I was going to call this post "GIMP sucks!" without a moment's thought, but GIMP doesn't suck. I'm quick to say "XYZ sucks" but I always mean "XYZ sucks for my needs at the moment" or "XYZ sucks compared to ABC". Of the many things I've said suck, most of them are fine tools. But hyperbole is my favorite pastime, and it helps get the point across.
In any case, I decided to draw a picture yesterday. I dusted off my old Wacom tablet and thought, why not use the GIMP? Gentoo-wiki has good instructions on getting a Wacom tablet working in X windows. A few kernel modules compiled, a few edits to xorg.conf, a tweak or two to some udev rules, a quick X restart and it was all set. (It's not quite as simple as that, of course, but what is?)
Next step, get my tablet working in the GIMP. I have the very latest version of the GIMP installed at the moment, 2.4.0-rc1 release candidate. GIMP recognized my tablet just fine. There are some options via
Preferences -> Input Devices that you can set to tweak how the tablet works. You can also install
emerge linuxwacom and it gives you further options to change sensitivity and tracking speed etc.
So off I went. I put in a good hour or so trying to draw a very simple picture for practice. Result: utter failure.
The next thing I tried was hooking up my old Windows machine that's been sitting in the corner (my cat had been using it as a perch / bed) and trying Photoshop. Result: relative success.
What went wrong? Well, my first problem was brushes. The Gimp has an extremely limited selection of brushes. 10 solid circles, 10 faded circles, that's about it. Photoshop has a berjillion brushes by default, and it's really easy to make your own on the fly. GIMP has a brush editor, but it's clunky and unfun.
Beyond that, there's just something not right about my Wacom tablet in X windows. I don't know what, but no matter what I tried, the thing was all jittery. I thought it was just me, maybe my hand isn't steady enough. But in Windows / Photoshop, I had no problems whatsoever. No matter how I played with settings in Linux I couldn't get the thing set up where I could draw a simple straight line.? I turned the speed way up and/or way down, played with sensitivity, changed the tablet from working full-screen to per-window, all kinds of things.? Nothing I did made it any easier to draw a simple straight line.
Another fun experience I had was that pressure sensitivity would randomly stop working in the GIMP, forcing me to restart it and then pressure sensitivity would return. This may be because I'm using an RC version of the GIMP, but who knows. It kind of kills the mood when you're trying to produce artwork.
Beta-quality GIMP doesn't explain this bug though: after using my Wacom tablet for extended periods of time, Firefox would stop responding to keyboard input until I restarted Firefox. This may be coincidental and I'm not 100% sure it's because of my tablet, but I never had a problem like that before, and I haven't had one since I unplugged the tablet.
If you do a search for "GIMP vs. Photoshop" you'll come back with a million Photoshop-people saying GIMP sucks, and then a million GIMP-people saying it's just as good as Photoshop but all the Photoshop junkies are too used to what they already know and unwilling to change. I'm from the exact opposite world. I use the GIMP all the time for basic photo manipulation and I actually like the interface. I don't know Photoshop at all beyond very simple operations. I really wanted to use the GIMP in Linux; I hate using Windows for anything. But in the end I went with Photoshop.
Does this mean anything? No, my experience is an anecdote. But this experience makes me sad nonetheless. Looking on the bright side, 2 years ago I tried to get my Wacom tablet working and only succeeded in crashing my X server. So we're getting somewhere (or I'm becoming ever so slightly less incompetent). But I think we're still not quite there.