How to Make GIMP Image Editor Look and Feel Like Adobe Photoshop

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GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free, open-source image editor that has many powerful features for photo editing and graphic design. However, those accustomed to using Adobe Photoshop may find GIMP’s default user interface confusing or unfamiliar. Thankfully, with some customization, it is possible to make GIMP look and operate much more similarly to Photoshop.

Customizing the Interface Theme and Icon Colors

GIMP comes with several premade themes that change the overall look of the interface. To access these, go to Edit > Preferences > Theme and select one you like. The “Photoshop Dark” theme makes GIMP resemble Photoshop CS6.

You can also customize things further by changing GIMP’s icon theme. Go to Edit > Preferences > Theme > Icon Theme and pick one that looks more like Photoshop’s icon style. The “Color” icon set is a good option.

Adding a Photoshop-Style Toolbox

GIMP’s default toolbox contains unfamiliar tools like the Perspective Clone tool. To add a more Photoshop-like toolbox:

  1. Go to Windows > Recently Closed Docks and enable the Toolbox.
  2. Right-click the toolbox and select Customize.
  3. Delete tools you don’t need by dragging them away from the list on the left.
  4. Arrange tools like the Move, Crop, and Transform tools at the top.
  5. Click Save to keep your edited toolbox.

Changing Keyboard Shortcuts

One major difference between GIMP and Photoshop is their keyboard shortcuts. To make things easier, install a plugin that makes GIMP use Photoshop shortcuts:

  1. Download the GIMP Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts files.
  2. Copy the downloaded menurc file and paste it into your GIMP settings folder:
  • Windows: C:\Users\YOUR-USER-NAME\.gimp-2.10
  • Mac: /Users/YOUR-USER-NAME/.gimp-2.10
  • Linux: /home/YOUR-USER-NAME/.gimp-2.10
  1. Restart GIMP and the Photoshop shortcuts will be active.

Mimicking Photoshop Panels

GIMP lacks Photoshop’s panel system but this can be replicated using dockable dialogs:

  1. Open dialogs like Layers, Channels, Paths, Undo History etc.
  2. Drag the dialogs around the edge of the screen to dock them in place.
  3. Use Windows > Recently Closed Docks to reopen dialogs.

Arranging docked dialogs around the image window approximates Photoshop’s panel layouts.

Installing Photoshop-Style Plugins

While GIMP has many capable built-in tools, installing extra plugins can add advanced capabilities similar to Photoshop:

  • G’MIC – Provides filters for photo restoration, enhancement, and manipulation.
  • Resynthesizer – Content-aware fill for removing objects from images.
  • Wavelet Decompose – Mimics Photoshop’s frequency separation capability.

Search the official GIMP Plugin Registry for more plugins.

Customizing the UI Layout

You can arrange GIMP’s interface with separate toolboxes, docks, and image windows:

  1. Set Windows > Single Window Mode to OFF.
  2. Drag tool dialogs into docks as described above.
  3. Drag the main toolbox to the left side of the screen.
  4. Open images in their own separate windows.

This will make GIMP function more similarly to Photoshop’s traditional layout.

With some customization to the interface theme, icon set, keyboard shortcuts, and layout – plus the addition of some plugins – GIMP can be transformed to have a very similar appearance and functionality to Photoshop.

While not an exact replica, these changes make it easier for those switching from Photoshop to GIMP to adapt and make full use of GIMP’s considerable capabilities. The open source program may lack some of Photoshop’s more advanced features but remains a powerful free alternative for image editing and graphic design work.