Linux Photo editors with non destructive workflows.


I have some curiosity happening in my mind.
What software there is for processing images that would have none destructive workflows (like adjustment layers etc) and would be in active development?

So I was able to find two applications but they doesn’t seem to be in active development, one is Pixeluvo, really nice looking app but not in active development.

Then there is this “Bloom, The Smart Image Editor”, but who knows if it is being in development or not, last news are from 2014 (?)

What else do we have?

Currently I am using Krita to edit pictures because of filter layers and non destructive workflows it gives, but as most of us know, Krita is aimed for digital painting and devs are not really looking into photography side of things.
Meanwhile GIMP is getting some nice development but I guess we’ll have to wait long time till GIMP 3.0 comes and after that we might see something like adjustment/filter layers emerge. However I am still not sure if performance of GIMP will improve, I tried GIMP again yesterday and still see not fluent canvas zooming performance which results in slowdowns of workflow. And that is weird, cause in Krita I get butter smooth performance even with many many filter layers and color management enabled. On GIMP, if I have color management turned on, I can forget about smooth canvas performance… But my hardware should be decent enough for fluent performance.

Anyway, are there any chances Linux users have more options to choose from nowadays? While googling, after long bouncing between various not really well suited mentions I managed to dig out Bloom image editor, Pixeluvo was easier to find. what else is out there?

  • darktable
  • rawtherapee
  • filmulator
  • photoflow
1 Like

If you are looking for an editor based on the concept of “layers”, that can be inserted in an arbitrary order and/or grouped, then you might want to give PhotoFlow a try.

All adjustments are non-destructive, and provides most of the tools needed for photography editing.

The interface is probably somehow unusual compared to krita and gimp, but I am open to suggestions for improving it.

Have a closer look at darktable

yeah, I already use Darktable as my main raw image editor.
But for speed regarding retouching, GIMP and Krita is speedier and more flexible when doing collages etc.

But Darktable is the best RAW image editor that I found years ago, I mean it is so fantastic!

I should give PhotoFlow a try. Last time I checked it, it was really promising.


We might try some kind of “virtual hands-on session”, that is: we take some image, you describe me what edits you would apply in DT/Krita/GIMP (or your “typical” workflow if you prefer), and we can see how this could be achieved with PhF.

Like this we can also see if the PhF tools are ready for portraits processing…

1 Like

Hello @Carmelo_DrRaw

I have tested PhotoFlow long ago on Windows 10 and right now I am wondering what “unique” features are available in this application compared to Darktable or RawTherapee?

Do not get me wrong: I don’t wan to start a flame!
I don’t even want to imply that PhotoFlow must be “better” than other open source softwares to test it. I am only wondering why it should be useful to test it for an end user (aside from sheer curiosity, of course)?

Just to give an example. In the long past, a clone tool was added to PhotoFlow (and later on removed). This feature is only available with Darktable but not with RawTherapee. Therefore, I was personally inspired to try PhotoFlow because of this single additional option compared to RawTherapee for instance.

At present, it looks to me like the most “selling” feature of PhotoFlow is its “layers structure” as regards it GUIs, which reminds me of other commercial Raw softwares (e.g. Capture one Pro)

P.s: I have just checked the github web-page of PhotoFlow and It looks like there are no recent builds for Windows. I suppose they are only available for Linux and Mac currently?

Probably the most evident difference is indeed the use of “layers” as opposed to “tools”. The most important consequence is that in PhF the sequence of the tools is not fixed, and layers can be re-ordered and/or grouped as needed.

Compared to RT, PhF also supports opacity masks, even very complex ones, so that local edits are possible. I know that RT has a locallab branch where local edits are being introduced, but still they AFAIK work in a rather different way.

Another very important, yet less visible difference is that PhF is designed to work on unbounded linear RGB data, while many of the tools in DT and RT still work on Lab data. In PhF the user can choose to convert the pixels to Lab colorspace and do editing in Lab, but he is not forced into Lab processing. There have been many discussions here showing reasons not to process pixels in Lab colorspace, so I believe this is a quite strong point (and actually one of the main points that led me to the PhF development at the beginning).

To summarise, the main differences in my opinion are:

  • tools implemented as non-destructive layers that can be re-ordered and grouped
  • support for complex opacity masks for local editing (DT offers this as well)
  • processing in linear RGB colorspace(s), but possibility to switch to Lab or CMYK if needed
  • possibility to save different edits of the same image, and to combine different images together

P.S. 1: here is the link to the latest windows build:
The web page needs a complete re-write, if I only had the time…

P.S. 2: the clone tool is still present in the code, but buggy. Unfortunately I need to fix few things before it can be re-introduced…

1 Like

Hello @Carmelo_DrRaw

Thanks a lot for your long summary as regards the principal unique features of PhotoFlow.
I suppose it might also pertain to the web-page of photoflow because, from what I have gleaned, it is not so well emphasized right now (at least to me…) :slight_smile:

Just tried PhotoFlow on Windows 10, by way of the zip from your current link.

  • No crash so far from my testing.
  • The GUIs on Windows 10 is different (e.g. its sliders) compared to your previous recent screenshots (maybe it adopts a different Css theme?)
  • It is missing many icons (but their tools work):

It really looks like the proper GTKRC is not loaded on Windows… I’ll check as soon as I can grab a windows machine!

The web page is simply a disaster, honestly speaking :wink:

I don’t remember, but can Photoflow do something like this? Very easily done in Krita.

-> Import Image in RGB mode
-> Convert Layer Color Space to LAB
-> Assign Color Adjustment Filter Mask in the layer and see that it is in LAB
-> Create a Color Adjustment Filter Layer and see that it is in RGB

Filter mask and filter layer are two different things. Filter mask treats it akin to adjustment layer mask using the layer as a document. Something like that, you’d have to right-click and add filter mask to know. It’s a bit faster in the case of Krita because info aren’t copied into a new layer at all. Better organization than w/ just adjustment layers too.

Well, I will think what I can do, I might actually try to record what I do when working on the pictures, that probably would be the best way to show. Because to summarize in short, what I am looking for is Krita fork aimed for photographers. Even though it is oriented towards digital painting, nowadays I find Krita to be so much evolved that it makes a better photo editor for me than GIMP does. I guess that is mainly because of speed, support of various color models, layers, I like nearly everything about layers in Krita, the way you can organize stuff, filter layers and many other types of layers, although I don;t use all the stuff but I see many things it can bring once I advance. And my favorite part is the brush engine/engines. I adore the bubble panel that you can call to change the settings of brushes or swap brushes, as well as shift + drag to increase or reduce the brush size. it’s a small detail but my God how useful it is. I mean, whenever I try other software I naturally try to do that and when it is not there it drives me nuts, shift plus drag or draw with tablet pen to increase or decrease the size of a brush. It is weird this can make such a huge impact to workflow. I didn’t expect that, but digital painting brushes give a whole new dimension to dodge and burn techniques. Everything else is covered by GMIC plugin. I mean it’s fantastic and I think every image processing app should support this set of plugins. Because most things that Krita lacks or I don;t know how to do with Krita is covered by GMIC.

I do not care much about Raw processing because Darktable grew too deep into my workflow and I am satisfied with it, from what I’ve seen Photoflow should be awesome for Raw processing, but Darktable is now grown on me. For retouching on the other hand I am still looking, because as much I love Krita, it is aimed towards painters, not retouchers and small things like loosing exif data of image once you close the project file (it’s a bug that I guess won;t get fixed, painters do not care much about metadata) or lack of eyedropper tool in the adjustments like levels etc in the adjustment layers makes me wonder about other tools.

If there would be possibility to bring some flexibility of brushes to Photoflow and do some tools aimed towards retouching techniques like dodge and burn etc. that would be so cool! For me a cool software to work on photos would be a software that had really good tools for making selections, masking, good brush tools like in Krita, really good cloning healing tools, wavelet decomposing/recomposing, adjustment/filter layers stuff that works in non destructive manner, everything else GMIC. GMIC has all the effects and generators a person could need as well as it has wavelet decomposing that I use in Krita ( it is much faster than the one Krita has internally).

Have you tried the retouch module in Darktable?

There’s no need for a Krita fork really. Nowaday, they’re more inclined to accept other things which might not be primarily for painting, but can be used for it. If any one wants to add photographic editing features to Krita and has the skills, they can do so, and it’ll bring matte painting to a whole new level. Lazy selection is literally the main blocker of Krita viability for photographic editing. Filters are easier to do than that. These day, Krita is getting to the point where it has the potential to be Affinity level. If it has lazy selection, a few more filters, then it is at Affinity level. I have coded for Krita though I find it a little bit difficult, but I can tell you that doing filters is one way you could push Krita without knowing too much of c++.

1 Like

One think missing in this thread is the “Non-Destructive (touch) Interface Experiments” @pippin is working on for GEGL:


Would you have the possibility to test the latest win64 package from here? I have tested it myself on a Win10 machine and I could not see any issue with the UI theme and icons…


This could be definitely considered as a possible direction in which to go. PhF has already a basic non-destructive brush implementation, but it is limited to a simple round brush with feathered edges.

For masking and dodging/burning, I am pretty much always using a combination of gradients and path masks in my edits, associated with an exposure adjustment layer. That is, you start with an exposure adjustment that sets the maximum brightening/darkening you want to achieve, and then you locally control the effect with a superposition of various gradients and feathered paths, each with it’s own opacity to locally control the strength of the effect.

Since the shape of path masks can be edited (control points can be added/removed, or dragged around), I find them more flexible and easier to fine-tune compared to brush strokes…

Are you interested in an example of this?

Non-destructive wavelet decomposition/recomposition is already available, while a good cloning/healing tool is still under development…

Hello @Carmelo_DrRaw

Just tested again on Windows 10 and now all icons are visible!

Once in a while, I get a crash when I “Insert an image as layer” (.nef). Most of the time, it works, though.
A minor problem right now are the tooltips, which are barely visible (grey text with yellow background):


Sure! It is always good to learn and discover things. :slight_smile: