The free and open source photo-editing program called GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a nice alternative to the subscription-based or boxed versions of its competition (including PhotoShop). Whether you’re a beginner with GIMP or a seasoned pro, there’s lots to love.
Some of GIMP’s greatest assets are the plugins and scripts created by numerous independent programmers. At one time, there was a massive collection called the GIMP Plugin Registry, but that resource is no longer available. Consequently, you must search the Internet for GIMP plug-ins and scripts.
To start you on the right track, we’ve selected our favorite plugins and scripts for you to try, with a brief description of each, and a link to the resource location. First; however, we should explain the complicated process of how to install these treasures and where to find them on the GIMP menus.
How to install and use GIMP plugins
Notice that plugins in GIMP are called plugins and scripts. Scripts (Script-Fu) have .scm extensions, while Python-Fu scripts have .py extensions. The .scm extensions are copied into the Gimp scripts directory, while the .py extensions are copied into the Gimp plugins directory.
The complicated part is determining where your system copies these files. The easiest way to find out is to access the Edit > Preferences > Folders > Plug-ins or Edit > Preferences > Folders > Scripts path information from the GIMP menus. Notice there are two folders listed:
A. For 2.10 Scripts – C:\Users\Your User Folder Name\AppData\Roaming\GIMP\2.10\Scripts
B. For 2.8 Scripts – C:\Program Files\GIMP 2\Share\2.0\Scripts
C. For 2.10 Plug-ins – C:\Users\Your User Folder Name\AppData\Roaming\GIMP\2.10\Plug-ins
D. For 2.8 Plug-ins – C:\Program Files\GIMP 2\lib\gimp\2.0\plug-ins
Once you know the location, you can Unzip the downloaded file(s). Copy (or Move) the scm files to the folder location indicated in “A” above for GIMP 2.10, or “B” above for GIMP 2.8. Copy (or Move) the py files to the folder location indicated in “C” above for GIMP 2.10 or “D” above for GIMP 2.8. When finished, restart GIMP.
NOTE: Plug-ins and Scripts are platform-specific, so ensure that the files you choose to download are written for Windows (not Linux or Mac, unless you have Linux or Mac).
Once downloaded into the correct folders, the Plug-ins and Scripts are accessed through various locations on the GIMP menus such as a New Tab on the main menu (e.g., Script-Fu, FX-Foundry, Video, etc.); or under the Image, Layer, or Filters tabs; or, sometimes, under multiple tabs. Generally, the instructions or description will specify the location on the menus.
Below are seven of our favorite GIMP Plug-ins and Scripts (with over 800 filter effects, 400+ brushes, and 63 papers (aka textures).
GIMP comes preloaded with 71 of its own filter effects, so there may be some duplicates. Don’t delete any of them until you’ve tried them on your photos, because the same filter effect (with the same name)—if developed by two different individuals—may produce very different results. You can keep the one you like best or keep them both.
This amazing resource provides 521 filter effects within its own menus, which are accessed through the Filters tab. From the webpage linked above, cursor down to G’MIC plug-in for GIMP. Select for GIMP 2.10: Windows: installer or .zip archive.
If you’d like to experiment with some of these filters before you download the plugins, select this link for the G’MIC online user version. Open a file (from your computer), click the Select a Filter button, then choose filters from the menu list and watch the magic unfold.
Quick Sketch is a plug-in used to convert an image into a sketch/illustration/line drawing. Every photo-editing program I have ever used provides a “Sketch” filter. This one is better than most. Download here: 210_sketch_quick-sketch.scm . Note that it adds a tab to the GIMP menu called Script-Fu with Artistic > Quick Sketch under that tab.
This one heals selections, heals transparencies, uncrops an “Oops, didn’t mean to do that,” removes undesirable objects; repeats and/or transfers styles and textures from one object to another; maps objects to spheres, boxes, cylinders; renders and enhances dozens of special effects to objects; and more.
Access Resynthesizer features from Filters > Enhance, Filters > Map or Filters > Render, then select effects from the submenus.
Another remarkable script, with 155 filter effects under its own main menu tab called FX-Foundry. Note that some additional scripts are located under the Filters > FX-Foundry, including Animation, Logo, Render). This collection has some filter effects that I have never seen or used before, such as Corroded Painting, Bercovich Lovo, Aquarel, Orton effect, and dozens more.
This is a unique collection of scripts/plug-ins because in addition to the 77 filters, it also provides 461 brushes and 63 papers, which are actually textures. It has its own menus with eight tabs: Presets, Paper, Brush, Orientation, Size, Placement, Color, and General. The Orientation, Size, Color, and other tabs provide options for customizing the Presets (filters), Papers, and Brushes. Click this link to download GIMPressionist.
This submenu displays a copy of the current image (upper left corner), with Update and Reset buttons below. You can scroll through the effects, see what they do, then click Reset to cancel. Nice feature. Like FX-Foundry, the Preset filters include some special effects that are new to me such as Embroidery, Flowerbed, Parquette, Wormcan, Ballpark, and Rice. I can’t wait to try them.
For samples of the effects and detailed instructions, try this link: https://docs.gimp.org/en/plug-in-gimpressionist.html
Another really fun plug-in/script that converts your photos into cartoons. If you download all the scripts/plug-ins covered in this article, you’ll have five “cartoon” effects. Although similar, they each have a slightly unique quality. Click this link to download CarTOONize.
This filter effect is located under the Script-Fu tab > Effects > Cartoonize. Note that you can combine additional filters to enhance the cartoon effect.
There are 114 scripts in this bundle, a collection shared on the Internet by a long-time GIMP user named Paul Sherman. He does not claim to be the programmer, but he has continually updated many of the older scripts to make them compatible with the new 2.10 versions. In addition to the scripts, the downloads include gradients, patterns, and some images.
The link above provides detailed installation instructions, a list of all the scripts, how and where to copy the files, the download links, and a project history. Because the scripts are all placed in the scripts folder and the presets are in the Gimpressionist folder, the bundled files are all mixed in with the other scripts and presets under Filters and Filters > Artistic > GIMPressionist. If you download this bundle, you will have duplicate files. Try them all, keep the ones you like, and delete the rest.
The filters/effects included with GIMP are marked on the menus with a capital “G.” The independent programmers’ scripts and plug-ins are marked with a symbol of double gears.