Adobe Creative Cloud Software is generally thought of as the kingpin package for creative individuals. While I do personally use Adobe software for pretty much all my creative marketing work, I do understand that the cost (and pricing model) can easily turn people off wanting to fork out for the software. After having been in the situation of not being able to bring myself to purchase a Creative Cloud license, I had to adapt to using free alternative software. What kind of a guy would I be if I didn’t share my suggestions with others that can benefit from my struggle?
I decided to compile a list of all the software that I have either personally used or seen suggested by others, in the hopes that the list can help small businesses or individuals who can’t justify paying the price for Adobe software. (See bottom of this page)
As taken from the GIMP website, “GIMP is a cross-platform image editor available for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows and more operating systems. It is free software, you can change its source code and distribute your changes.”
Honestly, the first time I tried GIMP was when I was young, probably in 2008. At that point, I wasn’t too impressed with the software and thought it served as a basic, more complicated version of Photoshop. After revisiting the software in 2018, I was more than surprised with the features that it now has, including the 3D object function and the spot healing tool (which I don’t remember being available when I first tried GIMP).
GIMP supports a range of file types and can produce similar results to Photoshop for a lot of photo touch-ups, including correcting perspective distortion. Although I’ve never tried to paint/draw in GIMP, the software does have a full suite of painting tools available, including brush, pencil, airbrush, clone etc. You can view a great list of the product features of GIMP here.
Most Obvious Pitfalls
Unfortunately, free software always comes with drawbacks compared to software that has multi-million financial backing. Adobe Photoshop trumps GIMP on many features, but it’s down to you whether the value of these features is worth the cost.
Compatibility with other software
One thing I value a lot when using a piece of software is the ability to perform different tasks within the software or package, essentially getting more use cases out of a product. With Photoshop, you have access to all the other Creative Cloud software which allows you to seamlessly integrate your work into the other applications that Adobe offer. GIMP, however, is a standalone product that is developed by a small team of volunteers, meaning that it’s difficult to integrate your work from GIMP into other applications. There is no Lightroom, no Bridge, nothing to help you manage your files or transfer them into another application. This can become tedious, and in the long run, result in a great loss of time.
Failing to render certain file types
Another downfall to using GIMP instead of Photoshop is the inability to load RAW or PSD files. Since Photoshop is so widely used and trusted across many industries, the PSD file type has become a worldwide standard for being the editable original file type that most illustrators and graphic designers prefer to send and receive work in. Although GIMP can open PSD files, it will occasionally fail to render things correctly. This then creates the problem for when you’re working with someone, sending documents back and forth, that the original data may not be rendered correctly and could result in distortion or loss. When it comes to RAW files, the file type that many high-end cameras capture in, GIMP simply cannot load them. You’ll need an external processor to be able to convert a RAW file into a JPG before manipulation. This can be a huge downfall for photographers since RAW files hold so much more information which can be utilised by professionals to maximise the colour and light balance of their shots.
Weaker tools available
Understandably, Photoshop has more tools available as well. Although GIMP tries to compete with Photoshop’s arsenal, it simply cannot compare with some of the tools that Photoshop has to offer. A perfect example of this is the spot healing tool; photoshop has four different tools with a multitude of controls to vary the operation of them, whereas GIMP only has the one tool. This is just one example where this situation occurs, but there are many other tools and options that Photoshop delves into greater detail than GIMP. If you’re wanting to use an image manipulation software for fairly simple, basic edits then GIMP can serve you great. If you’re looking to create professional, industry leading graphics and images, then Photoshop will provide better ways for you to do so.
I believe that GIMP can be a great replacement for Photoshop for many people, especially those that want to capitalise on making quick and easy edits frequently. When it comes to delving into the greater depths of photo and image manipulation, Photoshop is pretty much unparalleled for output. Because of this, I do believe that Photoshop and other Creative Cloud applications are worth investing in if you’re wanting to make a living from this kind of work. There are still many tasks that you can complete with ease in GIMP, but to reach the pinnacle in your industry, you should probably stick with Adobe.
Free Alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud Features
Photoshop – GIMP
Lightroom – paint.net
Illustrator – Inkscape
Audition – Audacity
Premiere – Davinci Resolve