How to transform GIMP into Photoshop

Nuclear Napalm Game Art, Other stuff 25 Comments

Hello there! In this post I want to talk about one of the most important tool in game development – the graphics editor. In particular how to transform GIMP into Photoshop and how to set up and tweak it for your needs.

 This post explains how to set up a Windows version of GIMP.

Hard choice

On my full-time job I use Adobe Photoshop because we have corporate licences. I like Photoshop, I used to it. I think you all (or at least most of you) agree that this is one of the best, powerful and feature-full tools for digital artists at the moment. Unfortunately, when I started my own side-projects, I realized that I can’t afford personal licence. So, I had to find some alternatives.

The most obvious option is GIMP. This is the powerful open-source tool. But after years in Photoshop I faced 2 main issues.

Issue #1 – Hotkeys

GIMP’s hotkeys have nothing in common with those from Photoshop (except generic “Ctrl+C”, “Ctrl+V”, “Ctrl+S”, etc.). Of course you can reassign all the hotkeys manually, but it is much easier to replace special file inside GIMP which is responsible for hotkeys mapping. I’ll tell you how to do it a bit later (and of course will give you this file).

Issue #2 – UI

GIMP “out of the box” looks like this (at the moment when this post has been written the actual version of GIMP is 2.8.2).

At some point it is acceptable and you can work with it. But for me there were several issues that I really wanted to fix – light color scheme, a lot of floating windows and massive panels.


The first thing that I did is switched to Single-Window Mode (Window -> Single-Window Mode):

Then I changed position of dockable panel. Also I’ve changed the order of elements on toolbox. To do it go to Edit -> Preferences -> Toolbox, then drag-n-drop elements and manage check boxes.

 I ended up with this:

Don’t forget to save position of your dockable panels, otherwise they will reset to default when you launch GIMP next time. To do it go to Edit -> Preferences -> Windows Management -> “Save window positions on exit” check box.

Now about colors. Personally I don’t like light-gray color scheme of UI. Dark UI looks better, more stylish and also it’s better for your eyes. When I started thinking about dark color scheme I was sure that GIMP has it by default. I was wrong. So, I had to find solutions in internet. I’ve found 2, but none of them satisfied me completely.

The first dark theme that I found is this one –

At first glance, it was like “this is it!”… but… Unfortunately, author made it and tested it only for Ubuntu. So, if you use this OS there is no problem for you, just use this theme as is. For Windows this theme looks like this:

Not so appealing, eh?
One of the cool features of this theme is CS6 tools icons. Keep it in mind for later.

The second theme was “Tactile”-

This one looks better. This theme replace all the colors, change visuals for some UI elements, but still has standard GIMP icons on toolbar. Also I don’t like this gray outline on some UI elements.

My personal solution

After some consideration I decided to try to merge this 2 theme into 1. Pick the best features from each and get rid of those I don’t like. So, I took the Tactile theme as a basis, added icons from first theme and removed the gray outline. Here is the result:

It’s not perfect, but better than default GIMP theme (for me at least). If you like it you can download it from this website.

Download NN Dark theme for GIMP

To install this theme:

  1. Download and unarchive “NuclearNapalm-DarkTheme”.
  2. Copy the “NN_theme” folder into your GIMP/themes folder (by default it’s in C:/Users/<username>/.gimp-2.8/themes).
  3. Copy file “ps-menurc” from “Hotkeys” folder into C:/Users/<username>/.gimp-2.8
  4. Rename original “menurc” file to “menurc_old”.
  5. Rename “ps-menurc” to “menurc”.
  6. Restart GIMP.
  7. Go to Edit -> Preferences -> Themes and pick the “NN_theme”.
  8. Restart GIMP again.
  9. Enjoy!


If you’ve found this article useful, please share it with your friends using social buttons below.
If you’ve found some bug or encountered some problems, please let me know.

P.S. Many thanks to authors of those 2 themes that I mentioned in this post. Without you it couldn’t be possible.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned!

Nuclear NapalmHow to transform GIMP into Photoshop

Comments 25

  1. Monster Brain

    Excellent tutorial … Although a little short IMHO. I am using the same method (since i’m also concerned about licenses and not like to go pirate:) ) and gimp is so powerful. Single window option was a recent update, i think its still hard for someone who is familiar with photoshop to jump into gimp that easily.

    1. Post
      Nuclear Napalm

      Monster Brain, thanks for the comment! Yeah, maybe it’s a bit short. But I offer a “ready-to-use” solution, so I think it’s pretty enough to start using GIMP if you familiar with Photoshop hotkeys and UI.

  2. tetsuyama

    Hey! I’d really like to use your theme it really looks nice and I’m used to Photoshop, too. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work with the latest version of GIMP, which is 2.8.14. Maybe you could update your theme so the issue would be fixed?

    Thank you in advance, I’d really appreciate it!

    1. Post
    2. Post
      Nuclear Napalm

      Hello again tetsuyama,
      I downloaded and installed clean GIMP 2.8.14.
      Everything looks good with dark theme. Please double check the full istallation process and let me know if you still have this issue. Can you attach screenshot of how it looks in your version of GIMP?

      1. tetsuyama

        I have no idea why – but it works now! I downloaded and installed your theme again and it looks perfectly now. Thanks a lot for your answer and again for your nice theme!

    1. Post
      Nuclear Napalm

      Hi Ghast,
      I’m really sorry to hear that. As I answered to tetsuyama, I downloaded latest version of GIMP (2.8.14) to test this theme. I’ve completely deleted my previous installation of GIMP and the theme and reinstalled both from scratch. It works for me and I have no idea how to help you with this issue :(

  3. Pingback: Como convertir Gimp en Photoshop (más allá de su aspecto) - Technodyan

  4. Vedioboy

    Quick Tips for linux (I used Ubuntu) users:

    1. Extract the NuclearNapalm-darkTheme.rar to this directory: /usr/share/gimp/2.0/themes/
    2. Take the ps-menurc file from the hotkey directory after you extracted the rar file and put it into the NN_theme folder
    3. Reboot gimp and your done.

    Everything is the same for linux in this tutorial except the location of the themese folder.

    Tip for everyone:

    For the side panel with all the tools, I made it into one column and added/removed just enough tools so that the color selector is all the way at the bottom and the “Drag tab here blah blah blah” text isn’t visible.

    Hope I helped!

    1. Post
  5. marcello

    Hi! i’m also having problems with gimp 2.8.14 on windows 7.
    The theme shows up in the configuration window but if i choose it and restart Gimp it shows the default theme…

  6. kmark

    The theme looks great! Thanks! Having an issue though, for slider bars like the pencil size in Tool Options, I am not seeing the black ‘fill’ that shows how much is choosen. I actually can see it when resizing the dialog really fast, but other than that, when its just sitting there, I see nothing no matter what the option is set to.

    Any thoughts on how to fix this? I think its the only thing holding me back from fully loving this one!

  7. Pingback: Įrankiai web dizaineriui ir programuotojui - Dovydas ŽemaitisDovydas Žemaitis

  8. Ryaurezh

    I’m having the exact same problem. Reinstalled GIMP, fiddled with the “gtkrc” file, and still can’t get the slider fill to show up. Love the PS hotkey setup.

  9. Michael

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. It was perfectly brief and covering everything I needed. Having a similar background within Photoshop made switching to GIMP a huge hazzle. Especially the initial lack of Single-Window Mode made me spend more time looking for my tools than actually creating. With your advise I finally enjoy working in GIMP. Highly appreciated!

  10. Aki

    Thank you, I learned , a lot, by trying to install the theme alone, so i really appreciate that. Thanks to you and the other theme developers as well.

Leave a Reply