How to Save GIMP File as JPEG

JPEG files are the most popular digital image format by a large margin. They’re small, high-quality, and compatible – the perfect choice for using and sharing online. But it might surprise you to learn that they’re not all created equal, even when you’re saving a GIMP file as a JPEG.

The biggest – ok, the only – trick to saving GIMP files as JPEG is that you need to use the Export command instead of any of the Save commands. The developers implemented this change as a part of GIMP’s big 2.10 update, and it’s confused a lot of people since then.

The Quick Guide to Saving GIMP Files as JPEG

The process is actually quite easy, once you know that you should be using the Export As command instead of the Save command:

Step 1: If you don’t already have your image open, open your XCF file (XCF is GIMP’s native file format)

Step 2: Choose Export As from the File menu. 

Step 3: Select JPEG as the file type and configure your compression settings.

You’re done! You’ve saved your GIMP file as a JPEG image. 

Don’t feel bad if you’re surprised by how easy it is. I’m not sure why the developers designed things this way, but the Save and Save As commands now force you to use the XCF format. If you want to save as any other popular file type like JPG, PNG, or TIFF, you have to use the Export As command.

The Save Image command only allows you to use XCF or compressed XCF formats

My guess is that they really want you to start using their (relatively) new XCF format instead of saving everything as PSD, which is Photoshop’s native format. While it’s nice to be able to use your competitor’s file formats, you don’t want them to totally dominate the market share, either. 

If you want to learn more about JPEG compression and how you can get your images looking their very best at the smallest possible file size, I’ll break down the steps for you a bit more detail – although there isn’t actually too much to discuss, aside from Step 3 in the quick guide above.

The Slightly In-Depth Guide to Saving GIMP Files As JPEG

If you want your JPEG images to look their very best, let’s power through the simple and easy steps and get right to the good stuff. 

With your image open in GIMP, open the File menu and choose Export As

The Export Image dialog window in GIMP 2.10

Navigate to the save location you want to use, and name your file.

At the bottom of the Export Image window, click the + icon beside Select file type (By extension) and choose JPEG image. Click Export one last time to start the JPEG save process.

Now you’ve finally got a choice when it comes to the quality of your end result: the Quality slider. You wouldn’t think that saving an image efficiently could be considered an art form, but finding the right setting for your JPEG compression level comes close. 

If you’re saving photographs, you probably care most about image quality regardless of file size, so you should just leave it up at 100 and call it a day.

If you’re saving images for the web or social media and you care about page load times (Google does, so you should too), then you’ll need to take some extra time to find the right balance between file size and image quality. 

Check the box Show preview in image window to see the effects of the slider. The changes can be subtle, so move the slider slowly downwards and compare the effects. Sometimes it helps to unfocus your eyes just a tiny bit, so you can spot the compression patterns more easily as they spread across similar color areas. 

As I said, there’s a bit of an art to it – but if you don’t want to take the time, just slide it down to 60 and call it a day. Unless your image has a very wide range of colors, it should strike a good balance. If you’re batch processing images with the GIMP plugin, it’s a good ‘all-purpose’ setting to use. 

The Seriously Precise Guide to Saving GIMP Files as JPEGs

Only joking about this last guide 😉 The Advanced Options section of the JPEG dialog is so advanced that if you actually have a reason to use any of them, you’ll already know what the settings are for, and how best to use them. 

The only exceptions are that you may need to disable the Optimize setting or the Progressive setting, but leaving them on by default shouldn’t affect your image negatively in any noticeable way, so it’s simpler to just ignore them. 

Optimize applies an additional compression algorithm for bit-depth in the hope of reducing file size, and the Progressive setting only matters for online downloads. Progressive JPEGs can start displaying before the whole image is downloaded, but the technology is intended for outdated connection speeds.

That’s all there is to know about saving GIMP files as JPEGs! If you get really curious about the advanced options, I’d be willing to try learning about the math behind them and writing up a post – or at least telling the story of how it makes no sense to me. 

Now get back to it and save export something cool!

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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  • Anita

    Hi Thomas,

    I have been playing around with GIMP for the first time to see how it compares to a very old version of Photoshop. This is because I’m thinking of replacing Windows with Linux. Given that GIMP works in Windows, I am trying it out by opening tiff files and saving them as jpegs. The problem is that whether I save a 1300, 1200 or 1100 resolution file using image scale – for the same image – the weight of the file is always the same. I am baffled by this because with Photoshop, the weight varies in accordance with the resolution. If you have an explanation, that would be great.

    Cheers, Anita

    Reply
    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Anita, GIMP can be a great alternative to Photoshop for most casual edits, but it’s definitely a bit out of date compared to the latest version of Photoshop. It can probably hold its own against one of the earlier Creative Suite editions of Photoshop, but you might want to check out the latest PS version to see what it can do. Of course, you can always try running it in a Windows virtual machine once you switch to Linux =)

      As for the image scale issue, I think the reason that your files are the same size is that you’re not actually changing the pixel dimensions, just the resolution of the file. If you have a 3000×3000 image and you set the resolution to 1000 pixels per inch, it doesn’t actually change the pixel dimensions of the image, and so the image data remains the same size.

      I hope that answers your question!

      Reply
  • Carol Anne Robson

    Hi , I have done everything you have suggested but still cannot save any files. Keep getting the message that it has failed. Trying to save to my docs folder but it says no file exists?? Can you help at all. I have just installed GIMP today so should be the latest version 2.10.30

    Reply
    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Carol, that’s a very strange problem! I’m actually not sure what to suggest. The only thing I can think of is that perhaps you’re trying to save to an external drive that has now been unplugged? But that shouldn’t even be possible…

      Can you tell me the exact text of the error message? That might help narrow things down a bit more.

      Reply