What’s the price of graphics power for Mac users? At the high end is Adobe’s infamous Photoshop, available as a suite of apps for an annual monthly rental of $50, or $699 for the latest CS6 version.
At the low end is GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program that’s been around a few years but now has a full-on, easy to install and use Mac version.
To the naked and untrained eye, GIMP will look similar to Photoshop (or, at least older versions of Photoshop). It features pallets of image enhancement tools and plenty of filters and effects.
Various versions of GIMP run on Microsoft Windows as well as Linux PCs, but what makes the latest version newsworthy is that it’s a native Mac app which doesn’t require the X11 Window environment which was a mostly cumbersome install and clumsy interface.
For the professional designer, GIMP is not a free Photoshop. But for the rest of us who are more casually involved in image enhancement, the new version of GIMP holds much promise. Installation is a breeze. If you’re familiar with Photoshop, you’ll appreciate GIMP’s adherence to standard tools.
GIMP features a full suite of painting tools, alpha channel support, multiple undo and redo, plus Photoshop-like editable layers.
And it handles almost every major graphic file format from .psd to .bmp, from .jpg to .pdf, and .svg to .tif and others.
That said, GIMP for the Mac, though more polished than ever, suffers from a Windows-like interface in places, but that’s the nature of a multi-platform app.
If you have a need for a full featured graphic tool but don’t want to invest in Photoshop or Adobe’s pricing policies, GIMP is a very good start. It’s free, but needs a fast Mac to operate smoothly. Some tools are occasionally jerky, but the absence of a price tag makes GIMP a good choice for those new to graphic design, or those are a severely restricted budget.