10 Oct 2011

Photoshop Alternatives for Linux

Photoshop is without doubt the most well known piece of photo editing software. It is used by serious hobby photographers and professionals alike. However, although you can run Photoshop on a Linux machine by using a virtual box containing a Windows operating system, there are some good alternatives available on Linux. Unlike with the Windows or Apple operating systems, most Linux software is open source and so free to install and use. There is also a good reason why you should be wary of paying for some types of software on Linux. Here is our round-up of the best on offer.

GIMP - The GNU Image Manipulation Program
GIMP is certainly the most popular program for editing photos on Linux. It offers almost all the same features as Photoshop and is very user friendly. Making the transition from Photoshop to GIMP is a very easy process. GIMP provides all the standard photo editing options such as cropping, color enhancements, exposure and contrast corrections.
GIMP also provides some advanced features such as a perspective distortion fix and lens barrel distortion and vignetting can be fixed using the GIMP filters. GIMP makes it easier to backup and share photos as it has built in a virtual file system which allows you to save files to remote locations via FTP, SMB and SSH. GIMP comes equipped with powerful image compression to help you save on valuable storage space. Visit  http://www.gimp.org/ to download.


GIMPShop is essentially the same as GIMP but it has been modified to be more like Photoshop. If you really do not want to learn something new then GIMPShop is for you. The menu structure has been changed so that the tools are in the same places as in Photoshop. If you are unsure about trying GIMP then try GIMPShop first. You can download Gimpshop here: http://www.gimpshop.com/download.shtml


Darktable describes itself as a photography workflow application: a virtual lighttable and darkroom for photographers.
It processes RAW files and allows you to edit and export images. It is fully non-destructive, which means that they RAW files will not be altered in the processing, instead it just allows the edits to be held in cache before being exported into a new image format such as jpeg.
It deals with overexposed images very well and provides a channel mixer, color contrast, color correction and white balance adjustments. Overall it is a great image editor. To make photo editing easier it offers a fullscreen option. It also allows for exports to a range of image sharing sites such as Picasaweb and Flickr as well as simple file storage or email. The software also allows you to create simple web albums to share online. Learn more and download from http://darktable.sourceforge.net/ .


Krita is a great image editor which really focuses on images creation rather than photo editing. It provides various artistic tools such as the ability to stretch an image and to paint. It offers many blending and editing modes and the files are compatible with GIMP. You can learn more and download it here: http://krita.org/

Picasa 3 for Linux

Picasa 3 is currently in beta but proves to be a great free tool for photo editing in Linux. One of the best things about using Picasa is that you can automatically sync your edits to your Picasaweb album online. This provides an excellent backup of your photos. Download it here: http://picasa.google.com/linux/

Cautionary Tale: LightZone for Linux

One word of caution. It is important to choose your image editor carefully. One of the main advantages of open source is that they only commitment you have to make is time. Sometimes smaller companies abandon software leaving customers with nothing. LightZone is a classic example of this on Linux.
LightZone was a professional image editor for Linux by Light Crafts that retailed at around $150. It was more advanced than GIMP or Photoshop while still using some of the same principles such as layers for photo editing work. It came with a range of filters that offer one-click styles that allow you to quickly review and process images. LightZone could process RAW files too. However, they were forced to abandon the project and this left many users without support. So be a little wary about investing money into any Linux based software. The same principal really applies to any software. Small companies can be volatile.

Web editors

In addition to these programs there are now several web based tools which are great for making simple edits. Websites such as Canva provide a great service. Also Photoshop Express available on http://www.photoshop.com/tools/expresseditor provides an excellent online editor which is capable of processing all basic photo edits.

GIMP is still the best alternative to Photoshop on Linux for many. It has the best support from a large and loyal community and the most features.

Gary Dean is a photographer and writer working on a number of online projects. His interest in Linux and the open source movement in general comes from his love of freebies. His is currently working on a project that combines his love of a bargain with his love of photography: FreePhotoPrinting, a service he is currently collaborating on to help people find cheap and free photo processing deals from top photo print processors.This post continues The Week of Guest Posts.


  1. You don't mention another program that gives you a complete photographic workflow, namely "digikam".

  2. I can name even more: OOo / LO Draw, KolourPaint.
    Nobody told this is exhaustive list.
    Although, you can give more suggestions below.

  3. How about Xara Xtreme

  4. I'm a photoshop user and a Gimp user (Also Corel Draw and Inkscape) professionally for the closed and as a hobby for the open ones.

    Photoshop is popular because it is pirated. It is the standard whithin the industry and it has a lot of features and no doubt a first class software. However, how many companies or individuals really purchased a Photoshop license? Paying almost 900 euros?

    Everyday I see artworks/photo editing that could be perfectly done in Gimp. Nevertheless everytime I speak about gimp to anyone I ear the same thing, it is not good enough, it is limited bla bla bla. Let me tell you, it isn't! Unless you really need some specific features (95% of the users don't) you could give Gimp a try. The most critical thing I have to say about gimp is it's UI. It is a complete mess and it should be worked out. Although, photoshop is not perfect either, try to crop an object from a blurred picture with the Magnetic Lasso Tool. Yep, you are in for a treat but doing that with the intelligent sicssors is way much smoother. Just an example.

    P.S what I said above can be translated to Corel Draw/Inkscape but in this case, in my opinion, Inkscape preforms better in the comparison, because I still could not find anything that I can do in corel draw that I could not do in Inkscape. It really is an amazing software.

    P.S.2: Please apologize for any mistakes, English is not my primary language.

  5. @Anonymous:
    Thanks for the long comment and for the support of FOSS!

  6. For someone who has been using image creation and manipulation tools on computers since the late 80's, I have often had to learn new and different interfaces and methods of programmer-contrived-interaction with alternate proprietary software; the one realism that one learns as one matures into the "computer-as-a-tool environment", is that no "one piece of software" has anywhere near all the answers or strengths that one needs in order to get the best result (and tongue-in-cheek, I would argue that though Photoshop® has its uses and is very popular, for me, I really and truly, do not mourn the lack of it on ANY of my work systems). Fact of the matter for me is that I like to set up the interface as I see fit, and though the interface may horrify most (and perhaps all) Photoshop® users, as a long time user of GIMP, I view their remarks as plain FUD. Personally, I see Photoshop® as more of a "paint-by-numbers" program, than a true artist's tool; although it may be useful at times, one should not consider it one's sole graphic tool, and I think that too many (so called "professional") people come to view it as such.

  7. 1) Photoshop is graphics editing program, but you can do artistic drawing as well. It's NOT a photo management tool.

    2) There is no Free/Linux alternative for this moment, period. It's sad but it's true. Famous GIMP is fricking useless piece of crap. Krita is young and painfully slow even on high end PC also it's only for artistic drawing not for retouching.

    3) There are great open source photo tools like digikam (photo management) or rawtherapee (raw management) but there is no such thing like Photoshop alternative. Yes most of copies are illegal, yes it's expensive, but it's the best raster graphic application out there and it's been this way for years. Big brains are working on this. It's state of the art retouching/editing tool, is awesome for artistis drawing, there is professional RAW tool built in. You can do everything with it and be sure it's done the way it should be (color management, compression etc etc).

  8. @ Anonymous, 11 October 2011 21:29: Lay off the corporate Kool Aid, please!

    If you are a power user of a certain piece of software and you feel it fits your needs, then great - your search is over. What is truly odd is this desire to speak badly about projects that are developed as a gift to the general public.

    And since free and open source software always needs volunteers to maintain and develop these projects, the understanding for its users is that one should contribute their efforts to improve it, or leave the project alone.

    What good can come of badgering people into becoming slaves to corporate marketing, just so they can feel they "belong"?

  9. @Martin Paulus

    you're right, I overreacted, didn't mean to sound that angry either. Don't get me wrong I do like FOSS and Linux and there is a lot of amazing software out there for free which I use and like, but sometimes I'm tired of that 'someday it might work', I don't like corporates but I do like photoshop not because it's expensive/cool/closed source/or whatever but just because it let me get the job done

  10. Sorry, but predominantly, and when compared to other 2d graphics software, 'shop is tooled more for image remedial work (as is gimp, krita etc) than artistic creative work, where real-time blending tools truly try to mimic those of paint, oil, charcoal, etc with much of the advantages that software gives (changing viscosity, surface tension, friction, flow etc). 'Shop's strengths have always been the printed media where 8bit CMYK sufficed (and still does) for years; now compare that with film media. Despite the paltry cost of a "'shop" workstation compared with those tooled up with Houdini, Maya etc, the most common image remedial tool in our studio is still a FOSS one (not Gimp). I reiterate- 'shop is a tool, no more, no less. For the record and as a testimony to Gimp's potential, there are actually plenty of inspirational images created entirely in FOSS programs such as Gimp.

  11. Thank you everyone for your input.
    I think the common point is that using free or non-free software is a matter of preference. There should not be single winner, otherwise we'll kill competition and progress.

  12. Wow.. GIMPshop. Just a few words on that. It was made by one of the guys from "Attack of the Show" who posted it on his blog plasticbugs.com for Mac. I took the source and made Windows builds.. someone else made Linux builds. Whoever is hosting gimpshop.com/net/org doesn't have anything to do with gimpshop because ist never was anything.. it was just a hack by a guy. There hasn't been any work done on it in years (like compiling it with a new gimp release).. so DON'T use it. Just use GIMP which works nicely.

  13. Oh.. and let me add something on the topic of GIMP not being a professional substitude for Photoshop. Or better yet, let a REAL professional (i.e. art director for a high-gloss magazine) evaluate GIMP:


  14. @Anonymous: thanks for the link to interesting article!

  15. "So be a little wary about investing money into any Linux based software" should be "So be a little wary about investing money into any PROPRIETARY software, be it on Linux or whatever OS, only with Free (Libre) software you can help yourself and keep any project alive, so donate to FOSS instead of waste money on 'permissions to use' software"

  16. There used to be a Linux/Win/Mac graphics editor called Pixel. Sadly, it appears to be a defunct project. For around $50 it did everything the gimp did plus supported many Photoshop plugins. I used to do what are called digital oil style landscapes with it after being a long time Paint Shop Pro user. But before you heap trouble on kazenburger's progress of late, please go count the F/OSS projects on sourceforge that don't compile or are just a readme with no updates in years.

  17. Pixel actually was very good, shame that the project is stillborn, even more if kazenburger doesn't want to develop for it anymore he should do what blender did and have a set monetary amount that people can donate to to release it to the community. esp if it is dead.

  18. If you want to image photos on the internet, you can use googe picassa. Also there are a lot of photo editing sites that let's you edit for free.

  19. @wedding photography:
    Yes, you're right. And both Picasa and on-line editors are also mentioned in the list.

  20. I am not good in doing photoshops, but these applications online make me do my projects incredibly easy. I love taking pictures and I'm fond of adding effects on them. I use google Picassa. I think that this application is one of the most user-friendly applications online. digital cameras

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