If not The Gimp, then Cinepaint?

Howdy !

We left our last post on software about The Gimp with “good things to look forward to, with a grain (or two) of salt”. Although it has lots of interesting features (a quite a few of no use for photography), The Gimp really falls short with its color calculations limited to 8 bits per channel.

16 bits / channel, color managed. Nuff said.

Cinepaint (web, wiki) is a fork from The Gimp that focuses on bringing “deep paint” to The Gimp. It is basically targeted at Hollywood studios (its first name was FilmGimp) as well as advanced / pro photographers, so its goal is “no compromise on image quality”.

So Cinepaint offers 8 bits per channel, but also 16 or more. With 8 bits on a black and white image, you have 256 levels from pure black to pure white. With 16 bits, you have more than 64’000. So you can tune up your curves quite a bit without loosing nuances.

Cinepaint’s interface offers a lot less options than The Gimp’s. I like it, since the result is a less complex interface, but one that contains all the functions that I use (remember, I speak as a photographer).

Add to the bag that Cinepaint supports color management and welcome to the perfect world? Almost.


As mentioned, Cinepaint is a fork from an old version of The Gimp. It was based on GTK1 (no anti-aliasing in menus…) and has been relatively recently moved to GTK2 (so it doesn’t hurt the eyes anymore in a modern Linux desktop). Tango icons integration by yours truly 😉 However it is generally quite rough at the angles. Apart from the occasional crash, here quick list of the bits that most annoy me:

  • Need to click twice on a tool to activate it – think “OK, done with cropping, let’s clone out this dust speck” and still being stuck with the crop tool: “Do you really want to crop your image to a 5×7 pixel size?” Yeah! Fun!
  • Layer selection works only if you click on the layer name, not its thumbnail. Drives me crazy sometimes (applying a gaussian blur filter to the wrong layer? Grrrr!).
  • No preview for rotation. Hard to estimate when your horizon will be leveled without a low-resolution picture showing the rotation effect. Trial, undo, error is your friend. It works, but… Btw, I know the ultimate solution is to take leveled pictures.
  • No preview for unsharp mask. Great. Trial, undo, error on a high-resolution picture in 16bits / channel. Well I guess it forces you to “know what you’re doing” (there must be some kind of acronym for that: FKWYAD, maybe?).

Almost a perfect world. How far from perfect depends on your zenness, I guess (mine is very variable, so I entertain some kind of a love/hate relationship to Cinepaint…)

Balanced summary?

What makes Cinepaint incontournable in Linux is its deep paint / color managed capabilities – although we’ll see there are 1-2 more contenders. Cinepaint even integrates with Gutenprint allowing you to send your work strait to your printer for high quality output (speaking about the files, the image is up to the photographer… I’ll do a post on printing at a later point, btw).

What I do when I see a file I like in my pictures harvest of the day is do a quick editing in The Gimp (rotation, curves, cropping…) to get an idea of the potential of the image. If I decide it is worth it, then I fire Cinepaint and do a more thorough job. Trying to get the best of two worlds 🙂

What the future holds?

Well, Cinepaint has officially two branches: Cinepaint (the one I just described) and its next generation code-named “Glasgow”: Glasgow goal is to bring a top-notch multi-plateform (Linux, Windows and Mac) open source software to the movie and photographic industries. Yeah!

However, there has been no news on Glasgow for months now, besides a prototype that basically just loads an image (no operation available) and currently is windows only. One can wonder if there is still life in Glasgow.

A final word

For months, it looked like The Gimp was stalled with GEGL going nowhere and enhancements to the software being of little use for photography, while Cinepaint-Glasgow seemed on good tracks. Today, I am losing hopes in Glasgow, while closely watching Gimp/GEGL. So goes open source software development…


5 Responses to If not The Gimp, then Cinepaint?

  1. […] UFRaw (raw converter) can be used both as a command line tool or with a GUI. Add to the mix Gimp, Cinepaint and Krita (editing), Rawstudio (raw converter) a myriad of image viewers (GThumb, Gwenview, Gview […]

  2. Conde Mor says:

    I liked your entry. I think nothing happened since then. GIMP still is user-choose 16 bits and CinePaint is “paused”, so we have no real choice on Linux to work on Photography (except tools like digiKam or digiPaint, but not retouch tools yet.

    Thank you

  3. […] changes are on the drawing board. Cinepaint is an alternative, but comes with downsides as well. If not The Gimp, then Cinepaint? | Linux Photography Also consider Shotwell. Although less powerful, it may be to your […]

  4. Valorie says:

    Yes! Finally something about first utility price increase.

  5. Sam says:

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