Open source photo editor GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the best free alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It offers one-click tools and filters to give your pictures an instant boost, as well as advanced settings that give you full manual control over levels, curves, saturation, and much more.
GIMP also comes with a superb set of user-created extensions, but you can make it even more powerful by installing plugins originally designed for Adobe Photoshop.
There are several Photoshop plugin formats, including 8BF, 8BA, 8BI and 8LY, all of which should work fine in GIMP. Photoshop Actions (ATN files), however, are essentially macros that perform a series of operations automatically, and therefore aren't compatible.
1. Prepare GIMP to receive plugins
If you don’t already have GIMP, download and install the latest version, then download the GIMP Photoshop Plugin from AKVIS. Extract the ZIP archive to C:\Program Files\GIMP 2\lib\gimp\2.0\plug-ins, then open GIMP and click Filters.
You should see an option at the bottom of the menu called Photoshop Plug-in Settings. Once you've verified that it's installed correctly, close GIMP.
2. Choose a Photoshop plugin
Now you need a Photoshop plugins – here we’ve chosen AKVIS Charcoal. Not all plugins will work with GIMP, so you might need to experiment a little.
When you’ve downloaded a plugin, run its EXE file and save it to a convenient place, such as a folder called Plugins on your desktop. If you're given a choice of Standalone or Plugin options, make sure you choose the latter.
3. Help GIMP find the Photoshop plugin
Start GIMP, then go to Filters > Photoshop Plug-in Settings and click the white page icon on the popup window that appears.
Next, click the folder icon on the right and choose the directory where you saved your Photoshop plugin. The red button on the Photoshop Plugin window will turn green. Click OK and close GIMP.
4. Use the Photoshop plugin in GIMP
When you restart GIMP, it will look for plugins in the folder you selected. Open a photo to experiment on, then click Filters and look for a new entry in this list – in this case AKVIS. If everything has gone according to plan, you’ll be able to use the newly installed plugin just as you would in Photoshop. To avoid conflicts, we recommend only installing one Photoshop plugin in GIMP at a time.
What's your favorite plugin to use with GIMP? Share your thoughts in the comments below.