How to Download, Install, and Run GIMP on a Mac (in Just 9 Easy Steps!)

By Margot Dinardi in Art Tutorials > GIMP Help

GIMP is an open source alternative to Photoshop that is available for both PCs and Macs. In today’s article, I’m going to explain how to install GIMP on a Mac—as you’ll see, it’s a little bit more complex than installing GIMP on a PC.

1. Before you download GIMP you’ll need to make sure your Mac is running a special program called X11. If have your original installation disk, insert it, click on the “Optional Installs” folder and skip down to step #3.

If you do not have the installation disk that came with your computer, click the following link to download the X11 installer and continue on with step #2.

2. Find the link to download X11 (it should be near the top of the page) and click on it to begin your download.

X11 Download

Once the download is complete, an icon named will appear on your desktop. Double-click on that zip file and a folder will appear on your desktop called “X11Tiger.” Double-click on the folder and it will open to reveal two more icons—choose the one named “X11SDK” and click on it.

From that point on, the installer will pretty much install itself. Continue through the installation process until you see the words “Installation Type.”

Install X11

3. This step is very important—you must do it for GIMP to run. Open the application section and place a checkmark next to the X11 option.

4. NOW we can download and install GIMP! Visit and click on the big download button. (That’s Wilber, GIMP’s mascot, in the box.)

Download GIMP for Mac

5. There are a few different versions of GIMP to choose from, so you’ll want to pick the version that corresponds to your operating system.

Find out what operating system you have by going to the Apple symbol in the upper left hand corner of your desktop and choosing “About this Mac.”

A box will appear with your operating system information.

Mac OS

I have a 10.4.11 Power PC so I needed to download the PowerPC version of GIMP. Find the version that’s correct for your system and click the image of Wilber to the left.

GIMP Versions

6. Sourceforge will open up and start downloading GIMP onto your desktop.

Sourceforge GIMP Download

7. When it’s finished downloading, double-click on the GIMP icon and it will install!

Installing GIMP

8. You’ll probably want to place GIMP in the “Applications” folder along with the rest of your programs, so open up your hard drive folder and navigate to “Applications.”

Open the new GIMP folder on your desktop and drag the GIMP icon into your “Applications” folder. Check and make it’s there. . . if not try dragging the icon again.

9. Click on the Wilber/GIMP Icon in your “Applications” folder to open up GIMP. The first time you open it, it may take several minutes. I thought something was wrong at first and took a break. When I came back it was open!

As you’ll see, GIMP is very similar to Photoshop—so play and enjoy. (Click on “File” then “New” to start working on a new image.)

Stay tuned for more tutorials to accomplish specific tasks!

A few quick notes. . . The keyboard shortcuts in GIMP will require using the CTRL key instead of Apple’s Command key. In addition, another program called Xterm will run in the background. It’s helping GIMP to run, so just ignore it.


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