How to Save GIMP as PNG

If you’re feeling a bit frustrated because you can’t save your GIMP image as a PNG file, you’re not alone. The GIMP development team decided to restrict the basic “Save” command to GIMP’s native file format, XCF, and then relocated the saving process for all other image formats.

Saving your images in the PNG format in GIMP is easy once you realize that the “Save” command isn’t the place to be looking. Instead, scroll further down the File menu to Export As, select PNG from the file format menu, and click Export to choose your PNG format settings. 

In most cases the default settings are fine to use, so you can just click Export again, and you’re done! 

That’s the super-simple guide to saving your GIMP images as PNG files, but if you’re not quite comfortable with GIMP’s processes, I’ll break down the steps a bit more and explain the settings we skipped over in the short guide like interlacing, transparency, and compression levels

Saving Your PNG Files Step By Step

Note: These instructions are the same for all operating systems, but my screenshots show the Windows 10 version of GIMP 2.10.22 and you may have slightly different layouts in dialogs.

When you’re ready to save your GIMP masterpiece as a PNG file, start by opening the File menu in the top left of the menu bar and selecting Export As

Export As in the File menu

If you’re saving a new file, it doesn’t matter if you choose Export or Export As, but if you’re resaving an old file as a PNG be sure to choose Export As. If you’re not careful, you might overwrite your original file, and it’s a good idea to hang on to backup copies whenever possible. 

You can also launch the Export process using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + E or Command + Shift + E if you’re using GIMP on a Mac. 

The Export Image window will appear, allowing you to choose the save location for your image as well as the file type. This is where we’ll tell GIMP that we want to use the PNG format. You can either end your file name with .png or click Select File Type at the bottom of the window. 

The Export Image window with the Select File Type setting expanded to show your options

Click the Export button, and you’ll move on to the Export Image as PNG window, where you can customize all your PNG format options. Unless you need to adjust something specific the default settings should be fine, so you can click Export one last time to save your image.

That’s all of the steps for how to save GIMP images as PNG, but if you want to dig into the specific save options in that last step, read on to see how you can save time and space during your next PNG export. 

PNG Save Options in GIMP

Most of the PNG save options relate to metadata standards, such as EXIF, XMP, and IPTC, but they’re pretty self-explanatory and they don’t affect your image quality at all. You might be able to shave off a few bytes by skipping the data, but it won’t make a huge difference. 

You’re also better off leaving the pixel format set to automatic. Like TIFF files, the PNG format is capable of handling 16-bit images and that presents some unique byte order configurations that most users won’t need to use. If you do need them, then you probably already know what to do!

The Export Image as PNG dialog box displaying all your possible PNG file options

The more important settings are Interlacing (Adam7) and Compression level. Interlacing is useful for images on mobile websites because interlaced PNGs begin to display even before being fully downloaded on slow mobile internet connections, but otherwise can be disabled. 

Compression level plays an important role when saving your PNG images to the smallest possible file size, which is also useful in mobile web design (and many other places). 9 is the highest setting and 0 is the lowest setting, but your images are always perfectly compressed.

Unlike the compression method in JPG files, PNG uses lossless compression so your image always looks perfect. Higher compression levels simply mean that the computer will take longer to save the file, telling it to dedicate more time to compressing it into the smallest size possible. 

When to Use PNG Format

PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics, and the format was created in the early days of the internet before the JPEG format reigned supreme in the world of digital imagery. Lossless compression and transparency are great features, but PNG isn’t always the best format to use.

As you might guess from the name, PNG is often used in web design thanks to small file sizes and the design flexibility that you get with transparent images. PNG is great for this type of small-scale application where image quality is essential even through wide color areas. 

However, if you’re saving a large high-resolution photo, PNG files can seriously slow down your computer during the saving process, especially when you’re using the highest compression setting. I’ve even crashed editing programs while experimenting with large-scale PNG exports!

You probably won’t run into these issues if you’re saving small images for use on the internet, but keep it in mind when working with large photos. There’s always a file format perfectly suited for your need, as long as you know where to look – the TIFF format would be perfect, in this case.

Saving PNG files with GIMP might seem a bit difficult at first, but once you realize that you’re supposed to be exporting instead of saving, the rest comes easily. Hopefully, you’re now confident in your ability to save your GIMP images as PNG files!

Do you have any questions about using PNG files that I might have missed? Be sure to let me know in the comments below!

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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  • Nielspeterdejong

    Perhaps you could help me out? I haven’t used Gimp in a while, and when I export it as a PNG it says that it saves (even asks me if I want to overwrite the file), but when I go to the folder it does not show up. What might be causing that?

    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Niels, that’s a very strange issue! I haven’t encountered anything similar before, so I’m not sure what to suggest. Nothing in the PNG export options should have an impact on the results in this way.

      Does the same problem occur if you save the PNG file in a different location?

  • TonyG

    I use Gimp and I wonder why export of png files is so much slower than export to jpg. Another program – Avidemux exports png files very fast, compared to Gimp.

    • Thomas Boldt

      I’m not sure exactly, but my guess would be that PNG encoding algorithms have improved a lot since the release of GIMP 2.10, which was back in 2018!

  • Phil

    Sorry …. just a path changing i didn’t saw….
    have a nice day to all the readers….

    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Phil, glad you got it sorted out! Thanks for following up.

  • Phil

    when i try to export as .png…. GIMP writes me “Save with a known format” (Le nom de fichier donné n’a aucune extension connue. Saisissez une extension connue ou sélectionnez un format de fichier dans la liste des formats de fichier.)
    no JPG, no PNG, no GIF since 2.10 of GIMP… i use a very old 2.8 version of GIMP juste to be abled to export my pictures !!!!!!!
    How I must do ?