Free/opensource software for simple photo editing and design?

hi all,

for a new project i have to design simple folders and posters. can anyone recommend me free software for mac for this task?
i’ve only tried


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A lot of people use


Gimp is great.
Depending on exactly what you want to do, there’s also Inkscape.


Yes, I use Gimp for pixel work, and Inkscape for vector work.


Gimp is good. Takes a bit of getting used to if you’re familiar with Photoshop.

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thanks a lot! downloaded both and will explore them

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Seashore is a simple OS X editor that uses native graphics frameworks.

Scribus is oss desktop publishing, way less feature rich than something like indesign, but gets a lot done.

I’ve used both for simple things, and can second Inkscape and Gimp.


This is an experimental photoshop alternative that’s integrated with a command line, designed for repetitive tasks. The same studio also has a vector drawing tool based on grids. I haven’t tried them out yet but they seems pretty good for simple tasks.


How’d you find these? Thanks

Woah, this developer appears to be incredibly prolific. All sorts of tools for all sorts of purposes. Impressive!

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I tried out Ronin, but the GUI seemed incomplete and counterintuitive on Linux (it might be me, though).

I’d definitely recommend Gimp as a Photoshop alternative.

It’s actually a couple and they run a design studio called Hundred Rabbits out of a sailboat and make games, software, and music. I don’t really use their stuff but I follow their YouTube channel and it’s pretty interesting.


Pixlr is good in a pinch, a sort of photoshop-lite with ads, within a browser window:

I’ve yet to try Gimp, or did years ago and forgot.


Resurrecting this old thread to ask a question about album design and layout.

I’ve installed both GIMP and Inkscape and have been just starting to look around, reading tutorials etc…

Having not done an album layout in the digital realm for myself in forever, would inkscape be the tool to use for such a task? Can it handle all of the common templates and requirements that printers ask for?


Inkscape is great for vector work which allows for infinitely resizable images, but lines/curves/shapes rather than photographs. Gimp is for photo editing but as a result such images are lossy when rescaled.

Does that help/answer your question?

If your printer can handle SVG, then you can use Inkscape. If your printer expects PNG or JPG, you’ll use Gimp. Best to ask your printer what file formats they expect.

@petesasqwax yes, that answers part of it.
@jasonw22 I’ve been looking at generic LP templates and don’t see this kind of info.

Here’s are examples of what I’m looking at:

Say I wanted to design an album jacket with a combination of a picture, text, label logo (I have a label logo as a pdf and maybe an old Illustrator file someone prepared for me long ago).

Would it be a combination of GIMP to edit/prepare the photo and Inkscape to handle text, logo and overall layout on one of those pdf templates?

I know these are really basic questions, its just been so long since I’ve done anything like this and before investing too much time trying to learn my way around new software I want to make sure I’m at least working with the right tools.

I don’t think I’ve had Photoshop since Windows XP was new and never really spent much time with Illustrator!

I routinely use GIMP for all of the above.

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If you want to make an album cover and have it printed professionally, then I have to warn you, Linux will not get you very far. I keep an eye on it, because I like Linux in general, but it’s really nowhere near usable with print-related graphics stuff.
It lacks on all fronts. Software packages are ok for casual use, but lack some more robust features. GIMP still doesn’t do CMYK for eg.
I could write a whole list of things that just don’t work in Linux, but I’ll spare you the rant.

This said, an ideal Linux based workflow for print graphics would look like this, depending on what you’re after one ore more applications will of coruse be omitted:

  • prepare all the photo/bitmap material in Gimp
  • prepare all the vector graphics in Inkscape
  • prepare any 3D rendered graphics in Blender (which is actually where Linux does have a really great software package!)
  • then asseble / layout everything in Scribus and produce a final CMYK PDF/X (PDF/X-3 probably) file from there.

Scribus has a horrible UI and does make even simple things super akward to get done, but it might work for you, maybe I’m too biased by 20+ years of working with Indesign.
Also don’t underestimate the impact of colour management on your work.

In general I would advise against sending printers anything but a PDF/X file.

In general my advice is: make some desginer friends and trade some cover design with them! :slight_smile:

edit: I was referring too much to a Linux environment in my post, but indeed the title only talks about open soruce software not necessarily the OS.
My points don’t change though. If you’re not on Linux I’d suggest to take a look at the Affinity programs. Not FOSS, but they are relatively cheap and get the job done really well!


There’s apparently a third-party plugin called Separate+ that will export to CMYK from GIMP?

In my own use, I haven’t (yet) found the lack of CMYK to be an issue…