How to get the GIMP Working in Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8)

by Ross McKillop on August 6, 2012

Mac Web Design & Dev

This brief tutorial will show you how to get GIMP working again in OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion).

Update: while the steps in this tutorial are still valid, they’re also no longer necessary. The GIMP developers have created a “Native Build” of the GIMP, which means you no longer need to install any additional software in order to use it (and it works in Mountain Lion). Simply visit the GIMP download page and locate the Native Build for OS X. That version comes as a standard DMG, and all you’ll need to do is open the DMG file and drag GIMP.app to your Applications folder.


If you still want to install GIMP using the X11 version, the steps below are still accurate.

Background: OS X 10.8 doesn’t come shipped with X11 anymore, so you’ll need to download an alternative and possibly upgrade your version of GIMP. Here are the steps involved –

  1. After upgrading to Mountain Lion, when you launch GIMP for the first time, you may get a message asking if you’d like to install X11 now. If this happens, click Cancel.
  2. Open a Finder window and navigate to your Applications folder. If your “view” isn’t set to “columns” – switch it now (you can switch back to your default as soon as you’re finished this step). Select Gimp in your Applications by clicking on it once. In the ‘next’ column look to see which Version of Gimp you’re using. If it’s 2.8.0p1 or higher, proceed to the next step.

    If it’s lower, you’ll need to install an updated version of Gimp – which you can find here. Once you’ve downloaded and updated your version of the Gimp, proceed to the next step.


  3. click to enlarge

  4. Head over to the XQuartz home page and download XQuartz. Open the .dmg file and run the installer package (XQuartz.pkg).
  5. Click your way through the installation process. At one point you’ll need to enter your OS X password.
  6. Once you’ve installed XQuartz, launch Gimp. You’ll be asked to locate X11.app right away. Click the Browse… button.

  7. click to enlarge

  8. Navigate to Applications -> Utilities and select XQuartz. Click the Choose button.

  9. click to enlarge

  10. Gimp will now open, along with your new version of X11. Note: it may take quite a while for Gimp to launch the first time. If it appears as though it has frozen or isn’t going to open – give it a minute.
  11. That’s it – you’ve got Gimp working in OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) now!
  • HM

    Unfortunately I found this article after I downloaded the right Gimp and Quartz. I USED to see all those messages pop up, but I closed them and downloaded what I needed and closed those windows. Now I have both programs, but when I double click on Gimp- nothing happens! Nothing shows up in the dock and nothing pops up ‘Finder’ bar… Please advise : /.

  • http://www.simplehelp.net/ Ross McKillop

    If you have a Time Machine backup of your system prior to installing the updated Gimp and XQuartz, I’d suggest reverting to it.

    Otherwise, I’d try uninstalling Gimp and XQuartz, using this tutorial to install AppTrap first (which should help *completely* uninstall both XQuartz and Gimp).

  • HM

    hm… still nothing : /… it just says Gimp is downloaded from the internet, am I sure I want to open it? And that’s about it… I click yes and then nothing, and then when I try opening it again, nothing at all..

  • HM

    And App Trap doesn’t work for me either : /…. It says “Apptrap.prefPane” can’t be opened because it is from an unidentified developer.

    Your security preferences allow installation of only apps from the Mac App Store and identified developers.

  • http://www.simplehelp.net/ Ross McKillop

    Use this tutorial to allow your Mac to install Apps from 3rd parties (like AppTrap). Then try to uninstall Gimp and XQuartz again. AppTrap will pull and delete a lot of the Preference files that the ‘normal’ uninstallation of OS X Apps does not remove. It could be one of those Preferences files that’s causing you not to get the prompt to locate XQuartz again.

  • HM

    hm… nothing… I clicked “Start App Trap” and nothing happens? Now the button just says “Stop APp Trap”

  • http://www.simplehelp.net/ Ross McKillop

    HM – That’s what it’s supposed to do. Now, when you drag a file to the Trash to delete it, AppTrap will find all the associated files, and prompt you to delete or keep them. Select delete. THEN re-instal Gimp and XQuartz…

  • HM

    hm… but nothing happens? I “Start App Trap,” then drag to trash, and just nothing..?

  • http://www.simplehelp.net/ Ross McKillop

    OK – that means AppTrap didn’t find any left-over preference or other files no longer needed. Which doesn’t help you much, but narrows down the problem a bit. I’ll do some more research and see what I can find.

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  • http://www.simplehelp.net/ Ross McKillop

    @disqus_4hxYfep2Yj:disqus See the “Update” at the top of this tutorial. You don’t need X11 to install/use GIMP in OS X 10.8 any longer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/speah Solomon Peah

    HM,