GIMP is going to the right direction

I won’t call myself an expert GIMP user, but everything related to image manipulations, I do them in GIMP. It is one of my important tools of choice for graphic design. I use it to post-process rendered images, optimize my Inkscape exports or make bitmap graphics. GIMP is an excellent application, and I really love it.

Although the GIMP developer team mostly comprises open source volunteer developers, it is bringing some good updates! I vow to those who spent their time to make it better and better with every update and allow it to be used for free.

GIMP got drastically improved and advanced with its 2.10.XX versions, although minor changes with every version. Until now! See, the 2.10.22 release added some minor features and bug fixes, I was wondering how the development of GIMP is going, and when can I see something big with these updates. But as of the latest announcement from GIMP, they published a development snapshot for version 2.99.2! Which is one last step before 3.0 release.

Side note, the version numbering scheme was a bit confusing to me, because the stable release is still at 2.10.XX, but the development version is 2.9X.XX. But I was just being dumb and haven’t really knew on how the version numbering works. Anyway!

You can’t even imagine how important it is for me, for you and for the developers. This release will pave a pathway for greater release, and will speed up the development of GIMP much faster. Let me explain.

With this significant change, the GIMP team can create UI elements with ‌existing and popular GTK3 toolkits. GTK is ‌like the default GUI Toolkit for Linux applications. Inkscape uses this, many other enormous projects mainly use GTK3.

So why is moving to GTK3 all that good?

The answer is, moving to it will increase the speed of development and will provide users with a customizable and native-look-alike, themable user interface. It will also bring HiDPI support for GIMP! Which is very cool for people who have high-resolution monitors.

What are the big things GIMP is planning, you may ask, well the list is not so big, but is important! GIMP 2.99.2 marks the first step towards GIMP 3 based on GTK3 user interface toolkit.

Release highlights:

  • GTK3 based user interface, with native support for Wayland and HiDPI displays.
  • Major refactoring and cleanup
  • New plug-in API
  • Plugins now possible with Python 3, JavaScript, Lua, and Vala
  • More (color) space invasion
  • Render caching available for better performance

We are already seeing some big stuff with this version. Starting with the GTK3 based UI.

And holy! This is the thing I wanted. Both because it now follows my GTK3 system theming, and it also scales well on my large monitor because it now has HiDPI support! I really like to theme my system, and it’s so cool that GIMP can now follow system color schemes and icon sets.

The theme

Also, now that it’s based on GTK, the UI soon can be customized in any order. For the theming, GIMP blog writes‌:

“With GTK3, we also inherit its CSS-based theme format. Unfortunately, this means that all custom-made themes from past versions will be incompatible with GIMP 3.0 and future releases. On the bright side, this new theme format uses a very well known theming standard. This should make it much easier to tweak GIMP’s interface to your needs and preferences.”

“The symbolic icon themes are much better supported. They will follow the theme-set foreground and background colors. If you ever had to switch from a dark theme to a light one in GIMP 2.10, you probably remember you also had to switch the symbolic icon themes manually. This won’t be necessary anymore as symbolic icons will be recolored according to your theme.”

And here comes the most important update

Finally, and finally we can select multiple layers! This is the thing I’ve been waiting for the first time! The GIMP blog wrote‌:

“The Layers dockable is now fully multi-selection aware, using the usual interaction for multi-items selection (Shift+click for selecting a range of layers and Ctrl+click for selecting or deselecting non-contiguous layers). Organizational operations now work on all selected layers, i.e. that you can move, reorder, delete, duplicate, merge (and more…) all selected layers at once.

Several tools now also work on multiple selected layers. For instance, all transform tools (move, rotation, scale, perspective, unified transform…) will transform all selected layers (besides the existing layer links with the “chain” icon). You can also crop several layers at once or copy-paste merged layers’ projection. Even the Color Picker tool can now pick merged color from several layers (some kind of partial “Sample merged” without having to hide unwanted layers).” From all the updates, this one is the most feel-good section!

Render Caching

GIMP once again, focused on uplifting the quality of the renderer and the viewport. This update brings something great for improving rendering performance. “GIMP 3 now has a render cache that keeps the result of scaling, color management, display filters and shell mask (for tools like Fuzzy Select). This results in much snappier user experience compared to the GTK2 version of GIMP.

There is now also a Zoom Quality setting in Preferences -> Display. When set to Fast, GIMP will do a nearest neighbor interpolation from the next bigger mipmap level instead of linear or box filtering. This gives a slight and permanent boost to painting and all updates. We have a few ideas to improve this further, like reblitting in high quality after a timeout.” GIMP blog wrote.

Another way to pack and install GIMP extensions

With the new GEX extension, developers can provide brushes, splash screens, patterns, dynamic, addons/plugins with a single extension. GIMP will soon provide a repository system to search and install plugins within GIMP. This will be much better. All hail the new extension browser! The work is still in progress.

Other minor fixes and tweaks

3.0 promises to fix 100 of the Space invasion, AKA accurate color values on both display and rendered image. Most of these fixes are visible to 2.10.XX already, but it will get 100% fixed in version 3.0. There are also Refactoring improvements, Compact Sliders and also better import policies.


This version of GIMP gives us a sneak peek of what GIMP 3.0 will bring to the table. GIMP 3.0 is the most expected release that will bring modern interface, important features such as customizable interface, select multiple layers with shift+click, render caching and more. This is a significant change for me as a designer, and I think it is for you too.

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