How to install Blender and The GIMP on Android

Dion Moult

2019-01-10

It is possible to install Blender and The GIMP on Android, with the full functionality just as their desktop counterparts. They can be installed as native applications as long as we have a few prerequisites.

Blender and The GIMP do not have mobile / Android native interfaces, and so as a result we will need to set up a Linux-based “X” server environment on the phone so that their GUI will display, and the resulting interface will not be touch friendly and requires a bluetooth mouse and keyboard to be much use. I should also note that most Android phones are not as powerful as desktops, and so performance will be limited, but it is useful to know that it can be done.

To start with, you will need to install Gentoo Linux on your Android phone. This is a straightforward process, does not require root, and allows you to run Gentoo inside a chroot, alongside your Android. As it’s in a chroot, you can use Gentoo through a terminal emulator. As we will require a desktop interface, you will need to install xorg-server, a VNC server, and some sort of window manager (in this case, I use fluxbox). I use Android’s bVNC free app as a VNC client, as it supports converting the screen to a touchpad, but you may choose any you like.

$ emerge xorg-server tigervnc fluxbox
$ vncserver -geometry 960x540

You can watch this video demonstrating a working Gentoo on Android on Peertube, or embedded as a video below.

Finally, install Blender and The GIMP just as you would on a desktop. You will need to unmask them as they are technically untested on an arm processor, which your phone likely uses, but I can guarantee that it does compile, and certainly works fine on my Samsung Galaxy S7.

$ emerge blender gimp

And that’s it! As you have a full desktop environment, you can treat your phone as a desktop and install desktop applications. You can watch a video of Blender and the GIMP running on Android on Peertube here, or see my demonstration below. I also demonstrate real-time rendering with Cycles and rendering out a scene. The scene I use is a city generated from OpenStreetMaps.

In practice, I have found that I never tend to actually use Blender and the GIMP on my phone, as the screen is too small and it is too slow. But as a proof of concept I reckon it’s pretty cool.

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