The_GIMP_iconHi there, time for another of our on-going series of tools related posts. Today, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP. And, yes, it is a daft name, even when you know that GNU, in this con­text, is an oper­at­ing sys­tem rather than a large African ungulate.

The GIMP people describe it as “…a freely dis­trib­uted piece of soft­ware for such tasks as photo retouch­ing, image com­pos­i­tion and image author­ing. It works on many oper­at­ing sys­tems, in many lan­guages”.

I’ve pre­vi­ously talked about another image hand­ling pro­gram, Inkscape; so why do I need both? Well, GIMP is what’s know as a ‘ras­ter’ graph­ics pro­grams, which dif­fers from Inkscape’s ‘vec­tor’ hand­ling. In other words, GIMP works with pixels whereas Inkscape works with shapes.

Like Inkscape, GIMP is open source soft­ware; free soft­ware cre­ated by volun­teers. Maybe unfairly, open source soft­ware is often described in terms of the pro­pri­ety soft­ware with which it com­petes. So, Inkscape is the open source Illustrator, LibreOffice is the open source MS Office, and GIMP is the open source Adobe Photoshop competitor.

As noted above, GIMP is free, so it cer­tainly beats Photoshop in the price depart­ment – Photoshop nor­mally costs circa £650 (around $1000).

gimp_scrshotBut how about on fea­tures? Well, I’ve used both, and GIMP com­petes pretty well. There are some not­able excep­tions: par­tial CMYK/LAB col­our sup­port, for example (Wikipedia has a com­par­ison chart for most graph­ics soft­ware). But unless you know what those terms mean, well, you prob­ably won’t miss them. Professionals graph­ics people prob­ably want Photoshop, but GIMP is more than enough for the the rest of us.

Where GIMP really looses out to Photoshop is in the User Interface (UI). Rather than look­ing like a nor­mal pro­gram, GIMP spawns a bunch of indi­vidual tools and baff­ling dia­logs, mean­ing that many of the most use­ful fea­tures need to be hunted for. This res­ults in a steep learn­ing curve which is often remarked upon by people who are new to it – although there is plenty of doc­u­ment­a­tion on the web to help you out.

Of course, GIMP is still in devel­op­ment and new fea­tures are being released all the time; the upcom­ing ver­sion 2.8 is sup­posed to fix some of the UI issues. Added to that an extens­ive cata­logue of plu­gins to add and extend the func­tion­al­ity and you have a really use­ful graph­ics program.

And, again, it’s free. So why not have a play with the GIMP?

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One Response to Tooling Around: GIMP

  1. […] I’ve blogged about two pro­grams that I use in my design­ing; Inkscape and The GIMP. (Incidentally, is it just me or does Inkscape and the Gimp sound like a 80’s TV show? Just me, […]

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