If GIMP Is So Good, Why Does Everyone Use Photoshop?

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If GIMP is so good, why does everyone use Photoshop?  It’s a fair question, given the fact that GIMP is so often heralded by open source enthusiasts.  GIMP is a free photo editing software often cited as the best open source image editing software on the planet.  An offshoot, Gimpshop, features a user interface that mimics the appearance and terminology of Photoshop – and it’s also free.  Why doesn’t everyone use it instead?

First, I make no argument against GIMP as a world-class image editor.  What’s more, I have no problem whatsoever with open source – I’m also an enthusiast and have promoted GIMP in dozens of posts.  What I do wonder is, when the free GIMP is arguably every bit as powerful as the $700 Photoshop, why doesn’t everyone just use GIMP?

This is why:

Marketing – Adobe undoubtedly has a large marketing budget, which they put to good use.

You learned on Photoshop  Most design classes use Photoshop; once out of school, why learn a lesser-known software that does the same thing?

Advanced features – GIMP can do more than most hobbyists would ever need, but Photoshop can still do more.

Photoshop is the industry standard  Photoshop is the most established photo editing software in the professional world.  It’s what’s expected of professional firms.

Photoshop integrates with other Adobe products – From Acrobat to Illustrator, InDesign to Dreamweaver, Photoshop integrates seamlessly with other Adobe Creative Suite products.

Lack of GIMP support and tutorials  There are tutorials and excellent forums for GIMP users, yes, but not near the volume you’ll find for Photoshop users, including professional Adobe support.

Mistrust of open source  Perception that open source is always distributed with spyware or susceptible to crashes and data loss can turn some users off, whether the perception is valid or not.

Minimal investment  For the startup or hobbyist, the price of Photoshop might be a barrier to entry.  But for established professional design firms, the price of Photoshop and the entire Creative Suite represents an investment with an expected return.  Spending a few thousand dollars on software every few years is anticipated, and minimal given the fact that a single job might pay for the purchase.

What other reasons do designers cite for using Photoshop instead of GIMP?  Or are you a designer who uses GIMP instead?  Why?  Let me know in the comments!

Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint and Facebook.
  • I thinks is so simple to get around paying for photoshop, it’s such a great program!

    I think Photoshop tops features, but if you could get a ferrari or a vespa for the same price (free), which would you go for?

  • I also experienced that GIMP can’t open PSD files correctly. Or at least it couldn’t open my website designs. That’s why I’m still using Photoshop

  • I find Photoshop is just a genuinely slicker experience, too. I don’t know how much of that is down to having more experience, but having worked with Photoshop and then tried GIMP, I found it far less user friendly. It’s definitely capable, but Photoshop just feels far more pleasurable to use on a day to day basis.

  • I generally support open source. I use Blender heavily in my projects and love it.

    However, there is something about Gimp that just doesn’t cut it. How it handles layers and styles feel unintuitive and clunky. Photoshop does things easier and faster. It’s not that I’m more use to Photoshop so it comes more natural – it’s that with Gimp you need to do three for four more steps for something that Photoshop does easily.

    HOWEVER, if I could use Gimp I would happily swap it out. It has some excellent paint/drawing abilities and does do a lot of great things. And for the price of free it can’t be beat.

  • Liam

    I find that GIMP’s multi-windowed layout gets extremely annoying after a bit of use and changing, while PhotoShop covers this, and multiple types of views, very well. To me, it’s not any of the things you mentioned above, or even the old fashioned multi-windowed layout they used to swear by, but the entire user experience of PhotoShop is far better refined than GIMP’s. That seems like a clusterfuck of ideas and things – although with amazing functionality – in a bad workspace environment.

    • Patryk Poblocki

      lol… Menu>Windows>Single Window Mode :D

      • Austen Huffman

        That comment is 3 years old. Back then, GIMP didn’t have an integrated Single Window Mode.

  • Been using it for years, great support, many tutorials. Also as stated above Photoshop is one of the industry standard tools for creating digital graphics so if you’re looking for a web design, graphics, interface designer job most likely they use Adobe products.

  • I tried to like Gimp a *lot*, but I just found it was really hard to get fairly commonplace hardware working with it that would probably be a normal setup for a Photoshop user (Mac with a Wacom graphics tablet with pressure-sensitivity, for example.) It was also crippled for a while by an X11 update on a new release of OSX, from what I remember. I wonder whether this lack of support for Macs and graphics tablets might have put people off — I’m guessing it’s the kind of setup Photoshop professionals who might be tempted to switch generally have.

    I did use it for a while while I was a Linux user, but even then I can remember having to recompile my kernel with some hand-built patches to get pressure-sensitivity working on the tablet. Now, this was a while back, so things are probably better now. Back then, it was the kind of thing I was into, but I can’t imagine that going down well with most Photoshop users…

  • There is definitely a deficit of Gimp tutorials out there, which is why I started my site a few years ago. I’ve been working hard on creating a comprehensive place to get good tutorials for Gimp.

    • Brett

      Hi Alex what’s your site…..

  • I use Photoshop only when my client want a PSD file, which is rather a rare case. When I make print design – they want PDF, when I make website – usualy they want code+jpegs/pngs so most of the time I can use whatever software I want (Gimp, Inkscape, Scribus, Blender & more) to make the job done. Photoshop is just a tool (yeah, pretty good one) – but what YOU can do is more important than the tool you use.

  • i use ubuntu so naturaly i use gimp and blender.
    may be because most of them uses pirated version of photoshop (and windows)

  • With Adobe moving to a subscription only model (Cloud) and dropping the CS series that allowed you to keep the program on your computer, I can see programs like GIMP gaining a larger following.

  • spence

    Photoshop is widely available on the torrents.
    Plus, users can say, “I use Photoshop”, which
    once meant power user. It is a status thing.
    Plus, the Mac obligates users to buy Photoshop,
    because the Mac Police keep track of everyone.
    You wouldn’t want it known in your community
    that you don’t use Photoshop to trim your dog snaps
    would you?

    • Photoshop’s ok…

      Well, if you use GIMP with extensions, then you’re better than Photoshop users, as you can do SO MUCH MORE including YMCK support!

  • DW

    First off let me say I am not a pro photographer. Neither do I edit photographs or stuff like that. So why do I need to blow $700 on Photoshop. Now if someone would let me borrow their disk and copy it, then heck yeah I’d take Photoshop in a heartbeat. I don’t know all that much about either program and the way I see it, why do I need Photoshop to sit in my bedroom and just goof around? I just like to make some cool artwork, signatures, text and stuff like that. I have both apps on my laptop right now. Photoshop is a trial but since Gimp is free I can keep it forever if I want and not pay a dime for it. Go with what you really need, not what you want. If I were somebody and didn’t know what to buy, download Photoshop as a trial, its not crippled in any way. Also download Gimp. Give Gimp an honest try…..at least 60 days and use PS until the trial runs out then download it again under another name and email address. At the end of 60 days then make up your mind. You might want to try Pain Shop Pro also.

  • Younes

    I’m a GIMP user, & it doesn’t support CMYK.

  • The biggest problem about Gimp is its absolutely user-unfriendly interface. They even failed to use the same labels and shortcuts as Photoshop which makes transition to Gimp real PAIN. Many folks used to Photoshop are not willing to learn more complicated and bad designed interface. Gimp is not 90 % the same as Photoshop, more likely only 30 %. Beyond basic editing it lacks many functions of Photoshop. Basic editing (95% users) could be done in much cheaper Photoshop Elements.

  • I started using Photoshop about ten years ago, and it’s been my go-to program for my web design business until only recently. My switch from Mac to Linux prompted me to check out GIMP, and once I got adjusted to the interface differences I’ve been more than happy with the switch. And now I don’t have to deal with Adobe’s new subscription-only business model. Yuck!

  • Jessie

    Personally, I don’t know the fuss over most photoshop users. My guessed reason is that I used a different program, then used photoshop. I use paint.net to be honest, and it suits my needs just fine. I’ve also tried GIMP, and I see no difference in your friendly art and editing program, but I may need to check up on it again. I like them both, but I don’t use either.

  • Jan

    Gimp makes things that should be easy quite complicated. Like the text tool and the tool to make effects on the text..like make it chrome with a transparent background. it is impossible. Photoshop has the best cut out tool and the best text tools and easiest effects etc. Maybe if gimp improved these things and made them easy one click operations like photoshop more people would use it.

    • sternhead

      When I noticed early on that GIMP had no ctrl-z undo, I suspected I was approaching a common sense free wasteland. This is what you get when none of the app designers are wisened old hands, just young idealists too clever by half.

      • K

        What are you talking about? GIMP has that.

      • S0ldier

        Haha, maybe you had your keyboard layout switched to AZERTY?

  • when you spend tens of millions on software development vs a community which uses virtually no money to develop the competition’s software, you tend to get better and renowed and … shitty

    Go for open-source, support the open-source!

  • Raj

    GIMP works for me perfectly. My work primarily relates to photo editing for Architectural Illustrations.

  • stern

    I love how you make it seems as if GIMP had no problems besides marketing or being “industry standard”. The problem is: GIMP is advertized by any foss enthusiast as being the solution for image editing in linux, as the solution for not pirating Photoshop, when it actually is a lacklust, outdated and bad designed program. From the smallest things to big and necessary features GIMP makes the way painful, frustrating and contrived. I work as a graphic designer and god I know how I tried to learn GIMP through years, when even the levels/curves calibration is bad.

    • Martin Kay

      I think Gimp will do the job for most amateur photographers who have never used PS and don’t want to afford £660. After all what are the most used functions for photographers? Cropping, Levels, Colour Balancing and Sharpening- all of which Gimp does sufficiently well, plus localised control quite easily. I managed to suss all these functions out after about 10 mins of opening Gimp for the first time. PS isn’t going to be any easier to learn for a raw beginner.

      • stern

        Amateur photographers doesn’t have any reason to pick Gimp over Pixlr.
        And please, levels and colour balancing in Gimp is horrible, even PSCS 2- which is from… 10 years ago? And now is available as legacy for the ones who know how to install- have these tools with more sensitive options.

  • Jeremy

    Same thing with Microsoft Office vs Openoffice. The proven “Switching Cost” model at work.

  • Roamingbull

    I am a professional photographer who has been using GIMP forever. When I started out, I did not have the budget for Photoshop, GIMP made my business possible and I was able to produce quality end results for my clients. No one can tell its GIMP or Photoshop. Now that I do have the budget to go with Photoshop, and I even subscribe to Adobe CC, I still use GIMP. Its comfortable, and feels good to know I can achieve the same results and pay so much less to those who take advantage and overprice their products. Of course I strive to take a good RAW Image, which does reduce the work load. I do use Lighthouse, I love that program. For Clone work, I have found that FastStone image viewer (Also free) is one of the best tools around. Fast Stone also has a superiour resizing program that is super easy to use. There is a new Fast Stone MAX out there, that honestly I don’t see much of a difference in.

  • Martin Kay

    First, I’ve used PS since Vs1.7 up to CS5. Photoshop was not always an industry standard- there were a few custom specialist ‘high end’ retouching systems still available to the mid 90s that were more powerful than the average desktop Mac, whilst PCs had still to get a look in. Up to early 90s Photoshop was considered a joke in pro circles- often called ‘Photoplop’. As Macs got more powerful the ‘high end’ stuff gradually all went out of business.
    As soon as I could I began to learn Photoshop as I realised it would eventually take over, however I digress. PS is a powerful image retouching and comping app and the fact is that most users will only ever use about 95% of PS’s capability and probably for most photographers Lightroom is a better and more convenient bet. I’ve looked at Gimp and in a few minutes was able without looking at a manual to operate the most basic functions most photographers could be bothered to get their head around. I am quite surprised at the capability of Gimp- it does most things you’d normally want to do. Ok, it’s a bit strange after using PS for many years (I literally can use PS in my sleep) and you find this with any software. So, as I said I was surprised at the capability of Gimp, but with all new software you do really have to make an effort to learn how it’d different from other bits of software with similar function and of course vet few amateurs want to shell out £660 plus.
    PS Elements? That’s virtually a no go from what I read from many reviews it’s even problematic to install and can be buggy.

    • Sunset

      Photoshop is the industry standard? High quality graphics programs are no longer available? That is so depressing! They should rename Photoshop “Paintshop” or “Sketchyshop” . Combining photographs on Photoshop usually results in an image that doesn’t look like a photograph, or at least a very good one.(1)
      And on another note: yes Adobe software does ruin computers. It’s partly deliberate, because of course Adobe is in collusion with the computer manufacturers, but mostly because their programmers/developers aren’t very competent.
      Note on (1): No matter how much skill you have you will never be able to compensate for a computer program with deficient memory cache that sands off the details from transferred images.

      • sternhead

        your head is packed full of nonsense.

  • John Aggelakos

    GIMP is slooooooowww and has NO CMYK support. The biggest drawbacks for mr

  • John Aggelakos

    GIMP is slooooooowww and has NO CMYK support. The biggest drawbacks for me

  • Its same like Operating Systems… Windows or Linux…
    We learned windows first. As we did the same in Photoshop!

  • Bob Johnson

    I started playing with Linux back in the mid ’90s when Linus first posted it. I ditched Windows entirely for Linux well over a decade ago. I’ve been programming computers professionally for three decades on everything from mainframes to handhelds. As someone with more than a little experience with computers, open source, and software in general, let me be the first to say that Gimp has one of the worst user interfaces I have ever seen on a computer, ever. I agree wholeheartedly with Jan–Gimp excels at making the easy things complicated. I am constantly moving the wrong layer, making the wrong selection, or just plain stumped about how to do the most simple operation. Use different point sizes in a text string? Open the manual. Create text on a simple circular arc? Again, open the manual, futz with paths, and I still never end up with a simple smooth curve. On and on. It’s simply maddening. It’s an application that if you don’t use everyday you will never become comfortable with it.

    Frankly, the Gimp is an excellent example of the FOSS ecosystem. Commercial programmers don’t get paid to write fun code. They get paid to make their life difficult by writing the reams of boring, tedious code that make the user’s life easy. Code that is dictated to them by designers who sat through interminable customer UI meetings to make the interface intuitive. The Gimp is written by skilled open-source programmers who wanted to scratch an itch. With its scripting capabilities, plug-ins, and advanced filters it’s an incredible powerful image manipulation tool. However, what Adobe brings to the table is legions of programmers paid to scratch your itches, not theirs. It shows.

    • login

      Completely disagree. UI would have been nicer if it was a Linux or Windows exclusive.

    • johnny

      You sir,sound like you were paid to write that crap.You gave yourself away by stating how much of a professional you are but then in the next sentence you said you have trouble using layers in Gimp?Really?It’s the first thing we all learn using these programs.You cant write circular text?The interface on Gimp is no bog deal.
      Come on now.Its so obvious you are trying your best to over hype Photoshop and downplay Gimp.You are trying to hard.
      Someone with your skill level should have little trouble using any software on the planet really.Oh and that fake name.Bob Johnson?Really dude?

    • Spanky

      You’re lying. Why? From your own words, you haven’t really ditched Windows, “I ditched Windows entirely for Linux well over a decade ago.”; because you would (at the least) need WINE, to know the difference. That’s not really ditching Windows (parts or apps), now is it? You’re base argument; that open code is worse by default and due to programmers motives, is very flawed. Plus, you are discredited by lying. At this late date, the question of quality from open code, isn’t one. On the other hand, Close code has serious issues! Thus the COMMON character of evil, reality distortion, and actually having the very flaw; that’s used as false witness, to cast unfair uncertainty, doubt and confusion. A hiding, diversionary tactic and away from the truth. Closed software is a huge problem.

      • YeahRightPal

        Whoa! That’s a fanboi if I ever heard one. Accusations, attacks, anger issues, claiming to understand the “character of evil”…

        With supporters like you and “johnny” up there, it’s no surprise that GIMP is viewed with some trepidation by those with more a balanced outlook. Oh – and people who want to accomplish a simple editing task in a reasonable amount of time.

  • medusa perseo

    I don’t have first hand experience with GIMP, I know a few people that use the program and I have seen them get some good results with it. I’m using CS6 at the moment, the reason why I choose CS6 over GIMP is that when I edit an image for a client in PS and then I need to use the same Image file to create a marketing tool for the same client (Brochures, BC, Flyers etc.) I can easily take the file to Indesign or Illustrator and keep working without worries. One more plus for Adobe is that when I need to send my finish work to the print shop, I don’t have to jump any extra hoops to get the quality that I expect, and can seamlessly sync with their pre-press department, my understanding is that you cant produce PDF’s in GIMP. One more is that if I need to farm out part of the work to another designer since I’m using the Industry standard for professional design and production work, I don’t have to worry about my files not being compatible with their work workflow or system. I guess that if was only doing amateur photography and the occasional graphic layout and no 3D work, I will be ok with GIMP. But if you are planning on making money with your photography and do more, I will invest on the best tools available. I don’t consider my self a graphic designer or a good photographer but this is what pays the bills, I have being in the printing industry for about 18 years so I learned the trade on the fly, I must say, all 4 places that I have worked for used Adobe, quark-express etc. and let me tell you, some of those guys where very frugal if you know what I mean, but they all knew that to do a good job efficiently you have to have the right tools.

    Best regards to you all!

  • RitaCeleste

    I like Gimp. I used to use Photoshop illegally. Every so often something would go wrong and I’d get a “Photshop update”. Well, my computers were toasted after this. About two years ago, I had to replace a computer (a six month old computer) because of this and decided I’d never put Photoshop anything on it ever again. My new computer is running great!!! And I started to use Gimp. Ubuntu was the only OS that would install after my “Photoshop Update” on my damaged hardware. So I learned about opensource. I am just a regular person so Gimp has been great for me. Yeah some things don’t work as well. Somethings take longer. Sometimes you have to do something by hand. I am thrilled to have legal options I can live with. I don’t have lots of money, but I do try to invest in the software I use and really like. I just don’t need or want Photoshop. They can keep their updates. They have trained me not to download illegal software. They opened my eyes to the world of affordable, free, and sometimes opensource software. Don’t sit there and tell me they didn’t blow up my computers and go on about how wonderful they are. And people with illegal copies, keep restoring your computers, keep wiping the drives, watch them die in six months. Go ahead, keep telling yourself you are saving some money…. Or get behind software that is really affordable and do things legally. It really has saved me a lot more. I’m sure the update was suppose to make me run out and buy Photoshop. It took two month just to save up for a new computer. Two months to learn about Linux and opensource. Thanks Adobe!!! Have a nice day!!!

    • mistywindow

      Rita, Adobe did not wreck your computer.

      :)

      • Two Wild Kumquats

        Who said anything about Adobe wrecking it? The ‘updates’ were the things that wrecked it, doesn’t mean they were ADOBE updates…

        • sternhead

          She implied it, ok stupid?

  • login

    Gimp works on every platform…How can you expect it to compete with Photoshop? Porting software to multiple platforms isn’t just copy and paste.

  • Tyler

    Gimp is horribly difficult to use. Photoshop is easier.

  • aiko

    Hi!
    I prefer Xara Designer Pro instead of Gimp or Photoshop!
    Got all features of both softwares!

  • J Brown

    Another successful switcher from Photoshop to Gimp, with some tips and tricks. http://www.rileybrandt.com/2014/03/09/photoshop-to-gimp/

  • MidianGTX

    Advanced features. It ends right there. It doesn’t matter what your skill level is, you’re constantly learning. Those features will come in useful eventually.

  • gimpgimp

    I just switched from using Windows and Mac (which I still love) to Ubuntu, and everything has been an absolute pleasure to use except for GIMP. GIMP is the most unintuitive piece of garbage I’ve ever used. Nothing works as you’d expect, and you find yourself googling for ridiculous phrases like “how to deselect in GIMP” which in my opinion should be seen as a total defeat for whoever is responsible for GIMP’s interface and usability. I wish someone would come up with a better alternative.

  • Srinidhi

    Styles are perhaps the most used feature in photoshop and it’s missing in Gimp. It’s indispensable to me. I know there’s some style script plugin for Gimp but that’s pathetic. You cannot turn on/off a style – it’s just a macro. Gimp would be great if it had photoshop like styles. I’ll throw photoshop the day real styles are available in Gimp

  • John

    Gimp is an overcomplicated bloated giant memory hog… But i hate photshop just as much as Gimp . it’s the most unintuitive software ever made… Some of the stupidnes were corrected in cs6 but the 7.0 is a disaster…. 1. Can’t select layer with the marque… if you don’t have this in a layer based editor , then i say the developers are idiots 2 layer selection is a catastrophe they combined somekind of a pixel perfect collision detection with some obscure alpha check.If layer opacity smaller than 50 you can pick the layer.. stupid.3 you can’t adjust the marquee after you dragged it. so if you missed to select your background , you can drag again and again while you succeed… 4. Can’t delete selected layer with delete key… thats the real sign of idiotism… i wrote bunch of graph editing softwares where the first thing i implemented was the ability to delete graph points with the del key… 5.The automatic rotation scale and size after you selected the layer. God i can’t express my self how much i hate that !!! You know that feature when you move the cursor close to the selected layer it autoimatically turns into rotate or size mode… Thats a real nightmare if you have lost of small layer close to each other… the most annoying thing is if you accidentaly click somewhere near to the selected layer you can’t exit the rotate/scale mode you have to press esc or the cancel transform button on the toolbar… Why not cancel with right click ??? the mouse is already in my hand…

    The funny thing is we are talking about a commercial product… while a small free tool called photofiltre works perfectly and has none of above mentioned annoying issues… so sad photfiltre does not evolved in the years (layer based editor , more effects) i would pick it anytime over photshop or gimp

  • I like GIMP, I used it but, I dunno why I stopped :P

  • anonjon

    “why doesn’t everyone just use GIMP? This is why:”
    You can complete your work in less than half the time with photoshop than gimp, that’s why.