Get a free alternative to Photoshop or Paintshop with GimPhoto


GimPhoto is a free program that allows you to manipulate and edit your image files in many of the same ways as the retail programs like Photoshop. GimPhoto is designed to approximate Photoshop in many ways; it’s interface design, menu layout, and it’s use of best plugins and resources.

If you’re looking for a free alternative to Photoshop or Paintshop, GimPhoto might be it.GimPhoto is multiplatform (Windows, Mac, Linux), and available as a portable version.

GimPhoto is a program based on a rather famous free ‘paint’ or ‘art’ program known as GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program).

I call them image manipulation programs (imps), but whatever name you call them, more and more regular people are using them on at least an occasional basis. Hence, there are starting to be more alternatives to the expensive retail monsters out there, and some of them are even close in quality.

Apart from all the newcomers, however, GimPhoto stands strong as one of the best. There’s a Windows version, Linux, and even a portable version that you can keep on a

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thumb drive with your other portable utilities. This is particularly handy for when you want access to your image files on the go but don’t have your computer with you.

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GimPhoto is, essentially, just an interface modification for GIMP. Sort of in the same way that Windows is an interface modification for DOS. When the GimPhoto interface is laid over the GIMP program, the abilities of the program seem to expand because it becomes easier to use. Specifically, GimPhoto modifies the menu structure of GIMP as well as the icons, presumably with the intent to speed the loading and rendering process.

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In practice, GimPhoto immediately seems to make a bit more sense to me than the original GIMP interface. When first loading the program, GimPhoto does take a while to get beyond the initial splash screen but it at least does tell you in a cute little message at the bottom of the window that it might take a while. Little improvements to make it more user friendly and easy to navigate like this are rampant in GimPhoto and the main reason I enjoyed using it.

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GimPhoto’s main interface consists of two main windows with a  third one opening as needed. Screenshots A and B show those windows, and they are how you will operate pretty much everything in GimPhoto. It seems odd, at first, not having a dedicated part of the window for a ‘workspace’ but it really is a nice way to save space and make the interface more dynamic to work with whatever else I have going on my desktop at the time. The workspace will appear as a separate window when you open a new project or an existing one. Keeping each piece, the Main menu, the Tools menu, and the workspace all distinct and disconnected was a jolt to get used to but once I did I found that I liked it better than having the whole program encased in a single window. Way to think outside the box, indeed.

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GimPhoto has all the tools and options you would expect in a full featured paint suite or the like. It actually is a pretty fair imitation of certain versions of Photoshop, so anyone familiar with that program will feel at home with GimPhoto pretty quickly. Same goes for Paintshop users, to a somewhat lesser degree. GimPhoto allows you to work with multiple bush types, filters, and even allows for complex layer interactions and effects like color burns and bump maps.

The downside? Documentation and learning curve. With a program like this, that is so rich in tools and features (with more being released regularly), documentation is usually pretty sparse. Even when there is robust documentation, it still takes a lot of usage and practice to get the ‘expert hang’ of a program like this. I believe this is where the ‘art’ resides in modern forms of creation. Using a computer program is a different set of muscle movements than using a paint brush and canvas, but the artist is in both methods. So, while many programs like this can actually have some pretty deep third-party written documentation and instruction (Photoshop actually has college classes devoted to using it), GimPhoto doesn’t have all those fancy books and much of the information on their home site appears to be translated to bad English from another language entirely. There are a number of good web sites out there to teach you how to use it, however, and they don’t cost money either.

Overall, I think GimPhoto is a great improvement on the original GIMP program and interface and I fully intend to start using it as my primary image manipulation program now. I would recommend it for anyone that wants a free alternative to Photoshop or Paint shop, as well as those who may have given GIMP a look previously and were turned off by it’s interface challenges.

Until next time, my friends!

[Thanks to reader Panzer for tipping us off about this program].

Get GimPhoto here (Windows, Linux, Portable, and now for Mac as well).