Photoshop is the cream of the crop; often hailed as the best and nothing less. It is an expensive nevertheless for those starting out in the field even with a discount. GIMP, something that I am sure many of you all have heard of, is a free open source alternative. Their default download is pretty stripped down. Documentation for all that it could do compared to numerous other programs is awfully poor in my opinion. The stock user interface also takes a negative hit. What it is, is not what it can become. That is a very powerful image editor. Folly! Surely that cannot be true sir?! It is. Maybe not superior as psd is, but reasonably close once it has been modified and extended. What I am not going to do is give you yet another thread about that however. There are hundreds that do so already.
Go ahead and research in Google search some of the palettes, patterns, gradients, fonts and brushes for GIMP. You said an estimated thousand right? No. There are literally tens of thousands. Now search for psd. At least several thousand am I right? Guess what? They will work in GIMP (2.6.12) as well; plus some of its plug-ins too. You could literally install well over thirty thousand freely available (attribute their work please) brushes alone. Python-fu, script-fu (old) and etcetera add even more flexibility. So, what can you do as a developer with it that you are not already doing in psd? That is for you to decide. I have heard a lot of flak spewed about GIMP. Ninety-nine percent of the time it was one of the following: they never used it from the get-go, were dumbfounded at the start and or were simply set in their ways relying on commercial equivalents.
I have used both. In the end it was surprising seeing how much GIMP is capable of doing. The default download does not do it justice. I would like to see much of what is freely available be merged with it from the start. It will never be greater than Photoshop. The original developers were not trying to do that anyhow. GIMP is still a pretty awesome piece of software once you dig your fingers into it.
What experience do you have using it? Like it? Hate it? Which extensions, scripts... do you use? Is Adobe Photoshop still your preference of choice at the end of the day? Considering GIMP when it comes time to renew again? Etc. No flaming please.
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I've used GIMP before, but I don't particularly favor it and still prefer Photoshop.
However, I don't think that's so much because GIMP is bad. It's just that it was different, and I've never had a real need to consider Photoshop alternatives.
Check out the development release (not stable) to see some of the changes they have made. There are some mixed quality videos about it on YouTube. I use paint.net for quick changes on the go instead of opening a heavy program. [GimpShop (2.6.11 [sup]Feb 2012[/sup]) is a modified version of [url=http://www.gimp.org/]Gimp](http://gimpshop.com/) (2.6.12 [sup]Feb 2012[/sup]) closer to the Photoshop UI. A pitfall is that it is usually at least one version behind. :-/