How to make GIMP look and work more like Photoshop

GIMP is a professional, pixelbased image manipulation program. It is open source and free to download from gimp.org. On many Linux distributions GIMP is already preinstalled.

Because GIMP is [open source / free] software you can customize everything to meet your needs. This step by step instruction shows you how to

  • make GIMP’s look more similar to Photoshop
  • change the GIMP keyboard shortcuts to the one’s of the latest version of Photoshop CC (April 2016)
  • add a personal splash screen
  • and more.

This tutorial requires an installation of GIMP 2.8 on your computer.

Contents:

  1. Set GIMP to single window mode
  2. Hide Layer Boundaries
  3. Set the colour of the canvas frame
  4. Edit keyboard shortcuts
  5. Add a personal splash screen
  6. Change how layers are moved
  7. Install themes and plugins (external links)

 

1. Set GIMP to single window mode

Open up GIMP, click on Window and check single window mode.

 

2. Hide Layer Boundaries

Click on Edit → Settings, maximise the category Image window and choose the sub-category Display. Uncheck show layer boundaries (both on the display settings of the normal mode and fullscreen mode).

einstellungen_bildfenster_darstellung

This removes the yellow-black dashed border around layers.

 

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)

 

4. Edit keyboard shortcuts

Using Photoshop’s keyboard shortcuts in GIMP has two advantages:

  • If you’re used to work with Photoshop you don’t need to learn something new.
  • If you have to use GIMP and Photoshop you don’t get confused.

I’ve used the latest version of Photoshop CC (released in April 2016) for a reference.

Additional info (unimportant): A great majority of Photoshop’s keyboard shortcuts could be assigned to GIMP very well. However there are some exceptions.

You could edit the keyboard shortcuts manually by clicking on Editkeyboard shortcuts. GIMP saves the shortcuts in a file called menurc.

gimp_menurc_datei_c

Because I’ve already done the work you can simply replace the contents of your menurc file whith mine’s. Just copy the contents of the menurc file I’ve created from here.

Note: If you want to restore the original GIMP keyboard shortcuts later you have to create a backup of your menurc file before you replace it’s contents.

Quit GIMP and open the .gimp-2.8 folder (using the file manager of your operating system).

The exact location of the folder varies between operating systems:

 

Linux and BSD:
This is the path to the .gimp-2.8 folder on a Linux or BSD computer:

/home/your username/.gimp-2.8

Note: You have to tell your file manager to make hidden files visible by pressing Ctrl+H on your keyboard.

Microsoft Windows:
This is the path to the .gimp-2.8 folder on a Windows computer:

C:\Users\your username\.gimp-2.8

 

Then open the menurc file with a text editor and replace it’s contents with the code you’ve copied before (for detailed instructions how to do it click here).

That’s it. When you start GIMP you will notice that you are now able to use most of Photoshop’s keyboard shortcuts.

If you want to make some additional changes by yourself you can do this directly in GIMP. Just click on Edit and choose keyboard shortcuts (or press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+K).

For example you could change the undo and redo commands from Ctrl+Alt+Z and Ctrl+Shift+Z to Ctrl+Z and Ctrl+Y if this is more convienient for you.

Additional info (unimportant): There’s also a quite popular keyboard shortcuts file (made by epierce). As the author claims on the website the settings are based on Photoshop CS6 (released in 2014). While most keyboard shortcuts won’t have changed since then, some might be outdated. (As mentioned above the keyboard shortcuts settings I’ve created are based on a newer version of Photoshop, called “Photoshop CC 2015.1.2 20160113.r.355” which has been the most recent version of Photoshop in April 2016.)

Also the author may have “translated” some keyboard shortcuts differently (which might be an interesting comparison).

Click here to view some screenshots showing which keyboard shortcuts I’ve assigned to which menu entry.

 

5. Add a personal splash screen

GIMP makes it also possible to change the splash screen to any picture you want. To do so open up the folder mentioned above in the file manager of your operating system. The location of the folder varies between operating systems.

 

Linux and BSD:
This is the path to the .gimp-2.8 folder on a Linux or BSD computer:

/home/your username/.gimp-2.8

Note: You have to tell your filemanager to make hidden files visible by pressing Ctrl+H on your keyboard.

Microsoft Windows:
This is the path to the .gimp-2.8 folder on a Windows computer:

C:\Users\your username\.gimp-2.8

 

Inside this folder create a new folder and name it splashes.

Then insert all images you want GIMP to show as a splash screen into the splashes folder. If you insert more than one image into this folder, GIMP will randomly choose one of it each time you start GIMP.

Note: The size of the original GIMP splash screen image is 557 x 346 pixels.

This is how the one I’ve created looks like (in Windows 8.1):

custum-gimp-splash-screen_screenshot_cropped

 

6. Change how layers are moved

If you want to move a layer in GIMP you have choose the move tool (keyboard shortcut: v) and actually point on the visible content before you start dragging.

In Photoshop simply the layer, selected in the layers window, is getting moved – no matter where the mouse pointer is placed before starting to drag.

To achieve this behaviour in GIMP simply select move the active layer instead of choose layer or guide. This option is available in the tools settings window of the move tool.

gimp_verschiebenWerkzeug_photoshopEinstellung_c

To save this setting permanently click on EditPreferencesTool options and click Save tool options now.

 

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.

 

Done!

That’s it, enjoy your self created Gimposhop.

 

Comparison with Photoshop

My installation of GIMP, completely without any themes or plugins installed and the interface of photoshop with comparable windows opened:

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