Working with Wilbur

Why I switched from Photoshop to GIMP. 


Meet Wilbur. He happens to be the mascot for the GNU Image Manipulation Program, lovingly known as GIMP. I have been working with Wilbur for quite a while now and I’m happy to say that I am living a good life without a lot of PS. Why? Because I can do everything that I need to do without having to jump through hoops to keep the Adobe folks happy.

Several years ago, when I became interested in digital imaging and computer manipulation of photographs I started with a Windows PC and a MS program called “Picture It.” It was pretty basic but it came in very handy when I got a copy and restore project tossed in my lap. My clients thought that I was a genius when I delivered restored antique photographs to them in a short amount of time. After that, I started using Adobe products because everyone in the professional organizations I belonged to and the magazines I subscribed to talked about PS and eventually I bought, although I resisted for a long time.

Everyone must get a bit disgusted with the way the large software companies treat their users. I don’t like being treated like a potential criminal, thief, and copyright infringer. And I didn’t like having to upgrade the programs in order to be able to continue to produce my work. I understand that the giants must be fed or they will die but I don’t like to be manipulated. The last straw came when the Creative Cloud system was introduced. Initially I thought that it would be a way for me to use PS with Linux, but of course I was wrong.  I went looking around and I found GIMP.

Gimp is easy to find. Type “Image manipulation software” in your browser bar and you will find GIMP right near the top. Google ranks it top of the list which is not surprising because GIMP has worldwide acceptance and a huge user base.

So, what makes GIMP so special? First, it was written by a pair of undergrads as a class project at UC Berkley in 1995. They then gave it to the world so it is open source, which means that you can use it for free and you can change it if you happen to be good at coding, which I am not. It is a powerful alternative to PS but it is not PS. There are several differences that are very nice and there are some deficiencies.

Gimp will run on Mac, Windows, Linux, OpenSolarus, and FreeBSD operating systems. And it supports all of the popular file formats, like .tif, .png, .psd, .jpg, and .gif natively. Other formats, like raw, are supported via plug-ins. Gimp is also easy to use and takes up about 5 percent of PS disk space. And if you will find  just as much help on You Tube as the more popular brand or of course there are GIMP user groups and tutorials on the website.

One of the attributes that I  miss are “actions.” Gimp doesn’t let you record macros like PS. Instead you have to either write your own scripts or find and install a prewritten script that meets your needs. There are thousands of the latter available but most of the time they aren’t exactly what I need. Another drawback is the lack of 16 bit support. There is a plug-in that offers it but most of the time I’m working on an 8-bit .jpg so that hasn’t brought me to my knees. And, GIMP doesn’t support the CMYK color space, which can be a hassle if you need to produce a four color file for your client, but there is a work-around, and it is also open source, known as KRITA.

My experience with Gimp has been extremely positive and I am happy with the decision I made more than two years ago. All of my friends in the profession have stayed with PS and most are using the CC version. I was asked to give a program on it but I did not make any converts which is what I expected because most people are afraid of change. However, you can install a version of GIMP on every desktop and laptop that you own for free (although we should make contributions to the project to help keep it up to date and add new enhancements) and become more profitable by cutting software expenses. That should be a reason for creatives to overcome their fear.

If you are interested in being a bit different than the rest of the crowd, want to save money, or are looking for a challenge or just getting started here are some links that you may want to explore:

In my next post I’ll outline how I made the switch.

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