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Feature: Graphics & Multimedia

GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

By Bruce Byfield on September 15, 2008 (7:00:00 PM)

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One brake on the GIMP's popularity is that, while it boasts dozens of filters, a rival like Photoshop boasts thousands. You may only occasionally need a special effect that imitates a pencil sketch or a famous style of painting such as Impressionism or Cubism, but, when you do, having a filter to create the effect instantly saves serious amount of time. To help bridge this divide, the GIMP is reviving the User Filter from its 1.x releases. This filter is a kind of meta-plugin that allows users to import and manage Photoship filters or, if they have the knowledge, to write their own.

The GIMP User Filter is available from the project's SourceForge.net site as source code or as a Debian package that may or may not work on Ubuntu, to judge from mailing list chatter. Once you install it, you will find it under Filter - > Generic -> User Filter.

You can find links to Photoshop filters through the portal site Photoshop Filters.com. The most useful links on the site are Filter Factory, the largest filter repository for Photoshop, and The Filters, a list of other filter collections. Before you start User Filter, you'll want to download some of these filters, unzipping them if necessary. Since these filters are not written by the free software community, they are often not licensed, but, since they are available for download, you can generally assume that they are public domain or shareware, particularly if you are using them privately. Professional designers, however, might want to check for licenses more carefully.

Working with User Filter

If you have never worked with GIMP or Photoshop filters, your first reaction to the User Filter window may be pure panic. The Filter Interface and Filter Formula sections of the Filter Editor tab, as well as the entire Filter Control tab, may seem like gibberish in which the only sense you can see is that the number 255 refers to the top value in RGB color values.

Fortunately, if your only interest is in importing filters, you can ignore the controls for writing filters. To import a Photoshop filter, all you need to do is click the Open button on the Filter Editor tab and navigate to your download directory. By default, the file manager displays only .GUF (native GIMP files), so you need to change it to .8bf (Photoshop filters) or, better yet, since some of the downloaded filters may not have case-sensitive names and display their extensions as all-caps, to All files. When you have selected a filter, you can see a preview in the top left of the screen. To apply it to the currently active file in the GIMP, click the OK button.

Should you find the filter worth keeping, go to the Filter Directories tab to designate a storage directory for imports. If you save the filter with a .GUF extension, you can save time the next time you use the filter by going directly to the Filter Manager tab, which lists only imported filters.

Writing filters

So far, so simple. However, taking User Filter to the next level is probably a giant leap for most users. Using a duplicate copy of a filter, you can experiment with some of the controls, especially ones that change RGB color values, but you are unlikely to go farther without detailed understanding of how a filter is constructed.

Since User Filter does not come with help yet, you will need to find other sources to learn from. One starting point should be the Filters section of the online GIMP help site, followed the Scripting section, which may help you understand what you are dealing with. For more detailed information, try the Filter Factory Programming Guide and the GIMP Talk forum for plugins, filters, and scripts, and to ask specific questions. However, you will probably need to be more highly motivated than most people to master writing your own filter, since User Filter clearly assumes that you are already familiar with the process.

For most of us, User Filter's main utility will probably remain as a filter importer. Not all Photoshop filters import cleanly -- only about 80%, to judge from my more or less random experiments. Still, even that is a huge improvement in the number of filters compared to what comes bundled with the GIMP. It's enough, anyway, to help you shake the suspicion that, by not actually writing your own filters, you're doing the graphics editor equivalent of using a professional publishing package to compose your grocery list.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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on GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

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GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.115.21.52] on September 15, 2008 10:08 PM
Does this work with Mac versions as well or just the Windows versions?

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Re: GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 195.7.17.82] on September 16, 2008 07:47 AM
Mac? Windows? What are those? This is about Linux ;-)

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Re(1): GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 205.208.133.141] on September 16, 2008 09:41 AM
No, the article is about Photoshop filters in GIMP and if you had stopped your snark to think for a moment you would have realized the person was asking if mac Photoshop filters would work as well.

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GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 91.0.197.138] on September 15, 2008 11:06 PM
My favorite programm is fireworks, but Gimp looks very fine. Can i use my fireworks filter in gimp?

sven | http://fishingstar.de/

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GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.6.6.10] on September 16, 2008 12:19 AM
I'd take issue with there being only "dozens" of plugins for gimp! in any case it *really* isnt rocket science the api for making your own is nice to use...

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GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 99.241.15.253] on September 16, 2008 04:26 AM
Because clearly what the GIMP needs right now is more options, and a less streamlined design!
Having worked as a professional graphic designer for several years, and being in the midst of a bachelor's of computer science, I feel at least a little bit qualified to suggest the GIMP developers stop fucking around and fix the user interface. Until then, I feel confident ignoring anything else they staple on to their software.

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GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 202.152.172.4] on September 16, 2008 06:24 AM
Anonymous,
if you have much trouble with GIMP user interface then maybe you can try to use GimPhoto for Linux.
actually GimPhoto is GIMP modification with new menu layout and shortcut and also packed with many great plugins, such as: separation, save for web, batch process, noise removal and photography filters, and also improved with new brushset, new gradientset, every aspect is tweaked to improve user usability (come with installer and uninstaller that compatible with all Linux distro created using InstallJammer).

i tried a lot of GIMP plugins but this is for the first time i heard about GIMP UserFilter, this plugins is really useful, thanks a lot!

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Re: GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.241.128.10] on September 16, 2008 04:45 PM
I was about to berate GimPhoto for abusing the GPL, but given the explanation at http://www.gimphoto.com/2007/12/gimphoto-process.html I think I'll give the guy a break!

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GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 62.104.89.255] on September 16, 2008 10:00 AM
userfilter looks interesting, however, there has been another option for using Photoshop filters in GIMP:
PSPI + wine.
Have a look here:
http://www.gimp.org/~tml/gimp/win32/pspi.html

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GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.202.52.14] on September 16, 2008 04:32 PM
Boy is the title misleading - it only works with FIlter Factory filters. What about all the professional filters out there? I've never seen a filter factory filter worth the disk space to keep, much less use!

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GIMP User Filter allows use of Photoshop filters

Posted by: Renan on September 19, 2008 11:07 PM
I think that anything you can do with Filter Factory you can do with MathMap.

http://www.complang.tuwien.ac.at/schani/mathmap/

Thousands of Filter Factory-based filters are available here, in .ffl format (looks like a simple plain text, should be easy to parse, but I'm not a programmer): http://stevesdesktopphotography.com/plugins.htm

Maybe someone can hack a Perl/Python/... script to convert Filter Factory format (.ffl) to MathMap?

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