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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 wfberg ( 24378 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:18PM (#15732863)
    Does it have a "healing brush"? That's really the only neat feature I can think of that photoshop offers that the gimp doesn't/didn't. The "healing brush" basically makes retouching a picture to remove, say, a zit a fool-proof 5 second job. Which is nice.
  • Re:Gimpshop! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:34PM (#15733001)
    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.

    Which means... it's actually not "for the community," but for the developers who actually give it birth... since they're always going to be intimately familiar with it, and don't have to scratch their heads about an inscrutible UI. Making it for the user community would mean making their UI needs an important part of the effort - which isn't the case with the GIMP.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:49PM (#15733139) Homepage
    Actually, it is quite useful. My girlfriend uses it for doing her own basic image editing. I pointed her to GIMP because I know that it could do everything she needed, and didn't feel she should buy or pirate something she didn't have to. Once you realize that it isn't photoshop, and that not everything will be done exactly the same way, it becomes easy to use. She has no problems using it, and really likes all the cool effects that GIMP has built in. I realize it's just anecdotal evidence, but for me it shows that non-geeks are capable of using GIMP.
  • Buying Photoshop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eebra82 ( 907996 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @03:52PM (#15733166) Homepage
    "But with its high price tag, buying Photoshop is akin to putting strain on your bank balance."

    Which leaves me asking if this could be one of the most warezed applications ever. Photoshop is a must have for a lot of teenagers nowadays and since no one gives a shit about Photoshop Elements, I wonder how many actually buy it. Sure, I bought my own copy but even I started out with a cracked version because I simply couldn't afford it. Adobe knows it: it is better for them to let pirates copy their software rather than funding competitors like Paint Shop Pro and Gimp, which ultimately results in more competition. They might even turn out to buy Photoshop in the end when they can actually afford it - like I did.

    The price of Photoshop is so steep that most people who get it don't even know if they want to use it as a serious tool or not. When I first got it, I only manipulated a few images. When I discovered that I had skills, I purchased the copy. Before that, if there was no pirated version whatsoever, I would NEVER consider buying Photoshop simply because it would seem like buying something I don't have enough time to evaluate.

    All in all, Photoshop requires a year of evaluation. Amusing but true :)
  • by hhr ( 909621 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:03PM (#15733248)
    I agree. So much. I make ad's. Real print ad's in newspapers and magazines. I need the colors to look right. I need to know how much I have to brighten an ad that appears in newsprint vs glossy. I need to send my work to printers, other artists and other ad designers who all have a wide range of equipment.

    GIMP is good for making web images. But it does not address the mechanics of making real world images.
  • by Mycroft_514 ( 701676 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:15PM (#15733337) Journal
    And Me too. I use Photoshop EVERY day to do images of ER diagrams, that are then written as Acrobat files. Does GIMP have the auto tool to allow me to batch together as many as 50 diagrams into one command of the tool and save myself time? Some of these diagrams are measured in FEET across, too.

    I've been using Photoshop since version 2.3, when I actually bought a full blown copy. I recently upgraded to CS2. Still the leader of the pack. Upgrading was only about $100, so it didn't break the bank. I have one copy at work (company pays for that) and one at home - mine. And the big reason for Photoshop - compatibility with my scanners - which GIMP isn't.

    I also managed to finally get a full blown copy of Acrobat, using a student discount. (Even as a working professional, I still have a current student ID at a local college). With the correct plug-in, I set up 9 hour runs from my case tool thru Acrobat. This by automating the process, including Photoshop and Acrobat. Let's see GIMP do that.
  • by lbrandy ( 923907 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:17PM (#15733353)
    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

    Really? I tried to create myself a simple test image in GIMP and needed 5 tutorials to do anything. Sure I can do "burn marks" with a single button, but drawing a straight line requires a tutorial []. It may be powerful, but it is so unintuitive, and made me long for MSpaint.
  • Re:Gimpshop! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cal Paterson ( 881180 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:34PM (#15733478)
    breaks a number of UI design rules

    It's not that it breaks design rules - it's that the GIMP team have a different set of design rules they use. I like theirs better.
  • by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @04:37PM (#15733503) Homepage Journal
    If you're talking print, you'll probably find very few designers who use GIMP. But if you're talking artists and web designers, there are plenty. GIMP might lag on some features and tools that Photoshop has, but it's every bit as useful as Photoshop. I dropped Photoshop from my DTP business some years back when the costs were too much to justify and I don't believe in piracy. I haven't looked back since. GIMP can do everything that Photoshop can but in some cases might require the workaround skills you learned in Photoshop 3.x and up. Most of the timesaving features of the newest versions of Photoshop might be missing, but that doesn't mean you can't get the same output. The only issue remaining is print...
  • by WhitePanther5000 ( 766529 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @05:06PM (#15733726)
    Not at the moment, but according to GIMP's Summer of Code page [], it will hopefully have one by the end of the summer. I actually considered signing up for that project, but other opportunities came about.
  • by aichpvee ( 631243 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @11:00PM (#15735355) Journal
    It's not a matter of giving it a try, gimp is going in the wrong direction and fast. They continuously go out of their way to make the interface unuseable, including but not limited to, GTK2 file dialogs, dialogs that can't be confirmed by hitting enter, and retarded tab order in dialogs. I don't even need to get into the fact that tablet support constantly breaks, which they pass the buck on constantly. The GIMP guys claim it's GTK or something, GTK claims it's the wacom driver guys (this is Linux folks, you know, where you'd think the focus would be for The GIMP), and it never gets fixed.

    A few years ago I thought GIMP had a real shot at taking on Photoshop. All it would have taken is a little bit of effort in the right places. Now I don't think there's any way it will ever catch up and all I can hope is that someone comes along with an open source paint package to knock if off before too long. Because GIMP is never going to get fixed where it needs it and they're going to continue to fuck it over where it doesn't need any changes.

Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.