Matt Jones

Running The Gimp on OS X

Update [24/03/04]: Gimp 2.0 has been released, including a self-contained application bundle for OS X. Get it here

The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a piece of software similar to Photoshop but with one big difference, it’s free and open source. For many years, it has been the graphic / image manipulation tool on the Unix and Linux platforms and because it has been constantly in development over this time, it is as feature-rich [if not quite as slick] as Photoshop. After Apple launched X11 [an X Window system based on XFree86] on OS X, I decided to get The GIMP running on my Mac. Here’s how to get it running:

Disclaimer: The following instructions are the result of a bringing together of information from various web sources. I cannot guarantee that these instructions will work on your setup as they represent the method I used to get The Gimp to run successfully on my Mac. By following these instructions, you are doing so at your own risk and I am not personally responsible if anything goes wrong!

An overview of requirements:


  1. If you haven’t done so already, install Developer Tools CD that came bundled with OS X. The disk image is also available to download from the Apple Developer Connection website [requires free registration].

  2. Download and install Apple X11 - [41.4 MB].

  3. Download and install the X11 Software Development Kit [4.0 MB - Download on bottom right of page]

  4. Download the Fink 0.5.0a Binary Installer [11MB] and double-click on the ‘Fink 0.5.0a Installer.pkg’ to install Fink.

  5. After the installation is complete, open a window and type the following command: “sudo pico .cshrc [return]”. This will open a text editor with the new .cshrc file. NB. sudo requires you to enter your Mac’s administrator password.

  6. In the editor, type the following line: “source /sw/bin/init.csh”.

  7. Save and exit Pico by pressing [control-0], [return], [control-x]. Then close the terminal window.

  8. Open a new terminal window and type: “sudo fink scanpackages [return]

  9. Then type: “sudo apt-get update [return]

  10. Then: “sudo apt-get install gimp [return]”. This downloads and installs the GIMP binary and it takes a while.

  11. Go to the Applications folder and double-click on the X11 icon. This will start the X Windows environment.

  12. From the X11 menu, select ‘Applications > Terminal’ . This will open xterm.

  13. At the prompt, type “gimp”.

  14. After being asked a few simple questions by the GIMP set-up program, the application will launch. Enjoy!

Remember that The GIMP is a UNIX application designed to run on X Windows, so don’t expect it look as slick as Aqua. Also, Apple X11 is still in Beta so there are a few interface quirks here and there.