Top 7 Enhancements Coming In GIMP 3.0

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GIMP 3.0 is almost here… at this stage, it’s still in development, and of this writing, version 2.99.4 is available for download. Although GIMP 3.0 isn’t quite ready, you can always download it to test on Windows or Linux (a Mac version is not prepared at this time).

Below you’ll find the top 7 new enhancements or features coming to GIMP 3.0+. I’ve saved my favorite for last and believe this will take GIMP to a whole new level. In fact, this one feature will be a game-changer that will give Photoshop a run for its money!

Note: 2.99.4 is a beta (unstable) version and isn’t recommended for everyday use. Beta is more for discovering what’s new in GIMP. And to help the developers discover bugs! You can report any bugs you find to the developers by reporting the bugs here.

Table of Contents

Interface {UI} Updates

gimp 2.10 interface

GIMP 2.10 Interface

gimp 3 interface

GIMP 3 Interface

old sliders

Tool Options UI in GIMP 2.10

gimp 2.99.2 compact spin scale

Tool Options UI in GIMP 3

Visually, the GIMP interface has received a modern update. In the current GIMP 2.10 (and older versions), the UI is a bit clunky… or out of date. 

The recent version revives a tired interface with a fresh and clean display. Icons and panels have received a new overhaul in higher resolutions (higher pixel density), spacing, highlighting, and more.

Although these updates are refreshing, the new UI still has a lot of work to be done. Currently, there are no themes available, and the default colors are based on your operating system. For example, a Windows machine has a horrendous light blue highlight color.


As for themes in older versions, they will not be compatible in this future release. The reason being, the code for the overall program has been redone from scratch. This makes any previous themes unusable.

Until third-party developers create new themes, you’ll be stuck with your operating system color scheme.

Multiple Layer Selection

select multiple layers

3 out of 4 layers selected.

This is one of those new features that make you wonder what took so long! Selecting multiple layers is now available in GIMP 3.0! This is a welcome addition that will make your editing workflow that much easier.

Color Space Enhancements

Click image to enlarge.

Although older versions of GIMP included management of color spaces, it wasn’t fluid. At times, you might find your self in one color space only to realize you’re in a different one upon final results. This will be resolved in this future release.

Speed Performance

Per the GIMP developers, a new caching system has been utilized to improve the overall performance. This will include faster start-up times and tools rendering quicker than before.

For example, using the Foreground Select tool can be frustratingly slow in 2.10 and older. With 2.99.4, I’ve seen vastly improved times!


extension features

Imagine following your favorite artist (s) and discovering a repository where you can download their custom brushes (for free). You’ll even be able to share your own custom brushes with the world! That is what the future holds with the Extensions feature.

Extensions will allow you to discover an assortment of tools to help you achieve your creative vision. This will include plugins created by third-party developers to extend the functionality of GIMP. 

This will make it easier to discover a new tool vs. randomly searching Google.

It wasn’t that long ago when I recommended a Layer Effect plugin that quickly became incompatible. The official GIMP registry is officially dead, and you can no longer find the most popular plugins for GIMP. This will change once Extensions are formally launched.

Wacom Tablet Plug' n Play


Using a Wacom tablet in GIMP 2.10 is a bit of a pain. For example, if you forget to plug it in before starting GIMP, you’ll need to restart it for the software to recognize it. In 2.99.4, the developers have introduced a “Plug ‘n Play” feature to alleviate the need for restarting the software.

Adjustment Layers

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the feature I’ve been waiting for my entire life! Well, maybe not that long. But at least for the last 7 years since I started using GIMP.

Suppose you’re transitioning from Photoshop to GIMP and have been reluctant due to this missing feature. In that case, you’ll be happy to know it’s coming soon. What is this fantastic new tool? Adjustment Layers!

What Is An Adjustment Layer?

For those not familiar with Adjustment Layers, let’s take a quick look at what they are and how they work.

An adjustment layer is a form of editing non-destructively. In other words, you can edit a layer without physically altering the pixels of it. Adjustment Layers are similar to Layer Masks in that regard.

If you want to enhance the layer’s saturation, you can do so with the Hue/Saturation tool. Once your color adjustments are applied, it directly alters those pixels in the image.

If you close the file and come back to it tomorrow, you may realize the color alterations are horrendous.

Guess what? Unless you have the original image file, the photo has been ruined!

Now compare that to applying a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer… the Hue/Saturation tool becomes a NEW layer… or an “Adjustment Layer!”

This gives you the magical power of undoing or “adjusting” the edit… as long as you’ve saved the file with an .XCF extension (GIMP’s native format for saving files with layers).

the Bad News

Unfortunately, the Adjustment Layer tool will not be released in GIMP 3.0. It’s not even available in the Beta version as of this writing. However, it is slated to be released in GIMP 3.2.

When Will GIMP 3.0 Be Officially Released As a Stable Version?

My crystal ball says that 3.0 will be released in… well, nobody really knows. Not even the developers! Due to GIMP being a free open source program, the developers rely on the community at large. Without donations of time and money, GIMP wouldn’t be what it is today.

And, what it will be tomorrow is still reliant on the support of others. Donations are welcome through several platforms. Or, if you have some coding experience, you can share your expertise (by speeding up GIMP’s development); check out the developer wiki.

The GIMP Roadmap

gimp roadmap

Photo by Joshua

If you’re curious about what is currently being worked on and the future timeline, check out the official wiki roadmap.

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