Adobe Creative Suite™ reigns supreme as the software of choice for most creative professionals and novices alike- albeit not without a challenge.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation) is arguably the most popular image editing software available on the open source platform, and while it punches above its weight, it is not without its limitations. The free, versatile yet functional GIMP lacks some of the features which would make it as appealing as the alternative. To circumvent this, a vast library of scripts and plugins exist to make the experience close to (or better) than the paid Adobe Creative Suite ™.

Listed below are my top picks of plugins that cater for the needs of those in the creative industry that have made the switch.

Raw Images

GIMP isn't able to load images from most DSLRs because the images are usually saved in RAW data files which aren't as common as .jpg or .png. A powerful plugin like UFRAW makes it possible to edit these images on GIMP. Since the files are quite large the loading process will not be instant.

Layer Effects

If you've used Photoshop before, this functionality should be familiar to you. It allows you to recreate embossing, glows, bevels, inner shadows, borders or drop shadows similarly to how you might in Photoshop. Initially, the navigation might throw you off. When you apply a new effect a layer is added. Deleting the layer with a specific effect or undoing the effects one by one seems to be the only way to change added effects as this option does not exist in Settings. As with most things, this will need some practice.

Save for Web

At some point, we've all had to download images from the internet, stock or otherwise. Save for Web enables you to become a pro at saving images in the best quality possible in that it offers a range of varied formats and settings. The adjacent preview window allows you to experiment with the changes that occur in the saving process should any perceived quality be compromised. While GIMP also offers this functionality, Save for Web proves easier to use.

Photo Effects

One of my personal favourite set of plugins, this is filters on steroids. Once again similar to filters available in Photoshop, unlike anything on your social media. If you've ever wondered how text is manipulated to appear behind objects in an image or how some selfies look like they're CGI, Photo Effects allows you to wield the same power. You can turn your pictures into pastel, stained glass, or color pencil which can make your images seem more professional and complex down to the smallest pixel.

Liquid Rescaling

Liquid scaling has been around for so long we've forgotten just how revolutionary it was when Adobe first introduced it in Photoshop CS5. Basically, this feature allows content aware scaling of objects on the image. Should you need to resize your image, the plugin knows what to cut out, leave behind or replicate seamlessly to fill previously empty spaces. GIMP goes a step further than Photoshop in this regard by allowing content aware scaling alongside Liquid Scaling.

Final Word

Since all these plugins are widely available for download, this makes GIMP a significant player in an otherwise monopolised market, and it won't cost you a thing. I've only listed five plugins for features which I felt would be the most comparable to Photoshop. A simple Google search will expose you to all the fantastic plugins you might want to use.

To install these plugins you'll need to copy and paste the downloaded files into your /home/< yourname>/.gimp.

If you have any plugins which you feel I missed or would like me to try out, drop us a comment below.

Related: The Linux Creative Paradox