Enterprise Software

Introduction to GIMP image editing tool with simple demos

Ryan Boudreaux offers an overview of the GIMP image editing features and uses some of them to demonstrate what you can do with this tool.

If you have been searching for a new image editing tool, then the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) might be the one you need for graphic and image editing from Gimp.org.  It's available for free for download distribution software that allows you to retouch photos, create image composition and image authoring.

Download and install GIMP

The current download as of this writing is GIMP 2.8.2 for Windows XP SP3 systems and higher, and for Unix-like systems, it is highly likely that they may already have a version available.  The current Win download pulls from SourceForge and weighs in at 76.9MB so be ready for a long duration if your Internet connection bandwidth is on the low end.  Norton Internet Security file insight for the download confirms tens of thousands of users have successfully obtained a copy; the current file is mature and has been available for about three months as of this writing. It's a stable program, showing average crashes only once in a three month period. If you are running Ubuntu and Debian flavors, from the command interface, simply run "apt-get install gimp" to get the latest stable release. The GIMP User Manual is available in twenty languages including English, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. FTP and Web Mirrors are also available from 75 individual sites in twenty two countries. GIMP help files are available at ftp://ftp.gimp.org/pub/gimp/help/.

Once the file is downloaded on the Win OS, just double-click the exe file (gimp-2.8.2-setup-1.exe), select your language, and then click to install. The default installation path on Win OS is C:\Program Files\GIMP 2\. Click "Finish" when complete.

Figure B

Next, find the shortcut and open the GIMP application and wait for it to load.

Figure C

The first time I ran GIMP it took about a minute or more to fully load the application and plug-ins;, once the initial "Startup" completed, I shut it down and then GIMP loaded much faster on successive attempts. By default, GIMP opens up in an undocked window mode as shown on my desktop in Figure D below.

Figure D

The undocked window mode can be modified by browsing to Windows from the main toolbar, and then clicking "Single-Window Mode", as displayed in Figure E, resulting in Figure F below.

Figure E

Figure F

GIMP features and functionality

Here are the basic features available:

Painting features include the tools for Brush, Pencil, Airbrush, and Clone. Sub-pixel sampling for all paint tools for high quality anti-aliasing, extremely powerful gradient editor and blend tool, and it supports custom brushes and patterns. System features include tile-based memory management so image size is limited only by available disk space, and virtually an unlimited number of images open at one time. Advanced Manipulation includes full alpha channel support, layers and channels, multiple Undo/Redo (limited only by disk space), editable text layers, transformation tools including rotate, scale, shear and flip, selection tools including rectangle, rounded rectangle, ellipse, free, fuzzy, foreground extraction tool, advanced path tool doing Bezier and polygonal selections, transformable paths,  transformable selections, and quick mask to paint a selection. Extensible features include a Procedural Database for calling internal GIMP functions from external programs as in Script-fu, advanced scripting capabilities (Scheme, Python, Perl), plug-ins which allow for the easy addition of new file formats and new effect filters, and many plug-ins already available. Animation features include load and save animations in a convenient frame-as-layer format, MNG support, Frame Navigator (in GAP, the GIMP Animation Package), Onion Skin (in GAP, the GIMP Animation Package), and Bluebox (in GAP, the GIMP Animation Package). File Handling including file formats bmp, gif, jpeg, mng, pcx, pdf, png, ps, psd, svg, tiff, tga, xpm, and many others, and the ability to load, display, convert, and save to many file formats including SVG path import/export. Customizable Interface allows you to customize the view and behavior to suit your requirements. Starting from the widget theme, allowing you to change colors, widget spacing and icon sizes to custom tool sets in the toolbox. The interface is displayed in modules into so called docks, allowing you to stack them into tabs or keep them open in their own window. Pressing the tab key will toggle them hidden. It also features a full screen mode allowing you to preview your artwork and also to edit the work while using the most of your screen real estate. Photo Enhancement features includes options for fixing perspective distortion caused by lens tilt, which can be corrected using the Barrel Distortion tool. The Channel Mixer allows you to modify the Perspective Transform, and Sample Colorize tools too.

Simple demonstrations

What I like about GIMP is the built in sources and presets that come with the base application, including the ability to create new graphics and images from sources such as From Clipboard, From Webpage, From Camera, Screen shot. The presets include the categories of Buttons, Logos, Patterns, and Web Page Themes, as shown in Figure G below.

Figure G

With a quick demonstration of the Create Buttons tool, I will guide you through the steps to setting up a Simple Beveled Button starting with making the selection as displayed in Figure H below.

Figure H

The default Simple Beveled Button has the following settings:

  • Text: Hello world!
  • Font size in pixels: 16
  • Upper-left color: 00ff7f
  • Lower-left color: 007fff
  • Text color: 000000
  • Padding: 2
  • Bevel width: 4
  • Pressed: un-checked

Figure I

Click Ok to accept the defaults or make your adjustments and then click OK.  The generated button is displayed in Figure J below. This could be a great tool for folks that still create buttons from images.

Figure J

Next, I will demonstrate creating a Logo using one of the styles available from the vast drop-down list which is displayed in Figure K below.

Figure K

In this demonstration, I decided to select the Chrome Logo, and keeping all the defaults as shown but changing the text to "Chrome Logo" then click OK as shown in Figure L with the result displayed in Figure M below.

Figure L

Figure M

Of course there are many more demonstrations that highlight GIMP, including image scaling, shearing, perspective tools, flip layers tool, cage transform, text tool, gradients tool, patterns dialog tool, brush selection dialog tool and more.

Do any of you already use GIMP for your image manipulation tool? If so what do you like about GIMP?


Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

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