needs.

This is when you should really consider what your needs are. It’s also where you should consider that you may not know what you even want! It’s okay – we’ve got you covered.

Photolemur for automatic AI enhancements

If you’re looking for a desktop app that helps you get the best out of the photos you’ve taken without a lot of fuss, Photolemur may be your best choice. It’s lightweight, but oh-so-powerful.

Photolemur prides itself on making life easier for its users. It bills itself as the “first fully automated AI photo enhancer.” Instead of leaning on granular controls to get you the best results, Photolemur uses artificial intelligence backed by machine learning to make your images better.

The app analyzes “millions” of details in your photos, and enhances each of those data-points. This behavior allows Photolemur to assess your image via its gathered data, and adjust each pixel to its maximum brilliance. It’s really sort of magical!

Photolemur also lets you edit batches of images. Select the images you want to edit, and let Photolemur take over. This is a really great option if you’ve shot in low-light on a night out, but really need your pics to pop for sharing to social media.

If you were at an event, Photolemur also has a handy renaming option for edited images. That weekend getaway can be tagged and enhanced, all in one seamless action.

Another great benefit from Photolemur’s AI is its “Face Finish” feature. This AI-based editing tool automatically adjusts for things like skin smoothness, and removes imperfections. It also brightens and whitens your smile so you’re always looking great!

CameraBag Pro for the best photo filters

Gimp for mac os x

If filters are your thing, then CameraBag Pro should be your go-to app for photo editing.

CameraBag Pro has more filters than you probably know what to do with – and that’s a good thing. Rather than lean on AI or self-guided controls, CameraBag Pro hosts its image editing as filters.

The great part about this is it makes photo editing simpler; instead of fiddling with white-balance or shadows from the start, you simply scroll through a series of filters until your image looks right. If you like what you see, just use the filter!

And if you’re in-between filters for your image, CameraBag Pro lets you fiddle with the finer points, too. Things like exposure, contrast, and saturation can all be controlled within filters. It’s great for those times when you just need to adjust one small aspect of a filter to get the absolute best image possible.

And the coolest thing about CameraBag Pro’s filters is many of them are meant to mimic old-school film photographs. While Instagram made its name styling images after a polaroid, CameraBag Pro takes it to the next level with filters meant to mimic old Kodak, Fuji, and other manufacturer’s cameras. It’s the best way to make an image of something old look like it was from the same era.


Luminar Flex as a smart addition to your editor

Luminar Flex doesn’t eschew filters, and it has some AI mixed in as well – which might just make it one of the best photo editors around.

Rather than use AI to enhance entire images, Luminar Flex uses it to make elements of an image pop. If the blue sky in your pictures wasn’t as brilliant as you’d like (or remember), Luminar Flex can enhance the blue hue of the sky to make it stand out.

As filters go, Luminar Flex has plenty to keep you satisfied. It boasts “pro-level” filters for things like color correction. The filters are easily accessible via a slide-out side menu, just like the other features of Luminar Flex. The app even guides you, letting you know which application is best for a filter.

“Luminar Looks” is one of the app’s most interesting features. It’s a set of professionally-inspired filters, which can be used as one-off filters for your images if you like. That alone is great – but you can also fine-tune each Looks filter and re-save it as your own.

Luminar Looks has a dedicated icon on the top bar of the app’s window, and filters show up at the bottom. After choosing one, you simply select the icon for the side-menu, and an “edit filter” button allows you to fine-tune Looks filters.

The aforementioned side-bar is called a workspace, and is where all your editing features live. Here, you can get a granular as you like with editing, and all filters are laid out as slider bars, making things much simpler. And if you just want to start over from scratch, there is always an option to simply ‘clear’ the workspace.


Luminar Flex’s editing features alone are top-notch, but it has one more trick up its sleeve. The app also doubles as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements, and Apple’s own Photos app. As a plugin, you get access to all of Lumina Flex’s filters, even those Looks you may have designed yourself!

Choosing the best photo editor for Mac

While GIMP for Mac is an excellent and robust photo editing app, Mac users will probably enjoy the powerful-yet-stylish Luminar Flex as a replacement. It’s a lot easier to use, and just plain has a better interface.

If you don’t need or want the fine-tuning photo editing software as your primary option, CameraBag Pro is a great choice. We really like that you can choose to edit aspects of a filter, and dismiss those edits if you decide against having them included in your final version.

If you really want sharp, basic photo editing, Photolemur is an excellent choice. We really enjoy its use of AI for editing photos without asking too much of you. Batch editing is also a great feature you may find yourself using often.

Of all the options discussed here, keep in mind only the photo editing GIMP workflow allows for creating images from scratch. If you’re looking for a photo editor that also allows you to create original artwork, GIMP is worth a look – but that’s a very small audience.

For pure, performant, engaging photo editing, any of the three GIMP alternatives mentioned here are great options. Best of all, all of them – CameraBag Pro, Luminar Flex, and PhotoLemur – are available as part of Setapp’s 7-day free trial period. In that week, you can give each of these apps a whirl to find out which is best for your needs.

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Gimp vs Photoshop / Beginning Gimp tut / How to Use Gimp
Gimp is effectively (in a limited way) free Photoshop Mac and PC compatible

If you're looking for a free copy of Photoshop for Mac, the best (and legal) thing for you to do is to download Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program). Gimp is free software and is part of the GNU free software operating system Project. This page focuses on getting Mac users started with Gimp, and contains my first impressions of Gimp vs Photoshop. This article is primarily for anyone who has never installed or used Gimp before, and wants to know what to expect in the first ten minutes. Gimp 2.6 is the version I installed for the purposes of this article.

Gimp vs Photoshop / Beginning Gimp tut / How to Use Gimp
Installing Gimp on a Mac

In order to run Gimp on Mac OS X you'll need to install Apple's X11 environment (although it may already be installed, as was the case on my G5 running Snow Leopard 10.6.1). If you don't have it already, it's included on the 'Optional Installs' package on the OS X install disk. Alternatively you can download it from Apple.

Gimp On Mac

To download and install Gimp on your Mac, visit Gimp and click the Download link at the top of the site. It will take you to a page where you need to select a version appropriate for your operating system. Once downloaded, mount the disk on your desktop (this should happen automatically) and you'll see a window open like this:

Drag the Gimp icon to the Applications folder shortcut (this version was about 230MB), locate it in Applications, and double click to launch. Click Open on the following dialogue box:

After waiting for a few seconds (be patient), the following application splash screen should appear while the program loads:

Once loaded, the first thing you'll notice is that The X11 Application is the one which appears in the top left corner of your screen instead og the name 'Gimp'. This means that all the tools (including the Gimp main menu panel) are floating, rather than fixed to the top of the screen. You won't find any main menu options in the usual place. This is what the panels look like:

Gimp vs Photoshop / Beginning Gimp tut / How to Use Gimp
Using Gimp

The first thing I wanted to try when opening Gimp 2.6 was to see if I could work out how to use it intuitively, having used Photoshop exclusively for years. I opened one of my Photoshop TIFF files and within a couple of minutes I had successfully created a perfectly good path around an object without any major problems. Only one thing annoyed me until I got to the bottom of it. The Command+Z undo keyboard shortcut seemed to get rid of the whole path rather than a single anchor. I discovered that the path was still there - I just had to double-click on the path icon in the Paths palette. It is better to use the Edit/Undo Add Anchor option straight from the menu.

The Path submenu allows you to save the path, stroke it and most of the other usual things that are available in Photoshop. The Layers, Paths and Channels palettes are laid out very similarly to Photoshop, so it's easy to find everything. A few keyboard shortcuts are different, but after experimenting with various variations of the ALT / CONTROL and COMMAND keys, I soon got the hang of it.

Gimp vs Photoshop / Beginning Gimp tut / How to Use Gimp
Some Similarities and Differences

Another difference from Photoshop (and most other programs I have used) is that you have to double-click tools, layers and paths etc in order to select them. This takes a little getting used to, but it's not a big deal.

You can save images in pretty much any format, although I noticed that there was a notable absence of a CMYK color mode option. This wouldn't be much of a problem for an everyday user, but for graphic designers or pre-press professionals, it would become an issue. I managed to open a CMYK TIF file and it converted automatically to RGB after displaying the following message:

/Users/Mac/Desktop/angelcmyk.tif: wrong data type 7 for 'RichTIFFIPTC'; tag ignored

If you're going to place the image in an InDesign or Quark document, this would not present a problem because when you output a press-ready PDF/X1-a:2001 document, the RGB images are automatically converted to CMYK for you. However, if you really need CMYK support in Gimp, there are developers who've created plugins which will provide support for the CMYK color mode.

Gimp vs Photoshop / Beginning Gimp tut / How to Use Gimp
Basic image tasks in Gimp

Gimp For Apple

Many of the features in Photoshop can be found in GIMP, although some might have slightly different names - for example, Image Size… in Photoshop is Scale Image… in GIMP and so on. Many of the main filters (Gaussian Blur, Sharpen etc) are present, as well as a few unfamiliar ones. The tool icons are nicely designed and intuitive - just play around with a few and you'll soon get the hang of them.

The most common image tasks that I perform most often (using Photoshop) are resizing, cropping, tweaking levels, creating a new layer from a selection, and saving web-optimised JPEGs. Gimp managed these tasks easily:

PhotoshopImage/Image Size… = GimpImage/Scale Image…
PhotoshopImage/Canvas Size… = GimpImage/Canvas Size…
PhotoshopImage/Adjustments/Levels… = GimpColors/Levels…

To save an image for web use, just select the JPEG option in the file types window and tweak the advanced options which appear on the dialogue box. As for creating a new layer from a selection, Photoshop's Layer/New/Layer via Copy is really handy and I couldn't find a Gimp version of this. No problem though - you just copy the selection, create a new layer and paste your selection into it. It will stay in exactly the same x/y location on the canvas as it was copied from. If you did that in Photoshop it would default to pasting into the centre of the canvas.

Gimp Software For Mac

These were just my first impressions of Gimp - and considering that this is a free program, I was hugely impressed. It's professionally laid out, intuitive, familiar and above all, free. An excellent alternative to Photoshop if your pockets are shallow.

Browse the online Gimp User Manual Visit the Gimp Visit the GNU Project

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by Nick Beresford Davies © Training, advice, resources, confidence building for graphic designers