Not another GIMP vs Photoshop article


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Booooooy how i love those X vs Y flame wars, and booooooy how i fire up a search engine and search X vs Y everytime i want to do something, get info on something, chose something, and the dearest to my heart is the good ol’ “GIMP vs Photoshop” debate.

If you ask me, you can never do such thing as comparing those two (and the same goes for almost all vs. wars), and i think the best thing in a vs. war is the fact that you can see pros and cons and in the end you would be able to make a choice after filtering that in your brain.

I will not go into the GIMP/Photoshop pros and cons and i will explain why you should give GIMP a try, how it can be an alternative to Photoshop even for experienced users and how, with the right guidance you can easily use a free applications for almost all the stuff you do with a quite expensive software.

Picture this:

We are like 10 years ago and you just started working with Photoshop for some photo retouching/enhancing, image editing, building website mockups, creating logos and graphic elements.

As you get proficient with Photoshop, you start to master layers (no layer groups or smart layers yet), selections, filters, transformations, color corrections and layer modes, the basic back-bone of Photoshop in general.

Let’s say your job is to make a colage like a movie poster, what do you do?

– maybe you will extract some people from some pictures with a combination of quick mask, layer mask, eraser or pen tool, new layers, cut and paste and color correction.

– creating new graphic elements with marquee, elipse selections, copy/cut/paste on layers, brushes and filters

– put everything on layers, add text, color correct everything.

Years passes and one day, after months of Linux vs Windows and GIMP vs Photoshop, you decided to give GIMP a shot. And your new job is…create a poster…so…what do you do?

I think there is a great chance of using the same tools and workflow u’ve used a few years ago.

If you’ve worked very much with a software for a few years you gain proficiency and specific workflows that get printed on your DNA. I think even with the latest version of a software, you will use in general the old workflow because this is how you’ve worked, this is how you’re used to work, you work faster and are happy with that.

Now with GIMP, the tools you would use 90% of the time in Photoshop (back 10 years ago and now in CS5) are there, right at your fingertips… and for free :).

The same thing goes with CAD software on Linux, 3D animation on Linux, photography on Linux etc. and Linux in general, it keeps your brain working.

It’s a great deal, you keep your brain exercised for free.

So, if you miss:

  • Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro try GIMP or MyPaint
  • Lightroom or Aperture try darktable or digikam or shotwell
  • Premiere or After Effects try Kdenlive or Cinelerra
  • 3D studio MAX try Blender 3D, Maya, XSI, Houdini, Lightwave for Linux soon.
  • Autocad try QCAD
  • After Effects / Photoshop try Synfig for 2D animation

[UPDATED] – Thanks Dragos

[UPDATED again] – Thanks Dragos

In the commercial corner:

  • You miss After Effects try Nuke for compositing “in non motion-graphics scenarios, and is much better for pure compositing tasks”
  • Lightworks, a high-end pro editing software will be ported soon to GNU/Linux
  • Mari for paint/3D paint
  • TVPaint for painting and animation (After Effects / Photoshop alternatives)
  • Also try Piranha, Mistika for comp/graphics/finishing.
  • Also turnkey systems (preconfigured with RedHat) “Flame for motion graphics and post, Smoke for editing/finishing.”

Have fun!


10 thoughts on “Not another GIMP vs Photoshop article

  1. It really all depends on what you want to do. When people complain that open source software is not suited to professionals* the response is often that it’s not aimed at professionals. What, then, do professionals who use Linux use? Answer: there is nothing.

    Want to do 32-bit editing in GIMP? Nope. You’ve gotta settle for 8-bit.
    Many file formats that it cannot read or write.
    No collaboration with those who use recent versions of photoshop. GIMP can only read psd from version six or below

    Lack of keyframes for all effects and transitions

    What this project needs to realise is that looks matter. It looks like it’s from 1996.
    I’ve tried it many times and it can only support .mov files. Converting from one file format to another leaves artefacts and reduces video quality

    Did I mention that there’s no alternative to After Effects? Jashoker was a failed attempt at this and, recently, Ramen attempted this but fell short of interest and developers.

    My point is that some open source software (for creative purposes at least) is good at doing a limited amount of things very well, but as soon as you want to do things that are more advanced/difficult sometimes you’ll find you just can’t do it

  2. Yes but there are guys like David Revoy and what they do in MyPaint, GIMP and Alchemy is just crazy!! Maybe they don’t need balls and wistles because what they need are just brushes and colors.

    Too bad that the 2D part is so bad for foss on GNU/Linux and i don’t think you’ll find commercial software for that, and that’s not the case in 3D. All major 3D animation packages has a Linux version and and i’m talking about the best on the planet. I wish things were the least the same in 2D.

    • Maybe they don’t need balls and wistles because what they need are just brushes and colors.

      In some ways it’s true that the tools shouldn’t dictate the artist i.e. you can make the same artwork in Photoshop as you can GIMP. One of many reasons why Photoshop succeeds is it makes it easier to do things. Sure, you’ll get a lot of fake artists who just use filters but the good ones will always rise to the top.

      I made the switch to open source software in 2007 and I’ve only just begun to get back to the standard of artwork I was producing. Part of that is due to relearning, which is inevitable, but another part is because there are some things that the software I use just can’t do.

      • First i love your website and your works! (some Aphex Twin flavor ^-^)

        An now, the only things you use are only open source software? If yes, do you do your job in the end? Do you “survive” using oss?

        In the end this is what is all about and this is what i think about switching to oss. There is someone who made the switch and is happy with that? (Ofcourse people who make a leaving from that)

  3. I do only use open source and free software. If Photoshop, or any other proprietary software, became available natively for Ubuntu I would consider using them.

    I’m at the beginning of my artistic career and make my money doing other things. I personally wouldn’t recommend any artists to switch to using only open source software due to the complexity of some tasks.

    • Or to switch only after they are really sure it will be ok.

      I make the analogy with 3D mechanical CAD software, there is nothing FOSS that will be production ready but there are some 400 euro packages used by proffesionals which is great when big guys like around 5000 euros are dominating the market.

      Good luck man! And drop by when you want to show some of your works.

  4. Since you mention commercial software, then on Linux you have: Nuke for compositing (can replace After Effects in non motion-graphics scenarios, and is much better for pure compositing tasks), Mari for paint/3D paint (Photoshop replacement), Flame for motion graphics and post, Smoke for editing/finishing, Piranha, Mistika for comp/graphics/finishing. And Lightworks, a high-end pro editing package is being ported right now.

    • Thank you for adding more software to the list. I updated the post.

      I checked your website and you are doing a very interesting work! 🙂

      I’ve seen Houdini in your toolbox, i am learning it right now and i just can’t believe how powerful it is.

      Spor la treaba si bafta multa! 🙂

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