Make GIMP Look (and Work) More Like Photoshop

Whether you use Adobe’s Photoshop on a Windows or Mac and wish to move to Linux, or if you simply cannot afford a copy of Photoshop but want a fully featured photo and image editing suite, GIMP is probably the best program you can get your hands on. It is free and is available for all major computing operating systems, which makes it the number one choice for most people.

However, it works and looks differently than Photoshop, making some people stay away from it. However, making GIMP look and work more like Photoshop is actually rather easy, and in this article I will explain some tricks in order to achieve this.

For this article, I will assume you have GIMP 2.8 installed on your system, as it is the latest stable version and the one I am running on my computer. If you want to install it, go to GIMP’s download page and choose the version that best suits you (Linux users have the download commands available here).

Also, you will need to find GIMP’s installation folder:

  • Windows: C:\Users\[your user name]\.gimp-2.8
  • Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/GIMP/2.8/ (you will probably need to unhide the Library folder)
  • Linux: ~/.gimp-2.8


GIMP’s default window arrangement is, at least for me, far from being attractive or effective. I could not get used to the separate windows, so I had to do something to fix this issue.

Luckily, the latest versions of GIMP have a built-in setting that makes the program function in a single window, just like Photoshop does. In order to activate this, just go to the main menu and navigate to “Window -> Single-Window Mode”.


Another helpful tip, especially for people moving from Photoshop, is to emulate the same (or almost) keyboard shortcuts on GIMP, and the tool icons as well. In order to do this, download the shortcuts file from Then, replace the contents in your GIMP folder for the ones you downloaded. Restart GIMP so that changes can be applied.

It is a safe bet to get backups of those files, so before replacing, you might want to change the names of the files in the GIMP folder that will be replaced.


If you use(d) Photoshop, then you are familiar with how useful the “Ctrl + J” keyboard shortcut is. Not only does it copy the current layer, but it can also copy the current selection into a new layer. GIMP does not have such behavior by default, but this can be fixed with a single plugin.

Download the “Layer via Copy/Cut” plugin from the GIMP Plugin Registry and move it to

If you are on Linux, make sure the file is executable. To use the new function, just make your image selection and “choose Layer -> Layer via Copy” (or Layer via Cut).


Another thing that can be very annoying on GIMP is the fact that layers always have their boundaries highlighted with a yellow and black dotted line, which does not happen on Photoshop. If you want to disable this behavior, just navigate to “Edit -> Preferences -> Image Windows -> Appearance” and uncheck the “Show Layer Boundary” under Normal and Fullscreen modes. Then just restart GIMP to apply the changes.


Yet another behavior that GIMP has not activated by default, “Snap to canvas edges” is something quite useful that needs to be activated for each image, if you want to utilize it. Luckily, there is a quick fix for this as well: just navigate into you GIMP folder, open the “gimprc” file and add these two lines:

Save the file, close it and restart GIMP for the changes to take effect.


Another frustrating difference about Photshop and GIMP is the way the move function behaves on the latter, as it moves more than just what is on the active layer. In order to fix this and emulate the way this tool acts on Photoshop, just select the Move Tool, head into the tool options section (bottom left corner on the screenshot above) and check the “Move the active layer” option.

Then, to make this behavior permanent, navigate to “Edit -> Preferences -> Tool Options” and click “Save Tool Options Now.”


Speaking of frustrating, if you use(d) GIMP you probably realized that, whenever you paste an image on top of another, it gets merged with the bottom layer as soon as you unselect it. But, as it turns out, this has a quick and easy fix: instead of pasting the image with “Control+V” or “Edit -> Paste, paste the image on a new layer by navigating to “Edit -> Paste as -> New Layer.

As an alternative, you can set a keyboard shortcut for “Pasting as a new layer”. Just navigate to “Edit -> Keyboard Shorcuts”, search for “new layer” on the Search Box and edit the shortcut for “edit-paste-as-new-layer”. You can set any shortcut, as long as it not being used, so I suggest using “Ctrl+Alt+<".This was just a quick selection of tricks I collected on the Internet and found out by myself. If you have some useful tips and tricks, please do leave them in the comments.