Free graphics software for Windows

Last Updated on April 15, 2017 by Dave Farquhar

Even people who use Windows exclusively have probably heard of The Gimp, which Linux and Unix users often proclaim as the “free alternative to Adobe Photoshop.” While Photoshop is in no danger of being displaced in the industry, Gimp is certainly more than adequate for most use.

But installing it in Windows has never been easy, unless you knew a well-kept secret: the URL for Installers for Gimp for Windows. (The Windows page at is pretty intimidating.)All you need to do is download both files, the GTK+ 2 toolkit and Gimp for Windows. Install GTK+ first, then install Gimp, and you’re golden. Although the current version 2.0 is still pre-release, it’s much nicer than the “stable” 1.2 release–it has more features and a better user interface, and frankly, I don’t find it any less stable.

You’ll almost definitely want to keep the link to Grokking The Gimp handy. It’s a professionally written book that’s freely distributable, or, if you prefer, you can buy a print copy. Gimp is easy enough to understand if you have a guide, but you need a guide. Given that book, even a drawing klutz like me was able to do some drawings that turned heads. (Paper buildings on a model railroad layout, in my case.)

The copy of GTK+ on the Installers for Gimp for Windows site is also the secret to getting the Win32 port of Sodipodi up and running. Sodipodi is a free vector drawing program, similar in function to Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Freehand, or Corel Draw. While not as full featured as the current version of any of them, again, it’s good enough for most casual use. Don’t be put off by its low version number; its primary author is a perfectionist. It’s at least as stable as most of the commercial low-end graphics programs I’ve seen for Windows.

There is no equivalent to Grokking The Gimp yet for Sodipodi. This Sodipodi Guide will get you started.

If you want to play around with graphic design and can’t afford to buy Photoshop and Illustrator (even the educational prices can be a bit high for some people), playing with Gimp and Sodipodi is a good way to learn the basics in order to see if you even want to learn more about drawing with a computer. Who knows, the current or some future version may even prove to be all you need–saving you from ever having to buy the commercial software.

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7 thoughts on “Free graphics software for Windows

  • January 28, 2004 at 12:27 pm

    One nice tidbit from the author of "Grokking the Gimp": there’s a link to a tarball of the book on the book’s splash page; download that and expand it to your local server or files stash and you’ll never have to look in the freezer to find the book.

    …or was that the laundry basket?

    …but buy the book if you can afford it; it’s a great read!

    • January 28, 2004 at 2:23 pm

      I could swear it was a Jello mold in the fridge, Dan…

  • January 28, 2004 at 5:28 pm

    Gimp is pretty nice. I like that fact that when you save a jpeg, it shows you the file size, but gives you a preview of the quality effect on the full size image in front of you.

  • January 29, 2004 at 12:13 am

    "bring out the gimp"
    "the gimps asleep"
    "then wake him up"
    Zed – Pulp Fiction

    So when people mention the gimp software i get an awful image of a large man in a rubber suit.


  • January 29, 2004 at 10:30 am

    I had no trouble installing the GIMP (ver. 1.2.5) in Windows; the user just needs to understand what GTK+ toolkit is to begin with, as most Win32 apps use the default look instead and probably many Windows users haven’t had to deal with concepts such as different widget toolkits.

    I find the GIMP to be great software, yet I have to totally get comfortable with its "feel"; I guess I’m used to not having different dialogs for different tools. All in all, GIMP is probably more advanced than what I normally need for the simple editing I do, but it’s a great piece of free software overall.

    • January 29, 2004 at 12:23 pm

      Once you find pre-packaged executables, you’re right, Gimp’s easy to install. But a Google search for "Gimp Windows" or something similar often won’t turn up the two files you want–more often it turns up a handful of Zip files that all have to be unzipped in different directories and it’s not necessarily clear what archives are source and which ones are binary, and it requires some acrobatics to get working. Stuff the typical Windows user isn’t comfortable doing.

      The user interface on 2.0 is improved over 1.2.5. It’s not Paint Shop Pro and probably never will be, but it seems to make more sense.

  • January 31, 2004 at 6:47 pm

    >Once you find >pre-packaged >executables…

    A Google search for "GIMP" returns the Windows executable page for GIMP at

    I agree with your previous comments, although I haven’t tried GIMP 2.0 yet.

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