One of the most popular and used image editors in the world is Photoshop. But the main problem with the Adobe application is that it is paid, so it is not available to many users. As a free and open source alternative, we can find GIMP, which, although not as powerful, can satisfy the needs of many users. Among its features, the possibility of installing add-ons to add new functionalities and tools stands out.
These plugins are small pieces of software that will help us to improve the workflow of the program by introducing elements that are difficult to implement or by adding features, capabilities and editing options for GIMP that it originally lacked. That is why, if we want to perfect the use of this tool and become a professional, we can obtain features close to those of Photoshop.
How to install plugins
When installing the GIMP plugins we will have two versions available. Those that are packaged with their own installer, so they are installed automatically when you run it, and those that require a manual process for it.
Most of the extensions for this image editor are compressed in a ZIP file that we can download. Therefore, the first thing to do is uncompress it and then place it in its correct directory so that GIMP is able to locate and read them. After decompression we will obtain files that will have an SMC or PY extension, depending on which, depending on which they will be saved in one section or another.
Later we start GIMP and click on the “Edit” tab that we find in the toolbar, and then we select the “Preferences” section that we find at the bottom of the list. Here, we scroll down and click on “Folders” and expand it.
If the file we have downloaded has a PY extension, we scroll to the bottom and click on “Add-ons” . In the event that these are of the SMC type, we must select “Scripts” that we find just below.
When clicking on either of the two we will see that two folders appear, so we must click on the one that begins with “Users”. Next, we click the “Open a file picker” button to browse the folders, located at the top right.
Now we only have to move the decompressed files here and restart the program. Once this is done, we will be prompted to load the plugins and they will be ready to go.
Windows users can find packaged GIP plugins , so we will only have to double click on them to be able to install them with their own installer. It will only be necessary to follow the instructions of the assistant as we would do with any other application.
Also keep in mind that installers are platform specific. Therefore, we can find plugins that are available for Windows, but not for macOS and Linux.
Once installed, they should appear in the Filters menu or other nearby submenus, either under Layers or Image, as well as get a new menu called Script-Fu . At other times, we may find plugins that run as a stand-alone application, activated so that they can be launched when needed.
Essential and free plugins for GIMP
Next, we are going to see which are the most interesting and most useful plugins that we can use in GIMP.
Process RAW images
GIMP has the possibility to edit RAW photos, but first we must add its own editor. For this, there are two main options: Darktable and RawTherapee, which, although they work as independent software, can also be used as complements.
Darktable alternative to Lightroom
It is one of the most popular free alternatives to Lightroom, although it has a much more accessible interface, which makes it especially recommended for those users who are just starting out in the world of editing. It is capable of editing RAW files produced by any manufacturer and works well with GIMP. To use it, once installed, we simply have to drag our RAW images and Darktable will start and we can start editing. We can download it for free from this link to its website .
RawTherapee, complex, but with great results
It is an excellent RAW image processor , which works quite well as a GIMP plugin. Its learning curve is significantly steeper than with Darktable, but it is compensated by tools like tone mapping and high dynamic range (HDR) functionality, being able to create a workflow that allows us to process and edit raw files. Simply open a RAW image via GIP and it will automatically launch. It can be downloaded from this link to the developer’s website .
tweaks and corrections
As long as they are used correctly, photo correction and retouching tools are capable of making a difference in our workflow. Since its functions are carried out automatically, it does not always give us the most expected result, but they can be of great help in our editions.
Resynthesizer, remove any object from an image,
It is one of the longest-running and useful plugins for GIMP, as it has more than efficient capabilities to remove objects from images . It is capable of guessing the content of a portion of the image and fills the pixels with the necessary colors and patterns. Although it is not perfect and it can make some mistakes if we demand too much of it and look too complex, the truth is that, in general, good results are obtained. We can download them directly from this link to their GitHub repository .
LensFun, correct lens distortion
It is a Gimp plugin with which we can correct lens distortion using its own libraries and database. We can use this plugins to deform images in a crazy way. It is valid both as a technical and distortion tool. Account of corrective functions that we can use with great precision. It is capable of automatically detecting our camera, lens type and corresponding parameters from the EXIF information that is embedded in the image file. We can download its latest official version from its website.
This image editor has some technical gaps that we can fill with new tools that provide new image processing capabilities. For this reason, there are two complements such as BIMP and Hugin that can be very useful to us.
BIMP, manipulate images in batches
It is a batch image manipulation plugin, an element that can be essential for us, since it is a function that GIMP lacks. In this way it helps us save time and avoid frustrations and errors . It takes a bit of patience to set it up correctly, but after that we’ll save a lot of processing time. We can download BIMP fromthis link on their website .
Hugin, create panorama from a series of images
This useful complement will be useful for a panorama made up of a series of images. It is easy to use, since it will only be necessary to load our images and specify some common points of each one. It will also help us compensate for mismatched angles and exposures. For this reason, with Hugin, we can assemble a mosaic of photographs into a panoramic photo, as well as join any series of superimposed images, among other functions. Also, it works as a standalone app. We can download it for free from this link to Sourceforge .
If instead of looking for plugins to perform a specific function, we want some plugins that allow us to obtain more complete options, we can use some of these suites.
G’MIC, hundreds of image filters
It is possibly one of the most popular GIMP plugins, as it has a collection of more than 500 filters that we can use to edit our photos. We will have at our disposal powerful and very diverse filters with which we can manipulate our images and give them a more attractive look. It features color balance and curves, HSL sliders, metallic styles, and colored spots. We can download it from this link to its official website.
Nik Collection, one of the most complete suites
This plugin collection is currently owned by DxO, but the old versions are still available for free and continue to work. That is why, even if it is outdated, we can still get functions such as HDR image processing, old film effects and specialized black and white conversion processing. We can request a download link to the previous version Nik Collection 2012 for free, just by providing our email address, from this link to the DxO website .