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 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.
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:
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.
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