How to Install GIMP Plugins

One of the coolest features of GIMP is the ability to add new features through plugins. You can add new editing tools, new filters, and even more technical features like CMYK support. But not all plugins come with an installer, so many users are unsure how to use their new GIMP plugin.

The very short guide to installing GIMP plugins only has 3 steps:

Step 1: Download your plugin from an official source.

Step 2: Copy your plugin files to the GIMP plugin folder for your user profile.

Step 3: Restart GIMP, and it should identify and load your new plugin automatically!

For advanced users, that’s probably enough information, but the vast majority of GIMP users appreciate a bit more of an explanation. Let’s go through the steps in some extra detail, including an easy trick to find the GIMP plugins folder, and how to install GIMP plugins that use Script-Fu.

Step 1: Download Your GIMP Plugin

This step is actually pretty simple, and maybe it doesn’t even deserve to be a step on its own, but it gives me a quick chance to remind you to only download your free software from official sources! GitHub and Sourceforge are great resources, but developers use their own sites too.

Of course, if you’re not sure where to start your search, you should take a look at the list of the best GIMP plugins that I compiled. They provide actually useful functionality that will help your editing processes, although there are a few sillier plugins added just for fun as well! 

Step 2: The GIMP Plugins Folder

Once you’ve got your plugin downloaded from a safe and trustworthy source, the next step is to get it into the GIMP plugins folder. Before we can do that we’ll have to find it, but they’re often buried in deep nests of folders – but there’s a simple trick to find it and open it all at once.

Open GIMP, and then open the Preferences window. In the left pane, scroll down until you locate the Folders section, and click the small + icon to expand it. 

The GIMP Plug-in Folders section of the Preferences window

Select Plug-ins from the new list, and you’ll see the right pane update with all the information about the folders GIMP checks for plugins. By default, you’ll see two folders listed: your user profile folder, and the system installation folder.

Select the folder you want to use, and click the small file cabinet icon in the upper right Show location in the file manager. A new window will open in your operating system’s file manager, showing the location of the selected plugin folder. 

Some plugin installers put their plugin directly into the main GIMP installation folder, but it’s possible that they may get overwritten during a future GIMP update so it’s arguably best practice to install them in your user profile’s folder, but you can decide which you’d rather use. 

Copy or extract your plugin files directly into your chosen folder, and you’re almost done! If you just want to get going with your plugin you can go ahead to step 3, but there are some other useful things to know for the future if you’re interested.

Note: If your plugin has a .scm extension, it’s actually a script created in the Script-Fu scripting language that GIMP uses, and it needs to go in a different folder – just select the Scripts folder instead of the Plug-ins folder from the list.

Streamlining the GIMP Plugin Install Process

If you want to skip this process in the future, you could always create a folder on your desktop named My Plugins or something like that, and extract all your plugin files there. Then you just tell GIMP to check that folder for plugins as well during the startup process.

Just don’t tell GIMP to check too many different folders, as that might eventually make GIMP launch much more slowly.  

Step 3: Restart GIMP and Locate Plugins

With all that complete, close down GIMP and open it again. GIMP checks the folders in the Plug-ins folder list during its startup phase, and it should immediately detect the new files that we added and load them. 

The last and final trick is to actually locate your plugin in order to use it. There’s no standard location for accessing GIMP plugins, which is a bit frustrating since it can make them hard to find.

The developers often mention where to look on their website, but there are a few good places to start:

  • Edit menu
  • Image menu
  • Tools menu
  • Filters menu, including the Python-Fu and Script-Fu submenus

Additionally, some plugins are unavailable unless you’ve got an image opened, and others only show up in their own dockable windows. Check with the developer on their website or plugin documentation for additional details, as it’s probably a question they get asked regularly! 

Troubleshooting Your GIMP Plugins

If you’re still not able to locate your GIMP plugin, it’s possible that something went wrong during the installation process. Here are a few steps you can try:

  • Go back to step 2, and make sure that all your files are located in the right folders. 
  • Check to make sure that your plugin file doesn’t use the SCM file extension. It’s ok if they do, but you’ll have to put these files in a different folder because they’re technically considered scripts and not plugins. 
  • Check with the developer to be sure that your current version of GIMP is supported by the current version of the plugin. The GIMP developers regularly release new updates, and plugin developers sometimes need to update their plugins to make sure they all play nicely together. 

If all that fails, try leaving a message in the comments! I may be able to help, or there may be someone else in the TGT community who has already dealt with that particular issue and found the right solution.

About Thomas Boldt
I’ve been working with digital images since the year 2000 or so, when I got my first digital camera. I've tried many image editing programs. GIMP is a free and powerful software, but not exactly user-friendly until you get comfortable with it, and I wanted to make the learning process easier for you here.

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  • roger

    Thanks for all of the help that you offer.
    As a newby, [I have been using Windows for 20 years] I am finding a lot of the support very difficult to understand and to follow.
    On some occasions I just have to give up and look for alternatives. for example, I have downloaded WINE but still been unable to successfully use it.
    Now working with GIMP, I am afraid to say, it is giving me Brain Ache.
    Still it is early days and maybe one day that penny will drop.

    Reply
    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Roger, you’re not alone in finding GIMP hard to use! I love that it exists as a free software option, but it can extremely difficult to learn, especially if you don’t already have a background in image editing.

      It might seem very difficult now, but if you keep practicing, you WILL get better =)

      Reply
  • Mino

    I installed GIMP 2.10 now.
    I installed retouch4me Clean Backdrop and put the plug-in to
    C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\GIMP\2.10\plug-ins
    The plug-in appears there:
    *AllLayersCLdemo.dll
    *opencv_world430.dll
    *Retouch4me Clean Backdrop.8bf
    I checked that the folder is visible in GIMP under preferences > folders > plug-ins.

    But now unter Filters (and the other recommended folders as well) the plug-in is not visible.
    Does GIMP work with these *.8bf-files?

    Kind regards,
    -Mino

    Reply
    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Mino, I think I replied to your comments out of order! I saw your question on the other plugins post, but I don’t have any more information. It sounds like you have already tried all the correct steps to make the plugin work, so it’s possible that the plugin is simply incompatible with GIMP.

      GIMP can technically use 8bf plugin files, but not all plugin files are compatible.

      Have you tried contacting the developers for more info?

      Reply