As a 3D/2D hobbyist myself who try to use the most free/open source software when I can, blender has become my default 3D software. For the 2D side (texturing and image editing) GIMP was the default one for many years but I start to reconsider it. It may be just me but I think most people start to change their work-flow from a destructive one to a non destructive one. In that regard, GIMP work-flow is mostly destructive. For example, if you apply a color curve tool in GIMP, its effects are "merged" with the layer and you lose the ability to change the curve later on. So I wonder, could Blender be used as an image manipulator in an efficient way or does the compositing in blender lack features for being a great (non-destructive) image manipulation tool ? Then, what free/open source software would you recommend for this task ?

I realize that the question is a bit broader that blender itself but I think it is fair to say that in order to do anything related to 3D, you will need, sooner or later, a good image manipulation software.

  • $\begingroup$ Blender's Compositor is pretty good; However it lacks features like painting, and might be slower than some other software. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2014 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not a Blender expert, but for non-destructive 2D drawings, you should probably check Inkscape. $\endgroup$
    – Barak
    Nov 14, 2014 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ For something a little lighter weight but still quite powerful, see apps.pixlr.com/editor (Flash, unfortunately.) $\endgroup$
    – Keavon
    Nov 15, 2014 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ Non-destructability is trivial to add to any workflow for any software: immediately after using a "destrucbive" tool, like the color curves used in the original post, save the workpiece with a different name. And in my view, any software with an "undo" history of more than 1024 (tested for this comment) /is/ nondestructive!! $\endgroup$
    – brasshat
    Nov 15, 2014 at 15:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @brasshat I don't think it's quite so simple. Saving separate versions sounds like it will slow down your workflow considerably, not to mention the extra hardrive space required. The ability to undo does not make it non-destructive. For example: If you blur and then apply color curves to an image, then later decide you don't want the blur, you have no choice but to undo everything back to the blur and manually do the subsequent actions over again. In a non-destructive editor like the compositor, it would just be a matter of deleting or muting the blur node. $\endgroup$
    – gandalf3
    Nov 15, 2014 at 21:46

3 Answers 3


A few people in the comments mentioned Inkscape for vector editing. Inkscape is extremely non-destructive because everything is a shape. However, it's not great for image manipulation, which is GIMP's primary goal.

Blender as a 2D editor would actually be extremely difficult to use. The image painting in Blender is fine for texturing (and even there it's kinda weak compared to other 3D packages, something they'll be fixing in the upcoming releases), but would be hard to work with if you just want to do image manipulation.

Even though GIMP isn't the best image manipulation program in the world, it's really the only option at the moment (if you want something open source). There's also CinePaint which is a fork of GIMP with some extra features, but I can't vouch for it, as I haven't used it at all.

The last thing worth mentioning is that if you're on OS X, there are loads of cheaper image editors. One that I've used is PixelMator. It's light weight, intuitive, mostly non-destructive and in most cases just as good as PhotoShop.


I'd say it depends on what you want.

For something like photo-manipulation (by that I mean color grading, adding effects like vignetting, etc.), the compositor can work very well (and non-destructively). After all, it's almost what the compositor was designed for. The only major difference is that the images were rendered with a camera, not Cycles or some other render engine.

However for creating images from scratch with 2D techniques like painting, blender is probably almost certainly not the best around. And using blender's image editor it won't be non-destructive (though for something like this I'm not sure if a non-destructive workflow makes a lot of sense?).

Painting is not my strong suit, but there have been some pretty amazing things done with blender's painting tools. Also note that blender's painting tools recently got a nice upgrade as part of the GSoC.

That said, if painting is what you are looking for, you might be better off with a program designed for painting, like Krita or MyPaint.


Hoping that this answer may offer great insights on how to use Blender as an image manipulation tool even if this question is nearly a year-old.

As a beginner, but investigated blender for any image work(3D/2D) in my opinion, blender is very useful for non-destructive image manipulation. Your image's quality will stay the same no matter what you will do with it in Blender. The reason is your image when imported to a plane it is as good as for display purposes only, Blender will not directly touch the image's pixels, because it can't. Then you can fire up Blender's Node Editor to manipulate the plane's lighting, texture, camera etc., from converting the image to gray to many forms of image manipulation through the use of nodes, without ever touching the image. The good thing about Blender for image manipulation unlike in Gimp is we have the lamp sources with varied modes like sun, spot light, point, and Area modes. Plus the camera itself, you can setup camera to perspective, orthographic, or panoramic and you can only focus to a certain part in the image. Camera in blender provides so many camera presets. You can set the value of focal length, and it will even act as a micro-lens. While we can do these effects in Gimp or any other package, in Blender it is so easy to experiment photo effects via Node Editor. Please note that Blender is not a replacement of Gimp or Photoshop for image manipulation though.

Here is Blender's Node Editor with the RGB filter, you can add many filters as you want on how to manipulate the image.

enter image description here


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.