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The Best FREE Alternative to PhotoShop: Bring out the GIMP!

written by: KateG•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 11/8/2009

PhotoShop is by far the most popular Photo Editing application. But with a price tag to match its impressive functionality set, what are the alternatives? Here we review one of the very best photo editing suites around. Multi layer image editing and free of charge, its time to take a look at GIMP.

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    PhotoShop vs GIMP

    Whether it is a family photo heading to your printer or a high resolution image for a commercial web site we all want our pictures to look as professional as possible. In some instances you can just use the basic free photo editor that came with your digital camera. This is fine if all you need to do is a little bit of cropping or a red eye reduction. If so go on and use the basics, but lets be honest, most of the photos that are on the average hard drive need more than a little nip and tuck. They needs to have a major overhaul.

    Of course plastic surgery, whether for a person or a picture, does not usually come with a cheap price tag, unless you want it to look like you were done by a first year medical student who had too much whisky the night before! The plastic surgery of photos as we all know is photoshop, which can, through its digital magic take that photo of a country barn and place it on a NASA image of the surface of the moon with near seamless precision. At more than $100 however, and in most cases more than $300, photoshop is just out of reach for the average home user, after all great photos don't help you if your car gets repossessed because you missed a payment. Of course, programmers are not like surgeons and while they are highly skilled professionals who can charge you an arm and a leg for their skills they will every once and awhile give you something that you really need totally free of charge. It is almost enough to make you want to have a "hug a programmer" day.

    So while you may never get a real face lift for free, you can get yourself a digital one. The free digital face lift is called GIMP, but don't let the name fool you, it has no problems keeping up with you even if you are running at full speed. GIMP is a multi platform program so you on your XP or Vista system can make an image and send it to a Mac or a Linux user who also has GIMP installed and vice versa. The software even has extensions that are compatible with photoshop so that you can share files with people who have shelled out big bucks to edit their images.

    GIMP allows you something that many other free offerings don't have, multi-layered image editing. This means that you can have layers of images one over the other, and each level can have its own set of rules and effects applied to it. This is how the pros make a sparkling sea over an ultra bright sun in those vacation ads that make you covet a stay at those 5 star resorts. You can get yourself a copy of the GIMP program online by downloading it from their site, depending on your operating system you may also need a framework, available for free on the same site.