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Beginning GIMP 466

Ravi writes "Any one who has had the opportunity to manipulate images would be aware of Adobe's Photoshop - considered to be the market leader in image manipulation software. But with its high price tag, buying Photoshop is akin to putting strain on your bank balance. What is interesting is that there is a very popular free alternative to Photoshop in GIMP. For those in the dark, GIMP is a state of the art image manipulation software which runs on multiple architectures and OSes and which is released under the GNU free License (GPL). I have been using GIMP exclusively for touching up images for many years now and it has met all my graphics manipulation needs." Read the rest of Ravi's review
Beginning GIMP - From Novice to Professional
author Akkana Peck
pages 550
publisher APress
rating 9
reviewer Ravi
ISBN 1-59059-587-4
summary A great book to learn Gimp

Unfortunately, for a beginner who is taking his first baby steps in GIMP, the interface might feel a bit kludgy and he/she might need some hand holding. This is where a book related to Gimp gains prominence. I recently came across this book called "Beginning GIMP - From Novice to Professional" authored by Akkana Peck. Divided into 12 chapters and 6 appendices, this book aims to cover the whole gamut of features found in Gimp.

In the first chapter, the author takes the reader through an in-depth tour of Gimp interface. This chapter introduces various dialogs,windows and configuration options that play an important part while working on ones images in Gimp. Even though I was conversant with most of the features of Gimp, I found this chapter impart a very good understanding of Gimp interface which is imperative for putting this software to productive use.

But it is not enough if one jumps right into editing images. It is important to have a good understanding of the various image formats used, their pros and cons as well as situations where different formats are ideal to use. The second chapter of this book titled "Improving Digital Photos" explains just that. The author further shows the image settings in Gimp which helps one to optimize the image while saving to disk as well as tips which could be very useful for photography buffs such as color correction, viewing the histogram to aid in bringing clarity to an image, rotating the image, fixing red eye and so on.

One of the most useful features of any graphics suite worth its name is its support for Layers. In Gimp, it is possible to save different images in layers. The third chapter of this book deals exclusively in giving an introduction to the concept of Layers and how it can be put to use in Gimp. At the end of the chapter, the author also explains how to create simple Gif animations.

Gimp has a great collection of tools at par with any other graphics suite in the market. These tools form the life line of any graphics artist in aiding his creations. In the subsequent three chapters , the author provides a detailed explanation of all these tools and how they could be put to use. Almost all the tools are covered in these three chapters and the author even provides the steps in creating images using these tools which gives it a practical touch to the whole narration.

In the seventh chapter titled Filters and Effects, one gets to know about the rich set of filters and scripts which are bundled with Gimp. There are hundreds of filters and effects categorized into three sections of Filters, Python-Fu and Script-Fu and most of them are described in this chapter with the aid of relevant examples.

From the 8th chapter onwards, the author turns to explain the more advanced concepts which pertain to graphics editing, knowing which, differentiates an expert from a beginner. Concepts such as color manipulation, compositing, masking and the different layer modes are described in detail with the aid of examples.

One of the biggest advantages a Gimp user has is the capability to create his own scripts in Gimp which allow him to accomplish complex tasks with the click of a button. Gimp scripts and plug-ins can be created using various languages like python, perl or C. But it also has its own scripting language called Script-Fu which also simplifies the process of creating scripts. And not surprisingly, there are hundreds of scripts bundled with the default installation of Gimp which makes it a viable option for creating complex graphical effects with ease. The 11th chapter of this book titled "Plug-ins and Scripting" gives an introduction to creating ones own scripts using different languages including script-fu. But I found this chapter to be more useful for a person who is interested in creating plug-ins than the normal users.

The final chapter of this well illustrated book deals with topics which couldn't fit in any other chapters such as tips on configuring Gimp to use the scanner and printer. There is a section which gives details of various resources found on the web which could be used to further enrich ones knowledge on using Gimp.

All along, the author gives interesting tit-bits on various aspects of image creation and modification which would be eye openers for most people who are getting introduced to the art of graphics manipulation. Reading the book, I was able to get valuable insights into different aspects of image editing such as antialiazing, hinting text and such, which plays an important part in creating good graphics.

In relevant sections, the author has provided important details which are highlighted in a bright vibrant color which makes reading this book a pleasant experience.

Many might wonder why some one would take time and efforts to write a book on Gimp when Adobe's Photoshop is considered the dominant leader in the graphics market. But the truth is Gimp enjoys a wider user base than all the other non-free graphics manipulation products combined as it is bundled by default on all Linux/Unix distributions worth their name. Considering that Gimp has also been ported to Windows and Mac OSX coupled with its hard to beat price (it is a free software released under GPL) and excellent features at par with any other professional graphics suite, this software has become a viable option for any one interested in developing graphics for the Web. And I found this book to contain relevant information which could be invaluable in ones journey into the fascinating world of image manipulation using GIMP.

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Beginning GIMP

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  • by Kesch ( 943326 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:21PM (#15732891)
    Actually, I never liked the healing brush in Photoshop, half the time it wouldn't do a great replacement job. I prefer to use clone stamp and sample the replacement area myself which still only takes 5 seconds.
  • Gimpshop! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:22PM (#15732893) Homepage Journal
    I tried and failed a few times to get into GIMP, but the interface just wasn't doing it for me. I recently discovered Gimpshop, [] an elegant hack of GIMP which emulates the Photoshop interface. It's fantastic, I find it much more intuitive than plain GIMP, and I've even managed to use it to get a Photoshop-trained graphic design guru to explore FOSS with it.
  • Save tons of cash (Score:3, Informative)

    by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:22PM (#15732897) Homepage
    One thing that will save you tons of cash when buying PS is to get a used/old stock PS 5.5 and just buy the upgrade. At aprox $275 CDN you'd have to be stupid not to take this route.
  • by andrewman327 ( 635952 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:22PM (#15732899) Homepage Journal
    If you are looking to see if it has similar power to Photoshop without having to learn a new interface, try GimpShop [], which is the GIMP with a Photoshop interface.
  • First Krita post (Score:4, Informative)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:26PM (#15732928) Homepage Journal
    I like The GIMP and still use it most often for routine graphics stuff. However, I've recently come to love the direction Krita is going. A lot of it is personal preference, just as the single-window interface, but some of its features are very nice (like built-in CMYK, color management, a line drawing tool that works like you'd expect it to, and a file chooser that doesn't make me want to commit hari kari).

    It's not perfect, and not quite yet a complete replacement for The GIMP, but it's close enough that I've started testing it on a regular basis. If you simply can't wrap your brain around GIMP, then it's probably worth your time to check out Krita.

  • GIMPshop (Score:2, Informative)

    by jehnx ( 556498 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:29PM (#15732954) Homepage
    Just for those who are interested in Photoshop's interface, but would like to use The GIMP, there is GIMPshop: []
  • Re:Gimpshop! (Score:2, Informative)

    by jehnx ( 556498 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:31PM (#15732973) Homepage
    Another good site for it is [] for a straight-forward download site.
  • by milamber3 ( 173273 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:36PM (#15733014)
    Did you totally miss the part of the story about PS straining bank accounts with it's steep price. GIMP is free and therefore a lot of people may use it, not because it "suites [their] techno ideology," but because it won't keep them from paying bills or eating. Maybe you did read it but realized you couldn't post your weak little flame unless you ignored it. Either way, your point is poorly made since GIMP could easily be "the best tool for the job" in many cases.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:38PM (#15733037)
    I use it for my sketches on windows with a wacom tablet and it's nice enough. Working with the paths to "ink" is pretty straightforward and only took me a few days to figure out fully. Part of my problem was thinking that I didn't need to use the tutorials on They're basic, but very helpful (like for drawing a straight line). The layers are nice and intuitive, but sometimes when I undo after switching layers I forget that I'm on the wrong one. Also, it's crashed once or twice so badly that it seems to be able to destroy my work despite pressing save often.

    The options for working with a tablet are great as far as being able to make my eraser another pen (just wish I could get it to initialize as an eraser instead of the default brush), and having the pressure control different things (thickness/opacity/whatever) is super easy. One annoying point is that you have to have your pen/eraser active to change the brush for that pen/eraser. So I have to hold the tip close (but not close enough to draw) and use my mouse to change brush, since just using the mouse won't change the brush for the pen.

    I also have tried to make some cartoons with the gimp animation package, but it made almost no sense to me. I just didn't understand the GUI at all.
  • Yeah, they just don't call it that: Gimp skincare []

  • Re:Gimpshop! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <> on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:43PM (#15733084) Homepage Journal
    However, you must also consider that like-photoshopness and intuitivity might well be the same thing

    No, no I don't have to consider that. People mistake the ease of use familiarity gives with actual intuitivity. Most gimp complaints are about menu placement, etc (now the right click for everything monstrosity is gone).

    Adobe has done some useability research, after all. Have GIMP developers?

    yes they have. []

  • by ettlz ( 639203 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:54PM (#15733177) Journal
    Middle click and drag. Those other buttons are there for something. Click the cross in the bottom right hand corner of an image window to scroll over a thumbnail.
  • by rjnagle ( 122374 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:05PM (#15733259) Homepage
    I've been reading and using this book for a few weeks. It's great!

    One thing not mentioned in the review is how badly the open source community needed an updated gimp book. Gimp is already a mature open source project, and two books that came out a few years ago were long outdated.

    The best thing about the book is the generous use of images to illustrate her points.. A Press did a fantastic job with layout and making it easy to find things.

    I appreciate how the book reviewed a few basic points with general information. In short, this book has a little bit for everybody.
  • by pilkul ( 667659 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:15PM (#15733335)
    Certainly. Your problem is that you're only thinking of consumer desktop software. IIS sucks compared to Apache. Windows CE sucks compared to embedded Linux. CMD.EXE sucks compared to Bash. ASP sucks compared to Perl or PHP. Windows Terminal Server sucks compared to Openssh.
  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:18PM (#15733361)
    Isn't it time somebody came up with a name for this app which can be spoken out loud in polite society???

    Sure, such a name already exists: call it the "GNU Image Manipulation Program."

    Glad I could help clear that up for you!

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:18PM (#15733363) Journal
    This comes up in any discussion of GIMP, and has been answered many times. RAW isn't one image format, it is any proprietary unprocessed image data from a scanner or camera. Proprietary, that's the key word. GIMP, being free, can not afford to license the necessary file conversion software from the scanner and camera manufacturers, but every scanner and camera out there comes with software to convert its proprietary RAW format to TIFF or JPEG. Why would GIMP need to do this?
  • Re:Gimpshop! (Score:2, Informative)

    by KingJackaL ( 871276 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:32PM (#15733458) Homepage

    While I don't find GIMP unusable, and while I recognise that most people like Photoshop because they're used to it (for much the same reason people use IE, Word, AOL, etc) - I must say that the GIMP UI has a long way to go.

    The lack of a tabbed interface for example, breaks the now accepted model for interaction with many similar sub-task panes/windows. It's one of the big reasons Firefox/Opera/etc get pimped over IE, and with Windows XP's similar-window-grouping, it means sub-panes of GIMP are an extra click away. (and no, this argument is not going to go away. And no, GIMP's gazillion-windows strategy is not 'just different')

    Having said that, I'm a coder and never use Photoshop unless I have to (mainly just cos I'm a g33k...). There's a lot of power in the GIMP when used right - recently I've been working on an icon library for my various code projects. So I've been drawing the icon's in SVG using Inkscape. Then running perl scripts to colorize them appropriately, convert them to PNG format (using a GIMP script), and scale them appropriately (again using a GIMP script). 30 minutes work on an icon and I have it available in as many colors, sizes and formats as I choose to run the scripts for :). 15000 final icons and counting - I'd hate to do them by hand. it's not all doom and gloom. But there definately IS plenty of work for the GIMP team to tackle.

  • Beginning Gimp ... (Score:2, Informative)

    by kahrytan ( 913147 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:34PM (#15733481)
    How to use Gimp ... use Pixel Image Editor [] and help support alternatives to the overprice PS.
  • by louiebeth ( 989447 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:42PM (#15733542)
    Check out [] -- it's 40% off. And if you are one of their members, you get the additional 10% discount. For once, BN is cheaper than amazon! Pretty good deal if you want to buy the book.
  • What GIMP is missing (Score:2, Informative)

    by polioptera griseoapt ( 961130 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:01PM (#15733678)
    I too love free software, but finally I had to bit the bullet and get Photoshop. Gimp is great, but not for professional image processing. The most glaring things left out:
    • Supports only 8 bits. My scanner has 16 bits/channel. I have been using cinepaint, which now is going through a transition period, but Photoshop is definitely nicer than cinepaint for photo editing.
    • No support for color profiles. This is a killer if you want to do any kind of digital darkroom with some accuracy.
    • No decent support for stitching photos to make panoramics. Before you say that you can twiddle with layers to do this, go see how Photoshop handles this, there is a huge difference. Photoshop can detect similar areas and distorts the photos (to make up for perspective change and lens distortion) to stitch them together properly. In GIMP it's hopeless.
    Aside from this, GIMP has more than its share of bugs. Just yesterday I was doing a complicated selection from an image, and trying to bucket-fill it with solid color. For unknown reasons the filling would alter also non-selected areas. Go figure. In Photoshop this worked fine.

    I use linux for everything else, but for photo editing, Photoshop IS much better. Also, the GIMP code is an undocumented mess. At some point in time, I wanted to hack into it to add some functionality, and I spent 2-3 hours staring at the code without being able to figure out how to access the image pixels. At that point, open or closed source, what's the difference to me?

  • by EllynGeek ( 824747 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:04PM (#15733699)
    One of the biggest reasons to like the Gimp is the Gimp devs won't have you jailed and arrested, while Adobe just might. []
  • by mph ( 7675 ) <> on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:05PM (#15733723)
    Beginning Gimp (book) - $40
    Photoshop Elements 4.0 (software) - $80
    Curves tool - priceless!
  • by soupdevil ( 587476 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:19PM (#15733814)
    I don't know if GIMP has a healing brush, but it doesn't have Small Cap text, CMYK, adjustment layers, Pantone, etc.) I know I have found other limitations with GIMP, but those are the ones that come to mind.
  • by Mycroft_514 ( 701676 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:23PM (#15733853) Journal
    Because the RAW format contains information that is lost using the software to convert it to TIFF or JPEG. And directly reading RAW format does not. This is a deal killer for digitial photographers using this package.
  • by treeves ( 963993 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:24PM (#15733862) Homepage Journal
    I bought a Wacom graphics tablet for $80 ($100 minus $20 mail-in rebate) and got Photoshop Elements 3.0 bundled with it, making it essentially free. And there are workarounds to let you do things with PS Elements (like masks) - those things that Adobe disabled in Photoshop to make it Elements. IIRC, PS Elements 4.0 has more features disabled than 3.0, so try and get the older one if you can.
  • by Tlosk ( 761023 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:33PM (#15733921)
    Your link might be fruity, it's not to the developer's site but rather to a "fan" site, whatever that means. The exe wouldn't load and gave a suspect error message, also it is a different size than the one from the real site. []

  • by Gnavpot ( 708731 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:35PM (#15734577)
    If you are looking to see if it has similar power to Photoshop without having to learn a new interface, try GimpShop
    After testing the Windows version (2.1.8) found at for a few minutes:

    In PS, Ctrl-T while clicking on an object will select that object's layer. In GS, this does not work, exactly as in Gimp. But the Gimp method of PgUp/PgDn to select next/previous layer works.

    In PS, while moving, both the outer edges and the center of the object will snap to guides. In GS, only outer edges will snap, exactly as in Gimp. I quite often want to make the center snap, so this one is really annoying.

    In PS, while scaling, holding down Shift will preserve the aspect ratio, and holding down Alt will scale around center. In GS, none of these works, exactly as in Gimp. Also quite annoying.

    I am not saying that the interface of GimpShop is bad, but it is not a PS interface. I would call it a Gimp interface with rearranged menus.

    By the way, not related to the UI: Crashing this application is as easy as File | New | Cancel. Instant crash for me everytime. The Gimp (2.2.11) is able to survive that.
  • by Curtman ( 556920 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:59PM (#15734694)
    If anyone could give a 10 year Photoshop Veteran a valid reason why I should use GIMP I'd love to hear it (price is not a valid reason).

    SIOX [] is pretty cool. Watch the video []. It's not in the stable version of GIMP yet though.

    /me hopes for a 2.4 release soon.
  • by Baloo Ursidae ( 29355 ) <> on Monday July 17, 2006 @09:10PM (#15734962) Journal

    Small Cap text

    So install a smallcap font


    Wrong, GIMP has CMYK color modes, and has for years

    adjustment layers

    Not needed in the GIMP paradigm: All layers can do that anyway


    Patented. You're welcome to convince the developers to extend a source license in perpetuity to the GIMP project.

At work, the authority of a person is inversely proportional to the number of pens that person is carrying.