What's missing from The GIMP?
March 25, 2006 2:53 PM   Subscribe

What can Photoshop do that The GIMP can't?

People often say that there are many things Photoshop does well that The GIMP can't do at all. What are some?

I understand that many people dislike The GIMP's UI, which is a fair critique but not what I am looking for here. What specific features are missing that professionals might need?
posted by joegester to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've really only heard the UI critique. Although I'm sure there's some features not covered, I know that for me a bad UI is a dealbreaker. The UI *is* a major part of what a program "does", IMO.

(In one sense UI is all any program is: the thing that sits between you and the raw bits, and lets you communicate on a higher level than twiddling raw bits.)
posted by cps at 3:05 PM on March 25, 2006

Color separations.
posted by nathan_teske at 3:18 PM on March 25, 2006

This came up on Slashdot a while ago. Wading through the noise, the big things were color management (CMYK and Pantone especially), adjustment layers, and 16-bit-per-pixel support.
posted by xil at 3:19 PM on March 25, 2006

posted by darkpony at 3:37 PM on March 25, 2006

I'm having a hard time finding a GIMP-feature list. But here are some advanced PS features I wouldn't want to live without. My guess is that GIMP is missing some of them:

--LAB color mode
--Camera RAW plugin
--Adobe Bridge browser
--Actions & Batch Processing
--Adjustment Layers (someone earlier mentioned GIMP doesn't have these, which instantly makes it useless to me. I LIVE in adjustment layers).
--Layer Masks (I think GIMP has these)
--Export as layeres PSD. (I need to import PSDs into many other applications -- like "After Effects")
--Slices for the web
--Rollovers via Imageready
--Non-square pixel support for video
--Unsharp Mask or Smart Sharpen
--Liquify filter
--Layer Sets
--Clipping Groups
--Layer Effects
--Blend Modes (Multiply, Overlay, etc.)
--Brushes that work with Wacom Tablets
posted by grumblebee at 3:40 PM on March 25, 2006

Starting with grumblebee's list:

Gimp does have a RAW plugin, based on dcraw.

It has some support for non-square pixels. I can set an image to be 150x75dpi, and when I turn off "Dot for dot" it's distorted.

It has layer masks with blend modes, unsharp mask, support for tablets with pressure information for any device supported by the underlying OS. (at least on X using the X Input Extension)

It has scriptability through a variety of languages (Perl, Python, Scheme, and almost certainly others), including batch mode.

I don't know what Adobe Bridge is (but I assume they'll sell it to me), and I don't have any PSD export needs.

Many of the rest (LAB color, 16-bit color, adjustment layers) are missing from GIMP. Others may be "missing" but could easily be covered by scripting (slices for sure, rollovers maybe if I understand what they are)
posted by jepler at 3:50 PM on March 25, 2006

(grumblebee, what did you intend the "LAB Color" link to go to? If that's a joke, I don't get it)
posted by jepler at 3:51 PM on March 25, 2006

I tried the GIMP and one thing that I immediately noticed was that its limited text handling.

It will let you select fonts and colors, line height, and that's about it. There is no kerning, letterspacing, baseline shift, etc. I also wasn't wild about the text input window, though that was more of a preferential thing than a limitation per se.

I looked for plugins that would expand the capabilities but couldn't find anything -- that was a deal-breaker for me.
posted by camcgee at 3:56 PM on March 25, 2006

darkpony: That guy uses a lot more then just photoshop, far more powerful (and expensive) programs.
posted by delmoi at 4:09 PM on March 25, 2006

not to dethread but he really does just use photoshop and painter (a cheaper program than pshop).

but my point is you can do some great 'painting' with photoshop. I don't think GIMP can even approach thiat kind of stuff.
posted by darkpony at 4:42 PM on March 25, 2006

I recently switched from Gimp to Photoshop. For basic image editing stuff they work about the same. But for anything more serious and sophisticated Photoshop is way ahead. For me the deciding factor was easily being able to import RAW photos from my camera (with an excellent tool), then work on them in the full depth (16 bit mode), then use a variety of colour adjustment tools (such as Shadows and Highlights), then save it as a JPG with an embedded colour profile. You can probably cobble together about half of that workflow in Gimp, but even the parts Gimp has don't work as well in practice.

Don't get me wrong; Gimp's great and the gentlemen who wrote it are very handsome. But, well, it's a long way from the polish and power of Photoshop.
posted by Nelson at 4:43 PM on March 25, 2006

The only thing it's missing that I care about is 16 bit colour support. This really annoys me as it makes photo post-processing all but impossible.
posted by polyglot at 4:44 PM on March 25, 2006

For those who want more than 8 bits per primary, there's CinePaint, a years-old fork of gimp. It's hard to build, but Ubuntu has a package available. I don't know about any binary packages for Windows.
posted by jepler at 5:45 PM on March 25, 2006

(grumblebee, what did you intend the "LAB Color" link to go to? If that's a joke, I don't get it)

I don't know WHAT happened. I MEANT to link to "Photoshop Lab Color" by Dan Margulis. Many people don't know how awesome it is to work in LAB, so I thought I'd link to a resource -- and something went terribly, terribly wrong!

I'm glad to know that GIMP has RAW and some of the other features I mentioned. Sounds like GIMP is a great application -- especially for "the price." But it's clearly not Photoshop. They'll have to pry my adjustment layers out of my cold, dead hands!
posted by grumblebee at 5:56 PM on March 25, 2006

If you're looking for a product that splits the difference between the two, both in price and in features, I think rather highly of "Paint Shop Pro". It's from JASC, but recently JASC was acquired by Corel.

It supports 16-bit-per-pixel as of version 10 (the current one), for instance.

Photoshop runs about $800 IIRC. PSP is $100, and it's got a lot more than 10% of the features of Photoshop.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:57 PM on March 25, 2006

GrumbleBee posted just as I did. PSP has adjustment layers, too.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:58 PM on March 25, 2006

IIRC, one of the big stumbling blocks for GIMP is the sheer volume of patents Adobe holds on much of the color management systems in their software. That splash page that starts every launching of Photoshop has a couple dozen listed at the bottom.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:44 AM on March 26, 2006

From the wording of the question I would assume that the consensus is there's nothing GIMP does that Photoshop can't? Seems like you're missing half of the argument. Also there are a lot of things claimed upthread that GIMP can't do that it can to the point where it seems people who haven't ever used GIMP are making things up. I wouldn't trust any advice in this thread as anything more than uninformed speculation.

But for what you asked that affects me: GIMP lacks the free transform tool (it uses several scale/skew/rotate tools but not at once), the scaling quality isn't the best algorithm (I saw a beta that had it, but none of the stable win packages have), it uses scripting languages instead of batch processing which is hard to grasp as an artist, and the text tool is abysmal.
posted by psychobum at 6:01 AM on March 26, 2006

GIMP lacks any UI sense whatsoever.

Open source people need to recruit artists and designers before there's any real breakthrough into the desktop market. Graphics people don't like GIMP, so it doesn't get useful feedback, so it continues to suck, so graphics people don't like it...
posted by blacklite at 7:31 AM on March 26, 2006

Also, the whole integration with other adobe apps. InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop make a powerful combination. Scribus, Inkscape, and The GIMP are the closest FOSS alternatives. Plus, the GIMP is just a pain to work with, the GUI is confused and ugly. Pitting the GIMP against Photoshop doesn't make nearly as much sense as pitting OpenOffice against MSOffice. OpenOffice is a superior product that can replace MSOffice. The GIMP is a feature rich, free solution for the majority of image related tasks a desktop user engages in. In a professional environment it lacks the polish and the workflow integration as well as various features that people have come to expect.
posted by Grod at 8:08 AM on March 26, 2006

Gimp can not do proper color management, it can not properly import camera raw files (I've tried -- yes, there are plugins. They can't properly import the raw files for my camera -- color is completely hosed, and most of the benefits of using raw are killed by the feature-starved plugin), and it can not handle 48 bit color and lab color.

These are deal killers. There are many other things, I'm sure, but that's enough.

I'm quite the free software fan. I really wanted to use the Gimp. But you can't for serious photography unless you are willing to work with a major handicap.

This is not some anti-Gimp hit piece.
posted by teece at 9:15 AM on March 26, 2006

Are you kidding, Grod? OpenOffice is a shoddy piece of inferior crap!
posted by evariste at 10:58 AM on March 26, 2006

Are you serious, evariste? What makes you say that? I use it on my "school" computer -- a 4yr-old laptop running linux -- and on my home computer running winXP. OO.org Writer can do everything MSWord does and produces smaller files. Since all the computers at college have Office I must and do convert between formats all the time without any problem even when using fairly complex styles and layouts (play formatting, for instance). Maybe you're thinking of OpenOffice v1?
posted by Grod at 11:27 AM on March 26, 2006

As others have said, the UI is completely unacceptable.

However, beyond that, the "GIMP" will never become mainstream as long as they keep that name for the application.

Open source developers need to come to terms with the fact that whimsical application names are a huge barrier to wide-spread adoption.
posted by o0o0o at 1:19 PM on March 26, 2006

re: GIMP vs. photoshop. photoshop is a photography studio emulation program designed for a professional market that mimics and extends the abilities of a real photography studio whereas GIMP is a general image editing program. They might seem related on the surface however they are fundamentally different. GIMP is way more powerful and simple. People who hate GIMP's ui are upset that it's so easy to explain how it works. GIMP is wysiwyg. All the options are available when you right click on the image. photoshop takes months if not years to figure out how to use to the point where people become attached to the bassackwardness and amount of chickens they have sacrificed. GIMP benefits from being open source. there are so many people contributing to it getting better constantly. The size of it's developer base translates to a incredibly resourceful and elegant program with tons of filters and out of the box presets that runs for free on all modern operating systems. It supports wacoms even better than photoshop, you can set the tablet pressure sensitivity to control a gradient, the size, and opacity separately. Also GIMP will load photoshop filters but I don't need them because GIMP has me covered. GIMP takes up a fraction of the space of photoshop (about 50 megs installed+GTK) and will even run on very old computers. Also GIMP is spelled in capitals making it sound like you are really exited when you write about it.
posted by psychobum at 11:59 PM on March 26, 2006

GIMP is way more powerful...

Since I haven't use GIMP, I can't verify that or deny it. But it makes me curious. What do you mean by "more powerful"? I DO understand all your other points (simpler, smaller footprint, etc.), but could you explain "more powerful"?

To me, this suggests that GIMP can do many (not just a few) things that Photoshop can't. You may be right, and if you are, that's exciting -- since it's free. But it flies in the face of conventional wisdom. So please elaborate.
posted by grumblebee at 8:46 AM on March 27, 2006

grumblebee - first the simplicity of its wysiwyg design means I save time when I'm doing things like saving files and have more control over the final output. It does so many things right and plays with programs like flash nicely. Also it's smart handling of .gif animation (each layer is treated like a frame in an animation) makes it the best .gif editor I've ever used, the GAP plugin and spinoffs of the app are used for editing hollywood features. it's scripting abilities get way more in depth than photoshop, it comes with tons of filters and preset scripts, the way it intergrates into websites (it's used to generate dynamic graphics on the web including things like flame text and anti-bot security codes), I've taught people like my grandma and anti-computer artists how to use it in short order and they don't have to come back to me for help because its easy to pick up. and lastly you can at any time take a peak under the hood. I doubt I'll ever convince any professionals who paid retail for photoshop about GIMP, but for bootleggers and joe schmoes off the street GIMP is more than adequate
posted by psychobum at 12:20 PM on March 27, 2006

I doubt I'll ever convince any professionals who paid retail for photoshop about GIMP

No you won't, because Gimp can't do what professionals need, your hyperbolic claims notwithstanding. At an absolute minimum, Gimp would have to have good color management before it could even be considered by professionals.

No ifs. No ands. No buts.
posted by teece at 1:28 PM on March 27, 2006

here is an explanation why gimp is more powerful, and an article on film gimp being used in the movie industry. more articles about gimp here.
posted by psychobum at 7:30 AM on March 28, 2006

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