Introduction to GIMP


GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) is an image editing program that imitated the basic functions of programs like Adobe Photoshop. In this article, you will learn the basics of maneuvering around GIMP, such as creating an image, importing a file, successfully creating layers and saving your work! This is the first article in a new How-To series with GIMP. 

[Original by Isaac Lewis. Updated by Abbi McHenry]

Gimp is pre-loaded on every student laptop already, so just search it on your dash.

Screenshot 2016-04-19 09:35:12When it opens it should look something like this (left), a single gray window. This window is your main work space, you can change the size or make it full screen. These different windows can all be moved around and docked in different parts of the window. Some people, however, don’t like the multiple window setup, as it can get messy and unorganized. In order to have one, unified window, go to (Windows>Single-Window Mode).


Creating an Image

When you open GIMP, at first, you won’t be able to draw, paint, or edit anything. In order to begin painting/editing, you need to create an image. In order to do this, you need to go to (File>New). When this happens, a new window will pop up, giving you the option for the dimensions of your blank canvas. You can change the height, width and what color you want the canvas to be. You can also change what you want the canvas to be measured by, whether it is pixels, millimeters, picas or typogr. points. This allows for different kinds of images to be made.


Opening a Photo with GIMP

Now you can begin your creating! But what if you have a photo of you and your family you want to edit? In order to import an image into GIMP to begin editing, you can import it from GIMP, drag the image from your desktop onto the starting gray window, or right click the image and go to (Open With>GIMP) and then select your file. This allows you to directly edit the image without copying and pasting into an already created canvas. When opening an image, you need to make sure that the file type is compatible with

Opening and Managing Layers

Screenshot 2016-04-19 10:00:59If you do not have the layer tab open already, go to “Windows>Recently Closed Dialogs>Layers…”, this window is home to one of the main features you will need to understand in learning GIMP. With a work in progress image, you can separate different parts into layers. Think of layers like a stack of different pictures in a collage, you can move one up or down, delete one, or draw on it separate from the others. Layers on top will be seen over bottom layers, but can be hidden by pressing the icon shaped like an eye which is next to the layer. This allows more in-depth editing and drawing, and is standard for most drawing programs. Layers are key when adding filters, rendering the image or using alpha selection (which will be covered in a later article!). Basic image editing would not be possible without layers.

Screenshot 2016-04-19 10:08:40

Saving/Exporting a File

 Once you’re done making your image, it’s time to save it. You might just want to save it for later to work on again in GIMP, to do that you go to “File>save” it will save your file as a “.xcf” file. This will keep all your layers and everything unchanged for the next time you open GIMP, but it will not open in any other program, so it’s not for saving a final product. When you are finished and want to save your final product, you will want to go to “File>Export” instead of saving it the other way. You can then choose what kind of file you want your photo to be. Popular choices are .jpg and .png. JPEG files are usually used for smaller images or pixel art. However, you want to make sure that if your final image has a transparent background, you need to save it as a .png! A less common option is a “.gif” file. GIFs use fewer colors and will have a noticeable difference in quality, but can be used to make animated pictures. This is very important if you decide to ever animate on GIMP.

You’ve now got the foundation of your GIMP knowledge, and you can now advance from here! More upcoming articles will explain branch out into more advanced topics! Stay tuned, and happy editing!


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