Krita vs. GIMP

Which Photoshop alternative fits your needs?

Open-source software provides many benefits, but because anyone can simply create an app and release it, there are sometimes multiple options that may appear to perform the same task. An example of this is graphics programs, where GIMP and Krita are among the leaders. However, these two programs serve slightly different purposes, and we'll explain precisely what this means. 

Due to some negative connotations of the "GIMP" name, a number of developers have created a "fork" of it called Glimpse. These currently have similar functonality, although this may change in the future based on the decisions of the new Glimpse team.

Krita vs GIMP: Overall Findings

  • More mature overall.

  • Larger range of features.

  • Familiar, palette-based UI.

  • Expansive options for export formats.

  • Newer, more rapid development.

  • Better out-of-the-box support for opening files.

  • More advanced brush engines.

  • Better drawing tablet support.

  • macOS version only available in "development" releases.

Both of these applications are highly-capable graphics programs, positioned above entry-level programs like MS Paint and the like. They are even listed among the top alternatives to Photoshop. And they both provide functionality that puts them in the same class. However there are minor distinctions that may cause you to choose one over the other. 

GIMP and Krita: Both Are Open Source and Free

Both of these apps are open source projects, and therefore are completely free. In addition, any additional tools or functionality you may add will likely be free as well, so you can leave big price tags and monthly subscription fees behind. 

Compatibility: Krita Has Better Drawing Tablet Support

GIMP is available on major desktop platforms, including Windows, macOS, and Linux (as well as other Unix-based operating systems). The "main" branch of Krita (i.e. "stable" releases) only support Windows and Linux. You can get the program for macOS, but you'll have to use a testing version. You can even get Krita from the Microsoft Store, and the money will help to further support the project.

Krita in the Microsoft Store

There are no direct ports of either app to iOS or Android. If you're looking to do some graphics work on the go, look for an app that supports one of your preferred app's file formats, which we'll discuss in the next section.

Aside from OS support, it's also worth noting that Krita reportedly has better support for drawing tablets. This makes sense, as the app's main target is digital artists rather than individual who want to touch up a few photos, for instance. But even though the GIMP does support tablets as well, there are a fair number of issues reported regarding their behavior, and users report that the configurations for these tablets (e.g. how they react to pressure) isn't as well refined as Krita.

File Format Support: Krita's System Is More Intuitive

The most important difference between the two apps in this regard is that Krita has more intuitive file support for your working files, or the files you revise and save every day.

A selection of GIMP's export graphics formats

For example, Krita can directly open Photoshop PSD files, where GIMP needs to import/convert them. This makes file exchange and collaboration with others more cumbersome. In addition, GIMP doesn't support RAW files without the help of a plug-in, which may cause photographers to take pause.

Both files have excellent support, however, for export file formats. GIMP offers slightly more options, but both will cover the ones most beginner- to intermediate-level users require, such as .JPG, .GIF, and .PNG. Again, GIMP has the wider selection of options here as a more general-purpose graphics tool.

Features: GIMP Has More, But Krita's Are Better

The main difference between these programs isn't so much what features they have, but rather how well certain features are implemented. Krita, on one hand, has tools like their brush and color pop-over, which make it easier to create images from scratch, especially using a drawing tablet. The flip side to this is that more generic functions like filling an outlined area with a selected color aren't as accurate as those in GIMP.

Krita's Pop-Over Tool for Selecting Colors and Brushes

In contrast, GIMP takes more of a broad stroke. The majority of its features, like filters, contain more options Krita's, as it's targeting a wider image editing audience. Unfortunately, while it does have painting tools such as pens and brushes, they're not as numerous or well-configured as the ones found in Krita.

User Interface: It's a Mixed Bag

Those looking for an alternative to Photoshop will find a mixed bag when it comes to GIMP. While it can use the familiar "floating palette" metaphor, there are also a large number of controls on the left hand panel (Photoshop users would be used to them on the right). This mix of familiar and different may result in some initial confusion.

GIMP and its Floating Palettes

Krita will also require some re-learning, but for slightly different reasons. As a more focused program, the designers made the choice to simplify the interface, and this is focused on painting/digital art. Tools that aren't directly related to this goal may be buried further down in menu structures or additional dialogs.

Krita vs GIMP: Final Verdict 

If you're looking to do a wide range of image editing and graphics work, GIMP will give you the best selection of tools. However, if creating digital art is your thing, Krita will provide the most help in getting your work done.

That said, one of the great things about open source software is that it's (generally) available for free. So you can install both, try them out, and see which one you like best. It may turn out to be both.

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