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Fie on Photoshop: Image Editing in Linux

Overpriced Photoshop Begone

  • January 24, 2008
  • By Carla Schroder

It has been said (so many times that I'm ready to start twapping people) that the most important missing killer app for Linux is a free Adobe Photoshop clone. Photoshop is a mature graphics editor with hundreds of features and plugins, the de-facto industry standard, and it retails for over $600. So a free-beer Linux clone would be a lovely thing indeed. But is all that Photoshop glory really necessary? In this series we'll answer that question, and then move on to bringing high-quality digital images to life in Linux itself, without having to use icky old Windows, or spending a pot of money.

Most Photoshop users barely touch its capabilities, and just like the idea of having it. Rather like my friend who buys only Snap-on hand tools, and carefully organizes them in their little red nests, and admires them, but hardly ever uses them. Snap-on tools are excellent, no doubt about it, but his needs would be served by a $30 kit from the local rejects outlet store. I suspect that a sizable number of Photoshop users find a way to acquire it without paying anything near its price tag, anyway, unlike my friend who pays full freight. So what does Linux offer for the discerning graphics artist and digital photo editor? Certainly far more than a $30 reject kit equivalent.

Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the most popular Linux image editor. It's the oldest and most mature. Unfortunately, the poor thing is hardly allowed to stand on its own merits, but is continually compared to Photoshop, which is a bogus comparison. Gimp is first-rate at what it does, which is not to be a free-as-in-freeloader Photoshop imitation, but a perfectly good photo and image editor, especially for Web images. It uses similar tools and concepts to Photoshop (and every other graphics editor), but it is not Photoshop, which is a source of deep woe for a large, vocal number of people. I have the cure for your woe, fine people- stop it. The Gimp developers do not have the goal of duplicating Photoshop for your benefit, but creating a high-quality cross-platform image editor than runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OS X, and Windows.

So what, then, do you need Photoshop for? For best-quality professional color printing. Gimp does not support the CMYK or Pantone color spaces, which are essential for the most accurate commercial color printing. Gimp works in the RGB space.

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