GIMP is an excellent raster graphics editor. Open source and available for free, it's a great alternative to an expensive Photoshop license or a Creative Cloud subscription. Experienced Adobe users, however, might have some trouble getting used to the GIMP interface and keyboard shortcuts. Let's make GIMP look and work like Photoshop, with just a few tweaks.
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All the changes below are for GIMP 2.8.22, which is the latest stable version at the time of this writing. Some of them might not work well for earlier or later versions of GIMP.
For more Photoshop alternatives, check out our guide:
Table of Contents
- The easy way to make GIMP like Photoshop
- An alternate method to get GIMP more like Photoshop CS6
- How to make GIMP work like Photoshop
- Change the Splash Screen
- Why not use GIMPshop?
- Do you like having GIMP like Photoshop?
The easy way to make GIMP like Photoshop
GIMP isn't Photoshop, and its developers wanted us to know this. That is part of the reason that GIMP doesn't even have the same keyboard shortcuts with Photoshop. Which is kind of bullshit for anyone wanting to make the transition.
Fortunately, it's quick and easy to get a GIMP that looks and works more like Photoshop.
We just visit Doctormo's Deviantart page and download the Gimp 2.8 Photoshop Tweaks file.
Then, we press the Windows Key + R and type into the Run command window:
Inside our user profile folder, we rename the .gimp-2.8 folder to anything else, e.g. .gimp-2.8 backup
Finally, we extract the tweaked .gimp-2.8 folder from the zip to our profile folder. Remember this folder, we will be using it a lot as we make GIMP like Photoshop.
Before the tweak, GIMP looked like this by default.
Now, GIMP is much more like Photoshop.
We get the Photoshop tools icons, the dark background...
...and the panels on the right in a much different arrangement.
We also get the Photoshop keyboard shortcuts.
An alternate method to get GIMP more like Photoshop CS6
The above theme makes GIMP look better than the default, but it still doesn't look much like Photoshop, at least not the latest version of the app.
For those who are sticklers for detail, there is an alternate way to get GIMP much more like Photoshop CS6. But it's a bit more complicated to install.
Get a special, dark-themed GIMP
Firstly, we need to download a different, dark-themed built of GIMP. Not from the official website, but from http://www.partha.com/.
Since GIMP is an open source app, any programmer can create their custom version. It is actually legal to do so.
We will find the downloads near the end of the homepage.
Make sure you download the stable 2.8 version, instead of any of the 2.9.x versions. Even though it's marked as a "Standard Edition", when run it features the following message, since it is based on as of yet unstable versions of the GIMP source code:
We also need to have 64-bit Windows to download this version, it won't install on 32-bit Windows.
If we already had GIMP, we should uninstall it, and install the Partha build instead. Don't try to combine this alternate method with the method above, it needs a clear installation.
With the Partha build installed, we need to run it once, to create the gimp settings folder. We can check for it at our User profile folder, as we saw earlier.
Install GIMP themes
For the next step, we download the Clearlooks Flat Icons Gimp 2.8 Themes.
After the download, we extract all the directories within the Clearlooks zip inside the ".gimo-2.8/themes" folder. The current version of Clearlooks includes 29 directories.
With the extra themes copied, we launch GIMP, select Windows -> Single-Window Mode...
...and then choose the theme, from Edit -> Preferences -> Theme. The best fit is probably the Dark Blue small theme, but feel free to select whichever you like best.
After that, we close GIMP, re-open it, and we have an appearance much more like Photoshop CS6.
We just need to drag the tools Panel to the upper right column and afterwards shrink the left tools panel, so it only has two rows.
With this, we are ready, as far as the appearance is concerned.
How to make GIMP work like Photoshop
Having GIMP looking like Photoshop is fine. But if we can have it support more of Photoshop's functionality, it's even better.
The following tips can be applied to both of the above theme methods.
How to install Photoshop Keyboard shortcuts on GIMP
Doctormo's theme has the Photoshop keyboard shortcuts pre-installed. For the alternative CS6 theme, we need to install them manually.
We just need to visit http://epierce.freeshell.org/gimp/gimp_ps.php and download ps-menurc. You should not click on the link because the browser will open it as a text file. Instead, right-click and select "Save link as..."
You should not click on the link because the browser will open it as a text file. Instead, right-click and select "Save link as..."
To install it, firstly we need to have the extensions for the known file types shown. It is as easy as going to the View menu and checking "File name extensions" on Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.
For Windows 7, we will find the same option at Organize -> Folder and search options -> View, by unchecking the "Hide the file extensions for known file types".
The ps-menurc file we downloaded has a .txt extension. We must rename it to menurc and remove the extension, no matter how much Windows might nag about it.
Finally, we rename the menurc file inside .gimp-2.8 to something else, e.g. menurc-backup...
...and then copy the new menurc file we downloaded.
This is it. We now have Photoshop shortcuts on GIMP.
On http://epierce.freeshell.org/gimp/gimp_ps.php, we will find a list with all of GIMP's shortcuts, and how they compare with Photoshop's shortcuts.
Turn on the "Snap to Canvas Edge" option by default
GIMP can snap layers to canvas or the grid when moving them, like Photoshop. However this option is not turned on by default, and it doesn't even have a shortcut.
To make this the default behavior, we enter the .gimp-2.8 folder in our user profile and open the gimprc file with notepad or any other text editor.
At the bottom of the file add the following, and then save and close the file.
(default-snap-to-canvas yes) (default-snap-to-grid yes)
Next time we start GIMP, both options are checked by default.
Disable the layer boundary
Every selected active layer on GIMP is surrounded by a black and yellow dotted line.
If we don't like that, we can go to Edit -> Preferences -> Image Windows -> Appearance and uncheck the "Show Layer Boundary" in both Normal and full-screen Mode.
If we had an image file open, we must close it and reopen it to see the change.
Change how the Move Tool works
The Move Tool in GIMP will pick a Layer or Guide to move instead of moving the active layer.
Longtime Photoshop users might find it hard to get used to this behavior.
To change the default, with the Move Tool selected, we choose the "Move the active layer" option...
...and then we go to Edit -> Preferences -> Tools Options -> Save Tool Options Now.
We can also uncheck the "Save tool options on exit" so that we can have the default option every time we start the program.
Essential plug-ins for GIMP to work like Photoshop
GIMP has a powerful plugin system. In our quest to make GIMP more like Photoshop, a couple of plugins are essential.
Get the Content Aware Fill back to GIMP
The "Content Aware Fill" is a handy option in the latest versions of Photoshop. It allows us to delete an element from a picture in a smart way, with the program automatically filling in the blank according to the rest of the image.
What you might not know is that this feature originated as a GIMP plugin called "Resynthesizer". It was later that Adobe incorporated this functionality in Photoshop.
To get the full Content Aware Fill for GIMP, we need to download the Resynthesizer plugin set from GitHub.
The "resynthesizer-master.zip" we download contains multiple folders and files. We only need the .py files from the PluginScripts folder. We copy them to the ".gimp-2.8/plug-ins/" folder.
With the above plugins set we can:
- • Heal (reconstruct) a selection from nearby pixels:
Filters -> Enhance -> Heal selection...
- • Heal (reconstruct) transparent areas from nearby pixels:
Filters -> Enhance -> Heal transparency...
- • Transfer the style (color and texture) from one image to another:
Filters -> Map -> Style
- • Render seamless texture from one image into a new image:
Filters -> Render -> Texture...
- • Enlarge an image using the resynthesizer to retain sharpness:
Filter ->Enhance -> Enlarge & sharpen...
- • Fill seamlessly with a pattern:
Edit -> Seamlessly fill with a pattern using synthesis.
- • Sharpen an image using the resynthesizer:
Filters -> Enhance -> Sharpen by synthesis...
- • Enlarge an image while retaining the point of view of the existing image by synthesizing an enlarging border:
Filter -> Enhance -> Uncrop...
Get a "Layer via copy/cut" option
In Photoshop, pressing ctrl+J or right-clicking and selecting "Layer via copy" can create a new layer from the current selection. GIMP needs a plugin to have this functionality.
We just download Layer via Copy/Cut plugin.
For the plugin to work, we copy the layer-via-copy-cut.py file to the .gimp-2.8/plug-ins/ folder.
Now, at the Layer menu, we will find the Layer via Copy and the Layer via Cut options.
Change the Splash Screen
This is purely aesthetic, and it won't change anything in our use of GIMP, but it doesn't hurt either.
We just this splash screen, or create one ourselves if we feel like it. Whichever we choose, we must name it gimp-splash.png.
Then we go to the C:\Program Files\Gimp-2.8\share\gimp\2.0\images directory.
We should backup the default gimp-splash.png, by renaming it to anything else, e.g. gimp-splash-backup.png.
Finally, we copy the new gimp-splash.png we downloaded or created to the images directory.
Now, each time we start the program, we are greeted with the new splash screen.
Why not use GIMPshop?
GIMPshop started out as exactly what its name suggests, a GIMP version that looks like Photoshop from the get-go, without the need of manual theme installation.
Unfortunately, there was some controversy regarding GIMPshop. A random person other than the GIMPshop creator snatched the gimpshop.com domain name and started hotlinking to the original GIMPshop.
This lead the true GIMPshop creator to not pursue a newer version of GIMPshop, other than the one based on the old 2.2.11 GIMP. He still updates is, though, with the latest update on February 2017.
As for gimpshop.com (no, we won't even link to it, because screw this guy), it is riddled with adware, even before we download the file.
We definitely don't recommend it.
Do you like having GIMP like Photoshop?
Do you like to have the familiar environment? Or do you prefer to use GIMP with a different environment, and don't see much use in trying to mimic Photoshop? Let us know in the comments below.
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