There’s no denying that Photoshop is the gold standard in digital photo editing, with countless industry professionals relying on it daily to make their living. However, GIMP, its closest open source competitor, has been making huge strides in recent years to make itself a viable alternative.
Part of the barrier keeping Photoshop fans from embracing the open source GIMP is the different look, feel, and controls. It’s hard to break old habits, especially when those habits keep paying the bills. There are some simple ways to overcome that barrier, at least in part, by customizing GIMP to look and act more like Photoshop.
Install the Photoshop Icon Theme
Obviously, Adobe isn’t going to be releasing the official Photoshop icon theme for GIMP any time soon, but a designer at Deviant Art, Doctormo, meticulously recreated the Photoshop icons and packaged them for GIMP. Head to the page and download the icons.
Unpack the zip once you’re done downloading. The resulting folder is hidden, so show hidden files on your system. (It’s Ctrl + H on GNOME.) That folder will be called “.gimp-2.8,” and you’ll use it to replace the existing version of the same folder in your /home directory. Rename the current one in case you need it again.
Next, move the unpacked folder to replace it.
If you’re working with GIMP 2.10, the directory structure is somewhat different. Your profile directory is actually located at:
The same will apply, though. Rename that directory and replace it with the new one.
When you boot up GIMP again, you’ll notice the icons and styling more closely match Photoshop.
Set the Photoshop Keybinds
The next step in making GIMP feel more like Photoshop is the keybinds. Any Photoshop user knows that keybinds, often called hotkeys, are an essential part of getting things done efficiently. If you’re used to the Photoshop ones, learning a whole new set on GIMP isn’t just daunting, it’s a total pain.
Luckily, someone already did the hardest part for you. You only need to import the keybinds. Download the keybind configuration and rename it to “menurc.” Then, copy it into “~/.gimp-2.8.” Again, on GIMP 2.10 this would be “~/.config/GIMP/2.10.”
More Photoshop Features
There are a couple of additional features and tweaks that will make GIMP feel more like home. These are simple things, but they can certainly go a long way in easing your transition to GIMP.
A More Photoshop-Like Move Tool
The move tool in GIMP is similar to the one in Photoshop, but it isn’t exactly the same. That said, there is an option that you can use to make it behave more like Photoshop.
Select the Move Tool from the Toolbox window. In the right set of menus you’ll find the available options for the Move Tool. Check the box for “Move Active Layer.”
Now, save the change. Click on “Edit,” then “Preferences.” Select “Tool Options” and finally, “Save Tool Options Now.” You can either restart or keep using it.
Snap to Canvas Edge
By default, GIMP doesn’t snap layers to the canvas edge or grid lines by default. Moving a layer, then, is much less exact. You can make GIMP snap layers to the canvas with a couple lines of configuration. Use your favorite text editor to open “~/.gimp-2.8/gimprc” or “~/.config/GIMP/2.10.” Add either or both of the following two lines, as you prefer.
If you’d prefer a more temporary option, GIMP already includes a “Snap to Canvas” option. You just need to enable it. Click on “View,” then select “Snap to Canvas” in the resulting menu.
These tips should bridge the gap between GIMP and Photoshop. Nothing is ever going to be exactly the same, but the feel should mostly be there, and much of your learning curve should be eliminated. GIMP is open source, too, so you can always do your own work and make even deeper modifications if you’re able.