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How can I make Gimp look more like Photoshop

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An alternate method to get GIMP more like Photoshop CS6

The above theme makes GIMP look better than the default, but it still doesn’t look much like Photoshop, at least not the latest version of the app.

For those who are sticklers for detail, there is an alternate way to get GIMP much more like Photoshop CS6. But it’s a bit more complicated to install.

Get a special, dark-themed GIMP

Firstly, we need to download a different, dark-themed built of GIMP. Not from the official website, but from .

Since GIMP is an open source app, any programmer can create their custom version. It is actually legal to do so.

We will find the downloads near the end of the homepage.

Make sure you download the stable 2.8 version, ins

Make sure you download the stable 2.8 version, instead of any of the 2.9.x versions. Even though it’s marked as a “Standard Edition”, when run it features the following message, since it is based on as of yet unstable versions of the GIMP source code:

We also need to have 64-bit Windows to download th

We also need to have 64-bit Windows to download this version, it won’t install on 32-bit Windows.

If we already had GIMP, we should uninstall it, and install the Partha build instead. Don’t try to combine this alternate method with the method above, it needs a clear installation.

With the Partha build installed, we need to run it once, to create the gimp settings folder. We can check for it at our User profile folder, as we saw earlier.

Install GIMP themes

Install GIMP themes

For the next step, we download the Clearlooks Flat Icons Gimp 2.8 Themes.

After the download, we extract all the directories

After the download, we extract all the directories within the Clearlooks zip inside the “.gimo-2.8/themes” folder. The current version of Clearlooks includes 29 directories.

With the extra themes copied, we launch GIMP, sele

With the extra themes copied, we launch GIMP, select Windows -> Single-Window Mode…

...and then choose the theme, from Edit -> Pref

…and then choose the theme, from Edit -> Preferences -> Theme. The best fit is probably the Dark Blue small theme, but feel free to select whichever you like best.

After that, we close GIMP, re-open it, and we have

After that, we close GIMP, re-open it, and we have an appearance much more like Photoshop CS6.

We just need to drag the tools Panel to the upper

We just need to drag the tools Panel to the upper right column and afterwards shrink the left tools panel, so it only has two rows.

With this, we are ready, as far as the appearance

With this, we are ready, as far as the appearance is concerned.

3. Set the colour of the canvas frame

In the same window you can change the Mode of the canvas frame. Choose Custom colour from the drop-down menu. In the next line click on the rectangular box to choose a colour. (Photoshop uses the colour #282828)

Install A Layer From Current Selection Replacement

In Photoshop, CTRL+J can be used for more than jus

In Photoshop, CTRL+J can be used for more than just duplicating the current layer; it can make a new layer from the current selection. This is a really handy tool that I use very often in Photoshop. You can add the same function to GIMP’s Layer menu with a plugin called Layer via Copy/Cut.

  1. Download the plugin
  2. Install it by dragging the layer-via-copy-cut.py file to …/.gimp-2.8/plug-ins/ (and if you’re on Linux, make sure the file is executable)
  3. With your current layer active, make a selection
  4. In the main menu, choose Layer > Layer via Copy
  5. Your selection will be copied to a new layer

Combining the “Layer via Copy” feature with layer masks is a great way to create composite images in GIMP. The two can also be a capable (but less efficient) replacement to the patch tool in Photoshop.

7. Install themes and plugins

You can change the whole look of the icons and the colour of the window background by installing a theme. How to do it is well explained here.

Personally I kept my installation free of plugins and themes. If you are looking for these, this or this article may help you.

Note: In the comments section of the second article the author recommends installing Gimpshop. This information is outdated. Many features of Gimpshop are integrated in Gimp 2.8. Today the installer of Gimpshop offers to install a lot of bloatware (and maybe malware, too). So don’t download and install Gimpshop any more.

Install ICC Colour Profiles

You can download high quality, freely available IC

You can download high quality, freely available ICC colour profiles (like sRGB) online and use them in GIMP. Windows, Mac and Linux users can get sRGB ICC profiles directly from the International Colour Consortium. If you are running Ubuntu, or any of its derivatives like Linux Mint or elementary OS, you can get them directly from the repositories. Just search for “icc colour profiles” in your package manager. They will be copied to /usr/share/colour/icc/.

For photographers shooting in the Abode RGB colour space (which has a wider colour gamut than sRGB), you can download the colour profiles from Adobe’s website. This package also includes CMYK colour profiles. You will be required to agree to Adobe’s EULA. I recommend copying the files to /usr/share/colour/icc/ on Linux, or another safe folder on Windows or Mac.

Once you have the colour profiles on your disk, you need to let GIMP know where they are. From the main menu in GIMP, go to Edit > Preferences > Color Management. Make sure Mode of Operation is set to Color Managed Display, and select your RGB and CMYK ICC files in the drop down menus below.

Of course, your monitor has already been colour calibrated, right? Nobody would be silly enough to try and colour balance a photo without first calibrating their monitor… right?

Why not use GIMPshop?

GIMPshop started out as exactly what its name suggests, a GIMP version that looks like Photoshop from the get-go, without the need of manual theme installation.

Unfortunately, there was some controversy regarding GIMPshop. A random person other than the GIMPshop creator snatched the gimpshop.com domain name and started hotlinking to the original GIMPshop.

This lead the true GIMPshop creator to not pursue a newer version of GIMPshop, other than the one based on the old 2.2.11 GIMP. He still updates is, though, with the latest update on February 2017.

As for gimpshop.com (no, we won't even link to it,

As for gimpshop.com (no, we won’t even link to it, because screw this guy), it is riddled with adware, even before we download the file.

We definitely don't recommend it.

We definitely don’t recommend it.

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.”

A Final Word

While PhotoGIMP definitely makes GIMP look and feel a bit more like Photoshop, it doesn’t actually change the software. GIMP’s little quirks still come through, and you don’t suddenly get access to any of the cool new Creative Cloud tools that come with the real version of Photoshop. 

If you’re absolutely against working with Adobe, but you miss the classic Photoshop layout and keyboard shortcuts, then PhotoGIMP should do a great job of making GIMP look like Photoshop. But if you need the best of the best in image editing, Adobe Photoshop still reigns supreme. 

About Thomas Boldt

I’ve been working with digital images since the year 2000 or so, when I got my first digital camera. I've tried many image editing programs. GIMP is a free and powerful software, but not exactly user-friendly until you get comfortable with it, and I wanted to make the learning process easier for you here.