How to Make GIMP Look Like Photoshop

GIMP is a very powerful image editor, but it has never had the best user interface in the world. It has advanced dramatically in the last couple of releases, but there’s still a lot about it that could be improved with a bit of tweaking. Here’s how you can make it into a Photoshop clone!

The Ultra-simple Way to Make GIMP Look Like Photoshop

This guide assumes you’re using GIMP 2.10. Make sure GIMP is not running while you perform these steps, and make a backup copy of your original files so you can switch back if needed.

Step 1: Download the free GIMP addon PhotoGIMP from the official GitHub repository

Step 2: Extract the compressed files from .var/app/org.gimp.GIMP/config/GIMP inside the ZIP file to your user GIMP folder

Step 3: Load GIMP and marvel at how everything now looks more like Photoshop!

It really can be that simple, but there are a few wrinkles that can make things a bit more complicated. PhotoGIMP is originally designed for Linux users, but now it’s possible to install on both Windows and macOS as well – as long as you know where to extract the files.

If you’re familiar with GIMP and its many folders, that’s probably all the information you need to get going on this project. If you’re new to GIMP, then read on as I break down the install steps a bit more so you can be sure that your GIMP/Photoshop conversion works the way it should.

Can GIMP Really Look Like Photoshop? 

First off, let’s take a quick look at the current Photoshop interface. One of the great things about Photoshop is that it actually has a completely customizable interface, with different workspace presets designed for different tasks. I generally use the ‘Essential’ preset, but it’s really up to you.

The Essentials (Default) workspace preset in Adobe Photoshop CC 2021

The default GIMP layout already looks pretty similar to this: a large main workspace, surrounded by tools, settings, and additional information. But if you want to get even closer, then PhotoGIMP will make the whole process simple – well, sort of simple. 

Download A Copy of PhotoGIMP

PhotoGIMP was developed by the Brazilian Linux enthusiasts over at Diolinux, but because GIMP works almost identically in Linux, Windows, and Mac environments, PhotoGIMP should be compatible with all of these operating systems. 

The latest official release is available here on GitHub. Despite the fact that PhotoGIMP is compatible with different operating systems, it was originally intended to work with the Linux installation system known as FlatPak, which can also be used to install GIMP on Linux.

If you’re using Windows or macOS, then you simply need to download the main zip file from GitHub. Don’t bother with the source code versions, unless you want to compile your own version for some reason. 

Extract Your PhotoGIMP Files

At this point, the instructions will vary a little bit depending on which operating system you’re using, but the general idea works the same way across all operating systems. The trick is just to put the PhotoGIMP files in the correct folder!

To get things working, we need to extract the files from the compressed version we just downloaded and place them in the user GIMP folder. Windows and macOS both have their own built-in ways to open ZIP files, so extracting is just as easy as working with uncompressed files.

Open the compressed file you just downloaded, and then open a new File Explorer or Finder window. First, we’ll dig into a hidden user folder that GIMP uses to store configuration information, and then we’ll extract the new PhotoGIMP files to that location.

On Windows, the folder path is: C:\Users\YourUserName\AppData\Roaming\GIMP\

The AppData folder is hidden by default, so make sure that you’ve enabled Hidden items in File Explorer. Just click the View tab at the top of any File Explorer window and check the box marked Hidden items as shown below.

On macOS, the folder path is: ~/Library/Application Support/Gimp

If you can’t see the user-level Library folder on your Mac, you probably haven’t ever used the Library folder before, which is hidden by default. Note this is different from the system Library folder! Here’s a quick overview of how to make it visible:

Step 1: Open a Finder window and navigate to the Users directory. 

Step 2: Open the View menu and choose View Options.

Step 3: Check the box beside Show Library Folder, and you’re done!

At this point, you should have a window open showing your user GIMP folder and another window with the PhotoGIMP ZIP file open. If you want to be safe, make a backup copy of the entire 2.10 folder from your user GIMP folder, in case you want to revert to the default config later.

In your PhotoGIMP ZIP file, we don’t need everything, so we’ll navigate to the following directory: .var/app/org.gimp.GIMP/config/GIMP where we will find another folder named 2.10. Simply copy the folder from the PhotoGIMP ZIP file into your user GIMP folder.

Replace your existing files to upgrade to PhotoGIMP!

Your operating system will ask you if you want to replace any files with the same names, and we do, so click Replace the files in the destination if you’re on Windows or Copy and replace on macOS. If you run into an error here, you’ve probably still got GIMP running in the background.

Enjoy Your New Photoshopped GIMP

Assuming that everything went properly, you should now be ready to view your newly streamlined GIMP-Photoshop hybrid interface! Here’s a quick reminder of how things looked before the change:

The default interface in GIMP 2.10, before PhotoGIMP

Launch GIMP, and you’ll immediately see the new splash screen, which is definitely trendier than the default GIMP splash screen (though I’m not sure I’d say it’s better – I like them both). It will load a bit slowly the first time, while GIMP is checking out new plugins installed by PhotoGIMP.

The new PhotoGIMP interface – certainly looks more like Photoshop to me!

You might want to do a few more adjustments to the layout, such as increasing the icon size or tweaking your palette layouts, but you’re already well on your way to making GIMP look like Photoshop!

A Final Word

While PhotoGIMP definitely makes GIMP look and feel a bit more like Photoshop, it doesn’t actually change the software. GIMP’s little quirks still come through, and you don’t suddenly get access to any of the cool new Creative Cloud tools that come with the real version of Photoshop. 

If you’re absolutely against working with Adobe, but you miss the classic Photoshop layout and keyboard shortcuts, then PhotoGIMP should do a great job of making GIMP look like Photoshop. But if you need the best of the best in image editing, Adobe Photoshop still reigns supreme. 

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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  • Or Koda

    Followed the directions on this page. 2020 Asus VivoBook AMD Vega and Ryzen 7, Windows 11. All systems go! Thank you for your support, Tom!

    Reply
    • Thomas Boldt

      Excellent! I’m glad that I could provide some help, but the real credit has to go to the original developers of the patch, Diolinux! I’m a bit surprised (pleasantly so) that it works with Windows 11, since I haven’t upgraded my desktop machine yet. Maybe in the next few months or so =)

      Reply
  • rif

    worked on windows 10, thanks!

    Reply
    • Thomas Boldt

      Woohoo, glad it’s still working with the latest GIMP release! Sometimes these workarounds go haywire when the devs release a new update, lol.

      Reply
  • kris staber

    linux mint una and gimp 2.10.18 fresh installs
    not working
    it did not ask to overwrite files

    Reply
    • kris staber

      ok i made it work
      found it in the comments of the git hub repository

      in linux there was a home/.config/gimp folder
      delete that folder
      then copy the 3 photo gimp folders into home/
      start gimp
      works

      Reply
      • Thomas Boldt

        Awesome, thanks for including the solution! I haven’t tested out Mint and I am still relatively inexperienced with Linux, so I might have had a hard time helping =)

        Reply
  • Jeremy

    Same issue here. I get the new splash-screen but the interface looks the same. I’m on MacOS Monterey on a new M1 mac. It seems to load fine but my main interface does not look like yours in this tutorial.
    What I did was rename my 2.10 file to xxx 2.10 back-up and then I copied the 2.1 file from the github zip over to my library/application support/gimp folder. Any ideas?
    Thanks for your tutorial, by the way.

    Reply
    • Thomas Boldt

      Hmm, I’m not sure what to suggest here – I’ve only used it on my Windows PC. What part of the interface isn’t matching my sample? If it has changed some parts of GIMP but not others, there may be some files that didn’t get copied/replaced properly, but it’s hard to say for sure.

      Since you’re using a Mac, you might want to try using the Flatpak install instructions listed on the Github page ( https://github.com/Diolinux/PhotoGIMP – scroll down to the ‘How to Install (using Flatpak)’ section). Apparently, you’ll have to install the Flatpak version of GIMP for it to work, but this might fix the issue. I haven’t tested it, but it’s worth a shot.

      Reply
  • Larry Brown

    I just tried to install PhotoGimp and it does not work. I am using GIMP 2.10.28. Please help.

    Reply
    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Larry, sorry to hear you ran into trouble! What operating system are you using? Did you get any kind of error messages, or has nothing changed since you installed PhotoGIMP?

      Reply