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7 photo editors for Linux

People use their computers for many things, but one of the most common for home users is photo editing. Ever since cameras went digital we have been downloading editing and printing photos on our computers and Linux has some useful tools for enhancing images and fixing faults. Let's face it, not all photos are perfect and some may be over or under exposed, lacking in contrast or colour saturation, poorly focused and so on. Fortunately, a photo editor can help in these situations, so let's take a look at what is on offer for the Linux user. Of course, we'll be covering GIMP, but there are many more tools besides this.

First though, what is a photo editor? A photo editor is a tool that enables you to fix faults, repair damage to old photos you may have scanned in, enhance images, and create new ones by combining old ones. GIMP is a good example of a photo editor and F-Spot is typical of a class of photo tools that is not. F-Spot is a photo manager, which is a program for organising images and it's quite different to what we are looking at here. All the tools below can be used to edit images and they offer little or no photo management.

There are links below to the websites where the software can be found, but you should first look for them in the distro's online software repository. For example, in Ubuntu you should run Ubuntu Software Centre or Synaptic Package Manager. This is the simplest and easiest way to get the software, but if you are using a Linux distro that doesn't have these, then you'll find downloads on the websites.


GIMPGIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and it is by far the most common photo editing software on Linux. It is bundled with many of the popular Linux distros, so you don't even have to install it, and if it isn't, then it's usually available from the distro's tool for downloading and installing software.

The way GIMP uses separate windows for the toolbox, image and layers/channels/paths is irritating when there are windows open on the desktop and they take up a lot of space on a small screen. There aren't any photo management features, it doesn't add borders and it can't add predefined shapes.

Although there are a few minor niggles, the range of tools is impressive for a free photo editing program and the software has most of the features you need for enhancing photos and fixing faults. The editing tools are excellent and they have lots of customisation options. There is also a great collection of filters for fixing faults and applying special effects too. Some people might find it too powerful for their needs, but once you get used to it, it's not that difficult to use. If it's not already installed in your Linux distro, go and get it straight away.

Price: Free.


FotoxxFotoxx is the exact opposite of GIMP in terms of complexity and it is a simple, basic tool for enhancing photos. On the Retouch menu are functions for adjusting the brightness and colour, for blurring and sharpening, removing red-eye and noise. You can trim, resize, and warp images on the Transform menu, and the Art menu enables you to simulate drawing, embossing and painting. Some photo managers can do many of these functions, but Fotoxx goes a bit further and enables you to select an area and apply effects to just that part of the picture. It's not as powerful as GIMP, but if you find GIMP too complicated, you should try Fotoxx instead. It has most of the features you need. There aren't any drawing or painting tools and no text.

Price: Free.

Gpaint / GNU Paint

GpaintSome photo editors and managers are good for adjusting the brightness, contrast, colour, and so on, but they don't provide any drawing, painting or text tools. Sometimes you want to put a title or something on a photo and this is where Gpaint comes in handy. It's actually a paint program, but you can load photos and apply some useful filters and adjustments too. For example, you can sharpen, smooth, despeckle, emboss, oil paint, add noice, pixelise, blend and so on. You also have a palette of painting and drawing tools too. It's far from perfect, but when combined with one or more of the other photo editors, it has its uses.

Price: Free.


KolourpaintAs with Gpaint, Kolourpaint is really a paint program, but it can also be used to edit photos too. It's a KDE program, but it will run if you have the Gnome desktop too, so don't be put off by that. Most of the tools are related to painting of course, and you have circle/ellipse, rectangle/rounded rectangle tools, line tools, curves, paint fill, eraser, text tool and so on. The tool palette is similar to Windows Paint. Go to the Image menu then More Effects and you have access to brightness, contrast and gamma controls, emboss, flatten, histogram equaliser, hue, saturation, soften and sharpen functions. It's not the answer to all your photo editing needs, but it's a good program to have around.

Price: Free.


mtPaintmtPaint is another paint program like Kolourpaint and Gpaint, but it has a slightly different set of features. On the Effects menu is edge detect, difference of Gaussians, sharpen, unsharp mask, soften, Gaussian blur, Kuwahara-Nagao blur, emboss, dilate and erode. There's a straighrforward panel for adjusting the gamma, brightness, contrast, saturation, and hue. There's also a posterise setting too. The best feature though is the easy to use clone tool, which is something that is missing from most of the other photo editors. You can fix a lot of faults with a bit of cloning and this makes mtPaint an essential tool to have at your disposal. Gradients can also be overlaid on top of images too.

Price: Free.


LightZoneWhat's this? A commercial program for Linux? It sort of goes against the grain, but here's one and you might even want to buy it. LightZone isn't like the other programs on test and it doesn't have the usual editing tools and functions, although it does have a useful clone facility. It is basically a collection of filters and although other photo editors have filters, they don't have as many as LightZone, they aren't as configurable, and they simply aren't as good. This is the best collection of filters available for photographers and it can really make a difference to your photos. Filters are grouped into black and white, detail enhancement, effects, high dynamix range, looks, and toning. When you select a filter, a control panel is displayed on the right that provides a high degree of fine control over the way the filter is applied.

Price: $99.95


KritaKrita is a KDE program and is a natural choice if you run the KDE desktop, but it is not restricted to KDE and it can be installed and run on Gnome systems like Ubuntu too. It's actually intended to be a digital painting program and there is an excellent collection of tools for painting, drawing, cropping, resizing, filling and so on. There are also some very useful tools for enhancing photos too, such as brightness, controls, levels, Gaussian blur, sharpen, unsharp mask, Gaussian noise reduction, mean removal, wavelet noise reduction, and colour adjustment. There are some great filters and effects too, like oilpaint, pixelise, raindrops, edge detection, and emboss. It's one of the few programs that supports multiple layers and if you never used layers, you'll wonder how you managed without them once you've tried them. The filter collection isn't as extensive as GIMP, but the toolbox is better and there are some useful drawing, painting and text tools. If you don't need all of GIMPs features you might find this program more fun.

Price: Free.

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