- January 02, 2020
- 18 min to read
The GIMP on Mac can be a little baffling, and this is a shame because it has a truly tantalising feature set. We review a powerful free photo editor. RawTherapee 4.0.8 processing a photo of a passion fruit flower by DrSlony. UFRaw – Not very well known, this RAW image editor is available free to use for Mac, Windows and Linux and has a very neat and easy to use interface. List of 13 GIMP alternatives we chose for the article: 1. Luminar (7-day Free Trial) 2. Paint.NET (Free) 3. Aurora HDR (7-day Free Trial) 4. Photolemur (Free version with watermark) 5. AirMagic (Free version with watermark) 6. Affinity Photo (Free Trial available) 7. Pixlr Editor (Basic Free plan).
Most free photo editors available on the App Store are quite basic, offering just a limited number of filters and allowing you to easily and quickly liven up your photos before posting them on social media.
But if you’re an aspiring or professional photographer, you probably need a more powerful app with a broader set of tools to use your creativity to the fullest. Besides, you probably use your Mac for photo editing because working on a large screen makes it possible to adjust the slightest details.
1. Apple’s Photos (Built-in app)
Apple’s Photos app is included for free on all recently released Macs. It does a good job at organizing your photos, but its collection of photo enhancement tools leaves much to be desired. Hopefully, our selection of the best free programs for photo editing on Mac will help you choose the right app to suit all your creative needs.
2. Luminar (7 days trial)
Luminar is another full-featured photo editor that’s popular with both Mac and Windows users. It can work as a standalone app as well as a plugin for such popular programs as Apple Photos.
Luminar uses Artificial Intelligence to enable sophisticated yet quick photo enhancements. Among these AI features are Sky Enhancer, which adds more depth and detail to the sky in your photos while leaving other areas untouched; Accent AI, which analyzes a photo and automatically applies the best combination of different effects to enhance your image; and Sun Rays, which allows you to place an artificial sun and adjust the lighting to your liking or make the sun rays already in your photo look even more incredible.
Luminar has over 60 filters you can apply to your photos to enhance them in a moment. Luminar also provides a set of powerful tools for cropping, transforming, cloning, erasing, and stamping, along with layers, brushes, and many more incredible features. Luminar supports the Touch Bar on the latest MacBook Pro, making photo editing even more effortless and pleasing.
3. Photolemur 3 (Free Version with watermark)
Photolemur is a relative newcomer on the photo editing market but it has all the chances to win the favor of beginner photographers and hobbyists. Running on Artificial Intelligence, Photolemur is a completely automatic photo enhancer, meaning that it does all the editing for you in no time. It has the simplest interface, with only a few buttons and sliders to adjust the enhancement to your liking and view the before and after results.
All you need to do is choose a photo (or a few) that you want to improve, drag and drop or import them using the Import button, and let the program make enhancements. After it’s done, you can compare the edited version with the original image by using the before–after slider and, if you want, adjust the skin tone or even enlarge the eyes using additional sliders. Pretty easy, huh?
Photolemur also offers a number of impressive styles to touch up your photos and give them a sophisticated and professional look. With this app, you don’t need to stuff your head with photo editing nuances and terms. Just run Photolemur and watch the magic happen!
4. Aurora HDR (14 days trial)
As you probably can tell from the name, Aurora HDR is designed to help photographers enhance their HDR photos, making them even more detailed and beautiful. It’s an ideal tool for editing your photos, with an extensive collection of more than 20 tools including details, tone, mapping, color, glow, and vignette. Each tool has its unique selection of controls to adjust its effects.
Aurora HDR enables you to work with brushes, layers, and masks, and provides a number of automatic AI tools for recognizing and removing noise, enhancing colors, lighting, and details, improving clarity, and adding contrast to dull areas while leaving other areas untouched.
Aurora HDR does a great job dealing with difficult lighting situations and creating full-of-life images while being easy to use.
5. Pixelmator (Trial 30 Days)
Pixelmator is a photo enhancer beloved by many Mac users, as it offers a good combination of a modern and simple interface, the ability to work on multiple layers, and powerful features that take photo editing to a whole new level. With so many editing tools, brushes, and effects, you can enhance your photos to your liking. You can choose between two versions of Pixelmator – standard and pro – depending on your needs. The standard version is great for basic photo editing with its selection of essential tools and filters, while the pro version is packed with extra brushes, tools, and effects that let you push your creativity to new boundaries. You can decide which version is suitable for you according to what features you’re looking for in a photo editing app.
6. Adobe Photoshop Elements 2020 (Trial link)
Photoshop Elements isn’t as affordable as other photo enhancers for beginner photographers. But luckily there’s a trial version available, so you can check it out before deciding whether this app is worthy of your money. Photoshop Elements acquired many powerful features from Photoshop, only Elements is simplified for amateur photographers and enthusiasts. It includes a good number of effects and filters, plus automated editing options for improving lighting, color balance, and exposure, and even opening closed eyes and reducing the effects of camera shake.
In addition to all of these awesome features, Photoshop also offers editing modes for beginners, intermediate users, and experts. Beginners will probably prefer Quick mode, as it focuses on essential tools to quickly enhance your photos by improving color, lighting, and other basic settings. Guided mode provides intermediate users with step-by-step guidance with more professional features like artistic effects, skin tone correction, and background replacement. Expert mode gives you full access to the app’s really powerful editing features and is ideal for creating stunning images.
7. Affinity Photo (Free Trial)
Affinity Photo’s interface may seem overwhelming at first, especially for novices, but when you come to grips with it you’ll find that the app is just what you’ve been looking for. Its numerous professional tools, effects, and filters encourage you to get creative with your photos. Among the coolest features Affinity Photo has to offer is a before and after view to compare the original photo with its edited version.
Affinity Photo works with 15 file types, including common ones like PDF, PSD, JPG, and GIF as well as some less popular ones. The app amazes with its abundance of basic and top-notch editing tools, allowing you to tweak your photos using all possible kinds of instruments. Affinity Photo allows you to edit HDR photos, apply artistic filters and effects, play with masks and layers, and create breathtaking compositions by combining several images in one. If you find its interface a bit much and are afraid of getting lost in all those advanced tools, you should probably look for something more suitable for your level. But Affinity Photo is worth mastering.
8. Google Photos
Google Photos is a popular cloud storage service for photos and videos. It can’t boast countless masterly tools like other photo enhancers that we review in this article, but it includes some fundamental features like filters, color adjustment sliders, and transformation tools.
Although Google Photos may not be that helpful when it comes to editing photos, it does a pretty good job at storing high-resolution images and videos with 15GB of free online storage, compared to iCloud’s mere 5GB (which you can upgrade to 50GB for a monthly fee). If you’re planning to go on a trip and take plenty of photos, then it might be smart to sign up for Google Photos to use that extra storage space when you come back.
9. PhotoScape X (Free)
A relatively new photo editing app, PhotoScape X has been gaining popularity with many Mac and PC users since its release in 2008. Its interface is simple but unconventional, with a number of tabs running along the top of the window. Each is responsible for a specific stage of editing. The Viewer tab allows you to browse and organize your photos. After you pick a photo, you can switch to the Editor tab, which includes a broad set of instruments, filters, and effects and a useful feature that enables you to compare the adjusted photo with the original.
The next tabs, including the Batch tab, mainly concentrate on editing and renaming multiple photos at once. The GIF tab allows you to easily create an animated GIF from a group of selected photos.
The downside of PhotoScape X is a lack of selection tools, so all changes are applied to the whole image rather than to a selected part.
10. Gimp (Free)
Gimp is a free open-source photo editing app that has been on the market for over 22 years and is available for Windows, Mac, and even Linux. Unlike many free apps, Gimp doesn’t have any ads or in-app purchases. Its grey interface might seem a little old-fashioned and it may be a bit sluggish when it comes to complex effects, though.
Gimp offers a vast collection of advanced tools that hardly any free photo editor can boast. It has numerous enhancement options such as clone and heal brushes, layers and channels, accurate selection tools, a number of transformation instruments, and, of course, color adjustment controls. Gimp is one of the most powerful tools for enhancing photos and is beloved by so many users for its price (free) and versatility. But if you can’t come to grips with Gimp’s interface, it may be worth paying some cash for a more user-friendly program.
GIMP, a popular photo editor for Windows and Linux, is also available for the Mac! In 2012, GIMP was made available to the Mac platform as a standalone app. Here, we’ll dive into GIMP’s features, and discuss some alternatives.
While our cameras take great photos, they sometimes need fine-tuning. That’s where great photo editing software comes into play. Maybe the background blur isn’t quite what you were looking for, or you want to enhance the colors in a photo before sharing to social media.
But is GIMP a great photo editor? Is its feature-set really the best available for Mac users? Let’s dive right in.
What is GIMP?
GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Platform,” which highlights its origins as a Linux app. While Linux as a desktop operating system is typically left wanting for high-profile photo tools, the GIMP editor stands out as one of the best options for that platform.
GIMP for Mac is also popular! An open-source app, the GIMP photo editing software has a robust toolkit. You can edit the color and tone of photos, but also add filters. You can use GIMP for Mac to create original artwork, and as a tool for graphic design. One of GIMP’s main draws is its extensibility; you can use it with apps like Scribus, Inkscape, and SwatchBooker, or programmatically alter images using languages like Python, C, C++, Perl, and Scheme.
How to Download GIMP for Mac
Downloading GIMP is simple. First, head to the GIMP homepage. At the top of the screen, you’ll see ‘download’ on the menu bar, which is the direct link for the GIMP download for Mac (or GIMP OSX, if you’re on a legacy version of macOS); the word ‘download’ should also appear on the banner image up top, alongside the most recent version of GIMP on Mac.
Clicking either download button will take you to a new screen. Here, you can select a GIMP download from two sources: BitTorrent, or direct. Either option is fine.
Once the file is finished downloading to your Mac, head to your download folder and double-click the file named gimp-(file version)-x86_64.dmg. (The file version identifier is unique to each new version, but will look something like “2.10.14”.)
Once the file is opened and the download is complete, a new window named “GIMP 2.0 Install” will open. You’ll see an icon for the GIMP photo editor, and an arrow to an Applications folder. This is asking you to add GIMP to your list of Applications. Simply drag the GIMP icon to the Applications folder to do so.
GIMP Photo Editing Software: Key features for Mac users
Most will use GIMP as a photo editor, and the GIMP app is great for this purpose – so we’ll focus on that here. To open an image for editing in GIMP, got to File > Open in the menu bar when the GIMP app is open.
Find the file you want to edit (we suggest adding the images you want to edit to your desktop to make finding them simpler), and select “open” on the bottom right. Your image will open in the main GIMP window, ready for editing.
On the left side of the window, you’ll see various icons for things like adding blocks of text, or cropping the image. You can also draw or paint on your image. Below the icons, you’ll see options that change with the tool you have selected. Here you can do things like change the cropping size you want to use (handy if you’re trying to crop images for use on the web, or for social media), and fine-tune tools like the brush (it allows you to change the size and opacity of the brush head).
On the right side of the screen, you’ll see a “Mode” menu, where you can do things like edit the shading and color of an image. This is also where you’ll find a list of the layers you have for your image, which can be hidden or edited independently of one another.
GIMP on Mac is a powerful tool, but it’s a bit clumsy. Some may find its interface too difficult to master. One major feature of any photo editor is filters, and GIMP has them – but they’re buried int he menu up top. While “Filters” having a spot on the menu bar is great, it’s far different from other apps, and the granular options for altering those filters is not straightforward. You simply have to tinker with the filters a bit to find the effect you’re looking for.
Meet advanced GIMP software alternatives for Mac
If the GIMP app doesn’t sound like your cop of tea, there’s nothing to worry about. Though powerful, the app leaves many people looking for something more suitable to their needs.
This is when you should really consider what your needs are. It’s also where you should consider that you may not know what you even want! It’s okay – we’ve got you covered.
Photolemur for automatic AI enhancements
If you’re looking for a desktop app that helps you get the best out of the photos you’ve taken without a lot of fuss, Photolemur may be your best choice. It’s lightweight, but oh-so-powerful.
Photolemur prides itself on making life easier for its users. It bills itself as the “first fully automated AI photo enhancer.” Instead of leaning on granular controls to get you the best results, Photolemur uses artificial intelligence backed by machine learning to make your images better.
The app analyzes “millions” of details in your photos, and enhances each of those data-points. This behavior allows Photolemur to assess your image via its gathered data, and adjust each pixel to its maximum brilliance. It’s really sort of magical!
Photolemur also lets you edit batches of images. Select the images you want to edit, and let Photolemur take over. This is a really great option if you’ve shot in low-light on a night out, but really need your pics to pop for sharing to social media.
If you were at an event, Photolemur also has a handy renaming option for edited images. That weekend getaway can be tagged and enhanced, all in one seamless action.
Another great benefit from Photolemur’s AI is its “Face Finish” feature. This AI-based editing tool automatically adjusts for things like skin smoothness, and removes imperfections. It also brightens and whitens your smile so you’re always looking great!
CameraBag Pro for the best photo filters
Free Photo Editing Software For Mac Gimp
If filters are your thing, then CameraBag Pro should be your go-to app for photo editing.
CameraBag Pro has more filters than you probably know what to do with – and that’s a good thing. Rather than lean on AI or self-guided controls, CameraBag Pro hosts its image editing as filters.
The great part about this is it makes photo editing simpler; instead of fiddling with white-balance or shadows from the start, you simply scroll through a series of filters until your image looks right. If you like what you see, just use the filter!
And if you’re in-between filters for your image, CameraBag Pro lets you fiddle with the finer points, too. Things like exposure, contrast, and saturation can all be controlled within filters. It’s great for those times when you just need to adjust one small aspect of a filter to get the absolute best image possible.
And the coolest thing about CameraBag Pro’s filters is many of them are meant to mimic old-school film photographs. While Instagram made its name styling images after a polaroid, CameraBag Pro takes it to the next level with filters meant to mimic old Kodak, Fuji, and other manufacturer’s cameras. It’s the best way to make an image of something old look like it was from the same era.
Luminar Flex as a smart addition to your editor
Luminar Flex doesn’t eschew filters, and it has some AI mixed in as well – which might just make it one of the best photo editors around.
Rather than use AI to enhance entire images, Luminar Flex uses it to make elements of an image pop. If the blue sky in your pictures wasn’t as brilliant as you’d like (or remember), Luminar Flex can enhance the blue hue of the sky to make it stand out.
As filters go, Luminar Flex has plenty to keep you satisfied. It boasts “pro-level” filters for things like color correction. The filters are easily accessible via a slide-out side menu, just like the other features of Luminar Flex. The app even guides you, letting you know which application is best for a filter.
“Luminar Looks” is one of the app’s most interesting features. It’s a set of professionally-inspired filters, which can be used as one-off filters for your images if you like. That alone is great – but you can also fine-tune each Looks filter and re-save it as your own.
Luminar Looks has a dedicated icon on the top bar of the app’s window, and filters show up at the bottom. After choosing one, you simply select the icon for the side-menu, and an “edit filter” button allows you to fine-tune Looks filters.
The aforementioned side-bar is called a workspace, and is where all your editing features live. Here, you can get a granular as you like with editing, and all filters are laid out as slider bars, making things much simpler. And if you just want to start over from scratch, there is always an option to simply ‘clear’ the workspace.
Luminar Flex’s editing features alone are top-notch, but it has one more trick up its sleeve. The app also doubles as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements, and Apple’s own Photos app. As a plugin, you get access to all of Lumina Flex’s filters, even those Looks you may have designed yourself!
Choosing the best photo editor for Mac
Free Photo Editing Software For Mac Gimp Editing
While GIMP for Mac is an excellent and robust photo editing app, Mac users will probably enjoy the powerful-yet-stylish Luminar Flex as a replacement. It’s a lot easier to use, and just plain has a better interface.
If you don’t need or want the fine-tuning photo editing software as your primary option, CameraBag Pro is a great choice. We really like that you can choose to edit aspects of a filter, and dismiss those edits if you decide against having them included in your final version.
If you really want sharp, basic photo editing, Photolemur is an excellent choice. We really enjoy its use of AI for editing photos without asking too much of you. Batch editing is also a great feature you may find yourself using often.
Of all the options discussed here, keep in mind only the photo editing GIMP workflow allows for creating images from scratch. If you’re looking for a photo editor that also allows you to create original artwork, GIMP is worth a look – but that’s a very small audience.
For pure, performant, engaging photo editing, any of the three GIMP alternatives mentioned here are great options. Best of all, all of them – CameraBag Pro, Luminar Flex, and PhotoLemur – are available as part of Setapp’s 7-day free trial period. In that week, you can give each of these apps a whirl to find out which is best for your needs.
Meantime, prepare for all the awesome things you can do with Setapp.Read on