Gimp Building Tips (for Linux)

This is an old version. The latest version is here: Gimp Building Tips (for Linux).

GIMP has a fair number of dependencies, which can seem intimidating the first time you try to build it. Although configure is usually clear about what's missing, that's not always helpful in figuring out what package you need to add on a particular distro. The git instructions might also be helpful to anyone who hasn't used git very much yet.

If you want to build the latest GIMP but also keep another version, like the one from your distro, it's very important to include the --prefix argument when running or configure. Otherwise GIMP will end up installed to /usr/local/bin and all of your GIMP versions may get confused about which set of libraries applies to which binary. You may also want a wrapper script (see below) to set up the library paths appropriately.

Building GIMP from git on Ubuntu Jaunty or Karmic

Install GIT

Install the GIMP build dependencies:

sudo apt-get build-dep gimp libtool ruby
(note: ruby is needed for the gegl build).

Install GIT. You might think the package named "git" would be the right one, but don't bother with it -- on Ubuntu it just installs some documentation, not the actual git program. I installed "git-doc" and "git-email" too, though they're probably not needed.

sudo apt-get install git-core git-doc git-email

Configure git (this comes from GitDevelopers on Gnome Live):

git config --global "Your Name"
git config --global you@host

Check out the packages

You'll need babl and gegl as well as gimp -- the ones in Jaunty aren't new enough. Here's how to get all three:

git clone git://
git clone git://
git clone git://
Or if you have a Gnome developer account:
git clone ssh://
git clone ssh://
git clone ssh://

Set up your install prefix

Decide on where you're going to put the installed files. By default, the packages will install to /usr/local, but that will cause conflicts with the older version of GIMP already installed on your machine. If you want to keep two or more GIMP versions available, you need to choose an install "prefix". For example, I use /usr/local/gimp-git.

Set up your PKG_CONFIG_PATH to point to this prefix, otherwise gegl won't be able to find babl and gimp won't find either one of them. The easiest way to do this is to create the prefix, create a share directory inside it, then create a file there containing lines like these:

export PKG_CONFIG_PATH="/usr/local/gimp-git/lib/pkgconfig:$PKG_CONFIG_PATH"
export LD_LIBRARY_PATH="/usr/local/gimp-git/lib:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH"
If you choose, you can also set options like CFLAGS, ACLOCAL_FLAGS, etc.

Configure ( and build

Now build everything. The first time, you'll need to run in each directory and specify your prefix and any other configure options you might want. Later, when you update with git pull, you can just type make and make will re-run configure with the proper prefix.

cd babl
./ --prefix=/usr/local/gimp-git
sudo make install

cd ../gegl
./ --prefix=/usr/local/gimp-git
sudo make install

cd gimp
./ --prefix=/usr/local/gimp-git --disable-gtk-doc
(review all the "no" answers and decide if you need to install anything else and re-run autogen. Installing libwebkit-dev won't help you get gimp-help, though; it wants a much newer version than what Jaunty has.)
sudo make install

Done! Your new gimp should be in /usr/local/gimp-git/bin/gimp.

Wrapper script

One more thing: if you have a distro-installed GIMP too, you may find it helps to have a wrapper script that ensures you're using the right libraries. Otherwise, GIMP and any plug-ins it runs can get confused and exhibit weird behavior.

Here's the script I use, which I install in ~/bin/gimp-git, and then I make a link to it named gimptool-git. I'm sure this could be improved, but it seems to work.


progname=$(basename $0)
if [ $progname = 'gimptool-git' ]; then

export PATH=$GIMPLOC/bin:$PATH

$GIMPLOC/bin/$progname $*

Older distros and older GIMP versions

If you're building an old tarball on an older Linux distro, I have an archive of older gimp building instructions.

My book: Beginning GIMP, from Novice to Professional
Linux Imaging
General Linux links
Shallow Sky home