GIMP can open, edit, and save an impressive number of file formats beyond its native XCF format. In the latest version of GIMP, you can open EPS files almost as easily as any other file format.
EPS was originally intended as a way to share standardized vector files between different vector editing programs, but it has largely been replaced by Adobe’s more recent PDF (Portable Document Format).
Many vector editing programs even offer native support for Adobe Illustrator’s native .AI file format, which also shares a lot of similarities with PDF.
The Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) format is not quite as common as it used to be, but you can still open your EPS files in GIMP if you need to. Unfortunately, because GIMP isn’t a vector editing program except in the most basic sense, you can’t import your EPS file as vector data.
Instead of keeping everything in vector format, GIMP will import the image content from the vector file and render it into pixels at the size and resolution you set during the import process. This means that you can technically edit the content – but only as pixels, not as the original vectors.
GIMP can also export EPS files, but they will simply be rendered pixel images that contain no vector data. In other words, there isn’t much point in saving your files in the EPS format using GIMP, since it’s best used for vector data.
The Quick Guide to Opening EPS Files in GIMP
To get started opening your EPS file, all you need to do is click the File menu, choose Open, select your EPS file, and click the Open button. GIMP will open the Import from PostScript dialog box (shown below) which includes a few basic options about how it should process the EPS data.
Set the Width and Height to your desired size in pixels, and set the Resolution if you want to (although this can be adjusted later using the Print Size function in the Image menu).
The Coloring settings are fairly self-explanatory and are entirely up to you. The Try Bounding Box option tells GIMP to check and see if any whitespace around the image content is defined; if not, the result is simply ignored and rendered without additional space.
The most important settings are the Text antialiasing and Graphic antialiasing options. The two are separated because EPS files can have fonts embedded in them directly instead of using vector outlines, which means graphical shapes and fonts can sometimes be treated separately.
In most cases, you’ll want to set both options to Strong to get the proper look, but there may be some situations where you don’t want to GIMP to antialias any existing imagery such as a photo that may be embedded in the EPS file.
For comparison, let’s take a quick look at the difference between None, Weak, and Strong. It’s a bit hard to show because of the resizing of my screenshots, so I’ve zoomed into one section of the sample image to show the differences between the three settings.
First, let’s look at how the file imports with no antialiasing at all.
As you can see, the edges of the circles are not smooth at all, and the text is blocky and almost illegible in some cases. Increasing the antialiasing settings to Weak improves things a bit, and depending on the contents of your EPS, you may need to use this setting to get the right balance.
It’s shown above at 300% for consistency, but at 100% zoom, it almost looks acceptable – at least, until you compare it with the Strong antialiasing setting.
When you zoom out, even the small text is quite legible and smooth thanks to the extra hinting created by the additional antialiasing.
When importing, your default option should be to set Strong antialiasing for the best results. Remember, you can always just close the file and re-open it to experiment with different import settings!
A Note About Using GhostScript
Many of the other tutorials available online about opening EPS files in GIMP are now out of date. Even the official documentation from the GIMP website hasn’t been updated!
The official recommendation is that you install an open-source third-party program called GhostScript, but I was able to open EPS files in GIMP 2.10.28 without installing GhostScript first. I’ve tested this successfully on Windows 10 and macOS Big Sur, although I haven’t had a chance to test it on a Linux machine.
I assume this means the developers have included the open-source program’s EPS plugin directly into GIMP so that users don’t have to handle it themselves anymore, but I couldn’t find any mention of it in the GIMP changelog.
In short, the advice is out of date and nothing to worry about unless you’re using an older version of GIMP.
A Better Method For Editing EPS Files
Just because GIMP doesn’t handle EPS files very well doesn’t mean your image is stuck in EPS format forever. Because EPS is a native vector format, you’re much better off using Inkscape to open, edit, and save EPS files.
Inkscape is free and open-source just like GIMP, and it’s a great tool to add to your graphics toolbelt. Amusingly enough, the Inkscape developers haven’t gotten around to integrating the GhostScript plugin functionality directly into Inkscape, so if you want to go this route, you’ll actually have to go to the GhostScript website and download it yourself after all.
You can find the latest official GhostScript releases for Windows and Linux here. The installation process is a bit strange and is really intended for advanced users, but the Inkscape team has an entry in their FAQ about how to set everything up for Windows users.
The process is a bit complex, but the results are worth it! I’ve tested it successfully with an EPS file that I created in Adobe Illustrator. I was able to open the EPS file in Inkscape, and still edit all the individual elements as vector paths instead of rendered pixels.
A Final Word
Hopefully, I’ve given you the tools you need to open and edit your EPS file, whether you’re using GIMP or Inkscape. If you run into a problem that I haven’t covered above, let me know in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do to help.
Happy editing!About Thomas Boldt