I know Adobe's solutions are more advanced, but, as professionals, do you think you would survive (against competition) using GIMP and/or Inkscape instead of Photoshop and/or Illustrator for your actual work? Would it be worth it or would it actually complicate your work?

I am specially interested to see if there is anyone that actually made the switch to the open source solutions and know why you did it.

My question is with regards to the possibility of fully divorcing from Adobe's solutions and still being able to function as a graphic design studio.

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    Closely related, but more specific: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/171/…
    – e100
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 10:19
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    My question is with regards to the possibility of fully divorcing from Adobe's solutions and still being able to function as a graphic design studio. Commented Feb 11, 2011 at 1:34

9 Answers 9


I am not a graphic designer but I do some small graphics work occasionally and I use GIMP and Inkscape.

GIMP and Inkscape are both very nice and quite powerful - but if you compare GIMP to photoshop its obvious GIMP is not on the same level (I've never used Illustrator so I can't compare it with Inkscape).

Photoshop has more features, produces better results, has more plugins and virtually all graphic designers know how to use it - it's also very expensive.

For the same amount of work you will have better results in Photoshop - that means that if you use GIMP you will either produce lower quality work or need more time.

So it all boils down to how much money, quality and your time's worth - if you only do simple work, GIMP can do well or you are an hobbyist and your time is essentially free then you can't compete with GIMP's price - but if you need a powerful tool and your time is expensive (and if you have any success as a professional graphic designer, then your time should be expensive) GIMP doesn't look so free anymore.

And that is without taking into account you might someday need some plugin that is only available for photoshop, need to exchange PSD files with other designers or hire employees and have to train them to use GIMP.

If my main job was graphic design I would definitely get Photoshop as soon as I can (maybe do a few small projects with GIMP so I can afford it).

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    Good point on the sharing files. Indeed, if you are wanting to work professionally in the GD industry, whether you like it or not, you're going to need the Adobe Suite of products as both clients and colleagues will be wanting and sending files in that format.
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 14:35
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    Keep in mind that GIMP understands PSD files, and you can export to that format. Additionally, they have a Photoshop plugin adaptor. It only works in Windows, but it is an option. Your other points are all very good, and I can only second them. Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 15:58
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    I'm not sure that the GIMP understands all of the layer features such as fx and blending. If it does, that's good to know.
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 23:12
  • YMWV opening PSD files in the GIMP - e.g. layer effects don't work, paths might go amiss. I've never failed to share a file from the GIMP and whilst I'm not evangelising I would love to know what @Nir means by "produces better results". It's merely a tool: the designer defines the outcomes.
    – user19660
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 8:14

The GIMP is great for the price and is certainly usable on a professional level for screen graphics. It's not equipped to handle professional print color spaces or file formats, however. For that, you'll still need PhotoShop.

Inkscape is what I use instead of AI since Freehand was given up for dead. Maybe that's a stubborn political statement more than being practical, but I do find Inkscape more than capable.


I'm an art director of more than five years, a graphic designer of more than twelve years and have been using both Illustrator and Photoshop for longer. They are both the industry standard , have been for many years and I don't see anything changing that right now.

As a freelancer (where I'm not tied to contracts my company makes) I have tried the switch to Inkscape and while I like everything the software and community stand for it just does not compare well with even the last several versions of Adobe Illustrator. Aside from file compatibility issues mentioned already, there are more productivity tools available making it easier to get work done faster. I have asked around (I work in/for the New York market) and I am the only person I know of that has even attempted the switch.

Use Inkscape or Gimp for your own personal work but I would not recommend it for professional use. Maybe, in time that will change.

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    Have you tried providing feedback to the GIMP & Inkscape communities?, I think that, with your experience, it would be invaluable. Commented Nov 4, 2011 at 22:48

For simple image editing GIMP and PS are fairly equivalent. The way you do something may be slightly different, but you can accomplish the same tasks. The problem comes with more advanced needs like color space management/professional printing, and 16bit/channel color spaces.

Inkscape has come a long way since I first tried it out, but Adobe Illustrator is still leaps and bounds ahead. That said, Xara Xtreme is more capable than Inkscape, but not as capable as Illustrator. It is fast, not free, but a lot less expensive than Illustrator. I'm sure that Inkscape has the same limitations as GIMP regarding color space issues and professional printing.

The Adobe products support managed color spaces, so if you have a calibrated pipeline (scanner, monitor, printer) you are going to be pretty close to WYSIWYG. I don't know enough about Xara Xtreme to say anything about support for calibrated work spaces (I just started evaluating it).

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    Last time I looked into it, the way people in the open source design community dealt with colour spaces and colour management was by importing graphics into Scribus - "the open source inkscape" - which does support colour profile management. I don't think it's a straightforward workflow yet but I know it's an area they're working on improving. Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 22:09
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    Agree that Scribus is the missing link here for CMYK output. As a DTP program tho it's more "the open source" InDesign and its workflow is simple enough. It makes perfectly printable pdfs.
    – user19660
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 8:09

Sad to say, Adobe's options are the best for pure professional compatibility issues. They are the 10,000 lb. gorilla, for better or worse and until a viable professional option comes along (that doesn't get purchased by Adobe), you're going to have a much smoother time (relatively) using their products.

The wealth of knowledge that is out there for Adobe products, coupled with compatibility and cross-operability make them the best route for now. But by all means, if you can find a program that has a better workflow for you, totally use it. If you can work in something to replace an Adobe program that you don't need interoperability with (i.e. Dreamweaver), do it. Ultimately it is about what is going to work for YOU and YOUR clients and workflow -- but I believe that you will undoubtedly have to turn to Adobe at some point.


GIMP's Texturize plug-in, when it doesn't error, produces amazing results. I'm not aware of Photoshop being able to automatically convert images into tileable ones very well without doing it manually.

It seems to me that GIMP is more powerful here, so I think both GIMP and Photoshop have their uses.

  • Actually, you can. You just import them using the textures palette. Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 19:52

This is an oldie, but I'll add my 2 cents.

The first point to consider is the ecosystem the designer lives in.

An obvious reason not to choose different applications is if it has a strong dependency on external assets. This is probably the main reason people do not choose another platform and this applies to a lot of things, for example, social media.

If the workflow is somehow closed, or you use general files types (Like PNG, JPG and TIF for photo images) you are fine using different programs.

Compatibility has increased a bit more after the years, and the usage of output formats like PDF is more solid now than a decade ago.

A specific scenario where is totally suitable to use Open Source programs is in Institutions, where you can have a "Communications Department", elementary schools, etc and you need to use the software on several computers.

My question is with regards to the possibility of fully divorcing from Adobe's solutions and still being able to function as a graphic design studio.

For a "professional" studio, Inkscape and Gimp are probably too limited even now. But I should say that it is totally suitable to divorce from Adobe. But again, depends on the workflow.

I use Corel Draw since forever and in some have some nicer features than AI. Even some adjustments that could be done on PS I do them inside Corel Draw.

I still have a copy of PS for very specific stuff, but I use it less than once a month.

The new kid on the block is Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo.

On the "Open Source" world, the most prominent program is Blender for animations, compositing, besides the obvious 3D.

On some other areas, like digital painting, there are a lot of alternatives rather than PS, like Corel Painter, Krita, Sai, etc.

It is better for everyone that we have competition. But in this interconnected world, it is becoming more difficult.


Photoshop and Illustrator - because whole adobe product family work great together. You can prepare illustration in AI then copy-paste it to PS as smart object which gives you ability of easy modification it in future work. Also AI works grate with Flash and InDesign. Learning solutions as GIMP or even Corel are waste of time for me.


After almost 10 years of your question there is a new free, modern, multiplatform player with much more features than GIMP.

Its name is Krita in actual version 4.4.1, I just began work with it, and it's definitely better than Photoshop from about ten years ago (when I used it last time, so I'm not able to compare it with the actual version of PS).

Some professionals consider switching to Krita (because of high price of PS), some already use it, but most of them work many years with PS and are concerned about changing their habits and undertake the risk of the temporarily reduced productivity in the period of the learning.

IMHO the era of Photoshop reign will slowly end and the amount of Krita users will raise in step with the growing number of Krita developers, shortening time of new releases of it, and increasing of its quality and quantity of new features not found in Photoshop.

As an example, the Krita’s Wraparound mode is one of the features Adobe copied this year for the next release of Photoshop.

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