Monday, October 1, 2007

The GIMP vs. Paint.NET: battle of the free photo programs


By Cari Cooney

If you're a photographer who loves to add that extra something special to your photos through software, you can do it at no cost. You don't have to own an expensive photo-editing program to add layers of text, effects and creative touches to your pictures.

Programs you pay for can cost you at least $100, and that's just the smallest versions of some of the top-selling software. In this article, we're going to take a look at two completely free programs. One is strangely called The GIMP and the other is Paint.NET. After reading this, you can weigh the good and the bad of each, and make a decision on which is the best one for you and your image editing needs.

We talked about GIMP back in 2004, but it's been updated since then. Also, in this article, we're not just looking at GIMP, but how it compares to Paint.NET, another free program.


You can't judge a book by its cover, and the same goes for this program, or at least its name. GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and was created by two students from Berkeley in 1996. It began as and still remains an open source program. In fact, the home page for this program offers the source code, so that anyone who believes he or she can improve this program, or create new plug-ins, is welcome to do so.

"Patience can be a virtue when working with GIMP."

GIMP is loaded with goodies for photo enhancement. It's easy to install, and its clean design makes navigation semi-easy on first time users. You can spend hours trying out all the different effects it offers. You can bend, twist, frost, emboss, add borders and text to any photo. You can also click away red eye with ease and use the airbrush function with a soft filter to achieve professional-looking family photos or headshots.

GIMP has maintained a reputation for being one of the best pieces of free image editing software since it began. Take a look at Figure A to see the general layout of the program.


This shows the clean layout of GIMP, and also a unique "cartooning" effect. (click for larger image)

GIMP's cartooning effect is relatively primitive. We reviewed a plug-in designed to produce a more effective comics-like look in Bring out your inner Van Gogh with Snap Art. Of course, that plug-in isn't free. And now, back to GIMP.