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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 Whafro ( 193881 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:20PM (#15732879) Homepage
    While I can buy the notion that The GIMP is suitable for many tasks that programmers might require, does anyone on here who considers him/herself first and foremost a designer use The GIMP as their daily composition tool?

    I've always seen it (rightly or wrongly) as a tool made by programmers for programmers who want to make/modify and image here and there, but I'd like to be shown to be wrong about this.
  • by therealking ( 223121 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:23PM (#15732903) Homepage
    Unfortunately, for a beginner who is taking his first baby steps in GIMP, the interface might feel a bit kludgy

    Photoshop has a really great interface. When I want to get work done I could care less if there is an "open source" alternative. I want the best tool for the job that's the easiest/quickest route to completeing that job. Not the tool that best suites my techno ideology.

    Something the open source community needs to understand.
  • Photoshop Elements (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) < minus city> on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:23PM (#15732904) Homepage
    Hmm, well, for those who think GIMP is too hard and Photoshop too expensive, there does exist an $80 version of Photoshop called Photoshop Elements.

    Sometimes you can get a good discount with bundles for scanners or cameras or printers, too.

    I figure the GIMP isn't the only player in the "low end" space. Of course if you are dedicated to free/OSS, you can feel free to ignore PE.
  • Re:Gimpshop! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <> on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:26PM (#15732930) Homepage Journal
    I find it much more intuitive than plain GIMP

    I believe you meant to say:

    I find it much more like photoshop than plain GIMP

    Familiarity and intuitivity are not the same :-)
  • Re:Gimpshop! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekmansworld ( 950281 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:28PM (#15732946) Homepage
    Gimpshop really did hit the nail on the head in a powerful way. Let's face it; most amateur graphics artists are using a pirated copy of Photoshop. They'll continue to do so not only because it's the interface that they're familiar with, but also because the thousands if not millions of graphics tutorials in print and on the web assume the Photoshop interface. The issue is not introducing novices to the concepts of Layers and Color Correction, but rather transitioning the Photoshop savvy into the GIMP environment. Open source is software developed by the community for the community. But the problem is always that the development community isn't very interested in making it easy for the community at large to use said software.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:32PM (#15732974)
    I've used it to do professional compositing work and with three books in front of me I managed to make it do the job.

    I would love to recommend it as a free tool to my friends that do this sort of work 45 hours a week. But I can't. Not due to any single missing feature but because Artists are not inherently computer-people. It's not just a list manipulators to them, it's a set of tools like pencils or brushes-in-the-hand that they have invested their thinking in. Until GIMP does a great emulation of an existing popular UI it would be a crime to put someone through that painful learning curve to save a couple days wages on a toolset that they don't already "think in."
  • by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:34PM (#15732991)
    Officially, people DO buy windows... however, lots of people don't, and it suits Microsoft very well (however much they may "protest") for this situation to continue... after all, I'm pretty sure Microsoft would rather have someone running a pirated copy of windows than discovering the joys of Linux...

    and I'm pretty sure Adobe enjoy this situation as well, as the ease with which people can get cracked copies of photoshop means fewer people are tempted to use The GIMP or other cheaper alternatives to PS.

  • by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:36PM (#15733023) Journal
    "State of the art"? For web graphics, perhaps. In fact, for web graphics GIMP has quite a few nifty tricks up its sleeves.

    But please don't pretend it's anything like a Photoshop competitor. It doesn't even compete with low-end professional tools like Corel Photopaint. Far from being "at a par with any other graphics suite in the market", for print work GIMP is no more "state of the art" than MS Paintbrush is. It can't even do trivial, bottom-of-the-range, entry-level stuff like simply working with CMYK images (no, the Seperate plugin is not a solution, or even the beginnings of a solution).

    Let's not deceive ourselves here. GIMP is a great amateur tool for anyone whose needs begin and end with websites and cheap inkjet printers. But show me a professional who uses it, and I'll show you a professional who someone else has to clean up after before his work is any use to anyone.
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:36PM (#15733024)
    When I want to get work done I could care less if there is an "open source" alternative. I want the best tool for the job that's the easiest/quickest route to completeing that job. Not the tool that best suites my techno ideology.

    I'd also prefer the better tool over the one that provides socialistic warmth and fuziness... but doesn't that mean you couldn't care less, rather than could?
  • by Siguy ( 634325 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:40PM (#15733061)
    The GIMP has a very bad interface. I know there are many people who love its interface, but as someone who has used every graphics suite in a professional setting, the GIMP's interface is by far the worst. It's inconsistent, confusing, and almost nothing behaves in the expected way. There are plenty of good open source apps with decent interfaces (Inkscape is great for instance), but the gimp is a program you have to aggressively memorize every bizarre thing it does. It's not a program where you get used to a few early eccentricities and then everything else makes sense once you understand how it works. Every single app and control works in its own way that has nothing to do with the way anything else works.

    However, even if you can get past that, it's missing a lot of basic features. The brush system is years behind Photoshop (making a new brush everytime I want to change brush size is not acceptable). You can't rotate a canvas easily, directly work in a CMYK color space, all sorts of basic things.

    Now the next response is, it's free. And that's right. There are a lot of tools in this for free software and if you were comparing it to photoshop you could say that ends the debate right there. But that only works if you don't need the power of photoshop, and if you don't, then you should spend 50 bucks on Ulead Photoimpact or Jasc Paint Shop Pro, since each is much better than the GIMP for under 100 dollars. Granted they don't have every single tool photoshop does, but neither does the gimp, and they at least are usable as professional tools.
  • by vossman77 ( 300689 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:43PM (#15733087) Homepage
    I love GIMP, but I am still waiting for GEGL [] and/or 48 bits per pixel [] (16 bits per channel per pixel) support. I conduct scientific research and the thought of trowing away extra data to work in the 24 bits per pixel space is unnerving. I mean most digital cameras support 48bpp pictures now using the RAW format which is supported by linux.
  • by Golias ( 176380 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:55PM (#15733181)
    Also, it's impossible to recommend a program called "GIMP" to anybody without sounding like a complete tool.

    Honestly... Isn't it time somebody came up with a name for this app which can be spoken out loud in polite society???
  • by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:59PM (#15733214)
    Street prices:

    Beginning Gimp (book) - $40

    Photoshop Elements 4.0 (software) - $80

    Note that Photoshop Elements includes a printed manual with tutorials, and extensive help files. Gimp does not.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:09PM (#15733297)
    "GIMP is no more "state of the art" than MS Paintbrush is."

    You had me going until this statement, which raises a giant troll flag over the rest of your post.

  • by jma34 ( 591871 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:28PM (#15733430)
    First off let me just say that I've never used Adobe Photoshop so I can't speak to its features as compared to Gimp, but I can say that my wife uses Gimp for all of her photo editing needs. My wife is not a pro, yet. She does do some cool things with our photos, and I would say that Gimp is very competative with Photoshop Elements. (I have used this once.) My wife feels that the Gimp is superior to elements.

    Just to point out a few things that make the Gimp great for your average user with a digital camera.

    1) Most consumer digital cameras, including mine, use RGB color space and usually JPEG as storage. The Gimp does RGB so you can edit your photos. You are not creating original art for commercial printing as much as a derivative work based on your photos, as such my wife doesn't need CMYK.

    2) The Gimp, in its attempt to lure creative types, has features that PS elements will not have for fear of poaching on full Photoshop teritory.

    3) The Gimp is free. Let me just stress this. I am a student. My wife enjoys digital photo manipulation and digital scrapbooking. The Gimp meets all of our needs. My wife also is somewhat of a Gimp evangelist now on some of the digital scrapbooking forums where PS elements reigns supreme. I don't know how many converts she has, but she has received inquiries and is very outspoken on the economic advantages of a free program that gets the job done well.

    That said, there are a few "rich ladies" (my wife's term) on the message boards who have the full Photoshop and expensive DSLR cameras. Some produce, by my wife's admission, spectacular photos and pages, but some others produce the highest resolution garbage you've ever seen. Often money cannot buy results.

    I am very happy with the Gimp. It provides a creative outlet for my wife and doesn't break the bank. For editing your personal digital photo collection, I and my wife think it is a first rate piece of software.
  • by zifferent ( 656342 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:41PM (#15733534)
    You were using the wrong tool (Paintbrush Tool). All the paintbrushes are images that you can paint with and therefore aren't sizeable. There is a wide selection of paintbrushes available by default, by clicking on the Brush setting either on the Gimp Tool window or in the Paintbrush tool preferences.

    What you wanted was the ink tool (quill pen icon). It allows several settings including brush shape and a simple slider for size.

    Don't assume that just because you can't figure it out that The Gimp is missing the feature or The Gimp sucks.
  • by odie_q ( 130040 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:53PM (#15733622)
    Everyone is whining about The Gimp's interface, and I can't see why. I like the interface. Could someone please tell me what is so horrible about it, 'cause I feel like I'm missing something here.
  • Re:Gimpshop! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:57PM (#15733651)

    Your comment looks reasonable, but is in fact rubbish. I've never used Photoshop. I'm a Free Software fan, and have used Gimp pretty heavily (on Debian, of course) for the last six years.

    I would describe Gimp's user interface and general usability as ... (must try to be tactful here) ... a steaming pile of shit. I've tried to use Layers in Gimp a few times, and simply failed. Am I stupid? People who know me don't think so, especially the ones who awarded me a PhD. Am I just computer illiterate? I've made a good living as a C++ developer (mostly on Unix) for the last 10 years.

    The underlying functionality (aside from the layers functionality, about which I can have no opinion since the user interface gets in the way of exploiting it) is good. The UI does improve from version to version (I'm currently using 2.2), but not enough.

    Having found out about Gimpshop, I'll try it.

  • by ObiWanKenblowme ( 718510 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:00PM (#15733676)

    By the same token, don't assume that because The Gimp does something differently than Photoshop that it's a better way. Traditionally in image editors (and not just Photoshop), the brush icon does the bitmap painting and the pen does the vector drawing.

    Without claiming that "the Gimp sucks" just because it's unfamiliar, I do think there's PLENTY of room for improvement in its interface (my opinion, based on screenshots and descriptions and admittedly never having used it).

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:05PM (#15733715)
    Your wife has discovered something that any half-decent photographer has known for year, long before digital cameras even existed.

    You cannot turn a crap photographer into a good one by giving them fantastic tools. Ken Rockwell puts it quite nicely and I shan't waste my time further essentially repeating him: []

    Contrariwise, a good photographer who is used to the fantastic tools (ie. photoshop) may well find the Gimp limiting.

    For those of us in the middle of the spectrum, the Gimp is an ideal solution.
  • by pjludlow ( 707302 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @06:05PM (#15734143)
    If you know how to use the healing brush you will use it more than "half the time." However, I agree there are times when you have to go the route of using the clone stamp. I find myself using both interchangeably all the time. However, I have yet to use the spot healing brush that came out in CS2. That thing just does not do what I want it to after years of practice using the other ways.

    I started using Photoshop at version 4 LE (came free with a scanner). For the last 5 years I have used Photoshop 90% of the time in my full-time jobs. I have no reason to learn GIMP. And a high-price is relative. for $599 (full version) or $149 (upgrade) that is not expensive for full-time professionals. I'd rather spend either than take countless hours trying to learn GIMP. For the average home enthusiast maybe GIMP would be worth it, but most people could just get by with stuff they could do in Picassa or iPhoto or whatever else comes free. I've still never been given a reason to download GIMP let alone install it. 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).

  • by warewolfe ( 877477 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @06:07PM (#15734150) Homepage
    Hi, I've had exactly the same problem with myself, then I remembered that Gimp stands for GNU image manipulation program, not GNU image making program. Now, if I want to make an icon, logo or graphical button, I use MS-paint to create the basic image and then prettify it with Gimp.
  • by h4ck7h3p14n37 ( 926070 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @06:08PM (#15734157) Homepage

    Isn't that a bit of overkill for an entity-relationship diagram? Have you considered something like Graphviz []?

    As for batch processing with GIMP, I'm pretty sure it's supported []. If you don't like that, you can always use ImageMagick []. If you're complaining that GIMP's batch mode won't execute a script against X number of images, have you considered a tiny shell script? Something like:
    FILES=`find . -type f -name "image[0-9][0-9].gif"`; for FILE in $FILES; do ...; done

  • by delire ( 809063 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @06:15PM (#15734192)
    Disclaimer: I'm a fan of the GIMP and am extremely glad for it's existance.

    I've used GIMP for some years and on the odd occassion have used it to do professional 2D work. While it is extremely powerful when used with knowledge, the core developers are a guarded and decidedly stubborn bunch with a penchant for ignoring basic feature requests from users that they feel might somehow 'threaten' their political differentiation against Photoshop. Of course they care very little to admit this overtly apparent and often discussed tendency.

    As a result we are still stuck with an insane GUI windowing model whereby all palettes, brushes, dialogues, and main toolbar need to be *managed* as separate windows. This makes GIMP a very click-intensive application to use, and this is something that no RSI-fearing designer worth their weight in pixels would want to dance with.

    Is it really such a demoralizing design concession that GIMP adopts the 1 parent window, many-child-window model that nearly every graphical application (including 3D modelers) use? Providing a toggleable full screen option (tricky in X I know) and the ability to quickly define which of your child-windows are visible would boost productivity with the GIMP (for most) a great deal (currently GIMP is really only as productive as Photoshop with a dual-screen setup - a luxury not all have). It would also aid those that want to transition from Photoshop - and there are many, believe it or not.

    Frankly, although Inkscape is a vector graphics application, it's general interface model is light years ahead and GIMP should really take note. If you haven't tried it, you should. Inkscape is one very sensibly designed graphics application and is an absolute pleasure to use.

    Furthermore, GIMP has bizarre and difficult keybinds in place for the most common operations. SHIFT-CTRL-A (note not the easier CTRL-SHIFT-A) to select nothing, and then depending on what window is in focus, it may simply not take at all. There is also counter-productive persistence in the tool-states. Should you have cropped an image with the crop tool and then click somewhere on the image, the crop tool dialogue will pop up again (very likely and annoyingly *on top* of the to-be-cropped area). Why not just go back to a default pointer tool after a tool operation? What are the chances I'm going to want to crop an image twice instead of do something else with it? This persistence leads to all sorts of back-tracking and I for one have never quite got used to it. There are several other gripes but one line more would qualify as a rant.

    If I've spoken wrongly about GIMP, or am missing some fundamentals on it's use, please let me know about it.
  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:27PM (#15734539)
    You got scored as a troll, unfairly.
    The truth is your comment is spot on.

    Quoting the original posting:

    "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. "

    I submit that any software that takes a 12 chapter book before any kind of comparitive prodictivity can be obtained needs more than a glue on interface change. I've never read a book on photoshop, (I don't doubt that they exist), its never been necessary. Its interface is transparently intuitive compared to GIMP.

    GIMP has been a most appropriate name since day one, and the product is so maddening and obtuse that I keep a copy of Photoshop Elements installed under wine on my linux computers just because any trip into gimp will result in a huge waste of time learning what was immediatly obvious in Photoshop.
  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {}> on Monday July 17, 2006 @09:10PM (#15734963) Homepage Journal

    In Photoshop, the user can record actions that she performs on an image and save them as a script. In GIMP, this is not possible. I'd love to do some things, save what I did as a Script-Fu script, and then hand-tweak the resulting code, but GIMP makes me start from scratch. Learning curve is a big issue for creative professionals.

  • by dreamlax ( 981973 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @09:59PM (#15735134)

    SHIFT-CTRL-A (note not the easier CTRL-SHIFT-A) to select nothing

    Um, those are the same thing... It doesn't matter what order the "modifiers" are in, all that matters is that all the specified modifiers are pressed before pressing A. I know because I just tried it.

    Is it really such a demoralizing design concession that GIMP adopts the 1 parent window, many-child-window model that nearly every graphical application (including 3D modelers) use? Providing a toggleable full screen option (tricky in X I know) and the ability to quickly define which of your child-windows are visible would boost productivity with the GIMP (for most) a great deal (currently GIMP is really only as productive as Photoshop with a dual-screen setup - a luxury not all have). It would also aid those that want to transition from Photoshop - and there are many, believe it or not.

    Do you even use a desktop environment? Put GIMP on its own workspace and there you have it; all in one place. I have 8 workspaces and one monitor (at 1280x1024), and I can use GIMP just fine... Perhaps the MDI you want could be the worst thing to add to GIMP because every major desktop environment allows multiple workspaces. Working on multiple images? Span them across your workspaces, set the main dialogs to appear on all workspaces (and perhaps set them to always on top) and with the click of a mouse button, you're switching between your images. Done!

  • by Crayon Kid ( 700279 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @11:06AM (#15736607)
    Did you really need to read through that whole tutorial to figure out how to draw a line?
    Yes. Yes, with GIMP, I did need a freakin' tutorial. The Shift thing didn't cross my feeble mind, unfortunately. Call me dumb all you want, it simply wasn't obvious. There was absolutely nothing even remotely hinting at the possibility. Stupid little me bravely tried to Just Use the mighty GIMP and was properly punished by the fact it took me months to accidentaly discover that you CAN in fact draw lines in it. Serves me right, I guess.

    Come on, people, face the reality. GIMP needs some serious loving put into it if you want anybody other than the most hardened geeks using it.

"It might help if we ran the MBA's out of Washington." -- Admiral Grace Hopper