The Gimp

You can also find some good GIMP lessons HERE. Please be sure to read the highlighted paragraph at the bottom of this page.

The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an excellent free computer graphics program which exists for many computer platforms including PC and Mac. You can almost certainly find a version for your computer on the GIMP site, The GIMP user manual is available in many languages.

This course was written with PCs in mind but if you use a Mac or other platform you will easily be able to adapt the instructions here to match your operating system.

The GIMP is so good that it can compared to well-know and rather expensive programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro or many other well-know graphics programs. I strongly recommend that you consider adopting the GIMP as your standard graphics program indefinitely. A huge advantage of free software is that you can update the program regularly at no cost whereas buying updates to a commercial program like Photoshop could get very expensive over time. Like Photoshop, the GIMP is designed mainly for working with digital photographs - it would not necessarily be the best program to use to make artwork, drawing or animations.

A great feature of the GIMP is that you can easily change the language of the interface into any one of dozens of language including Greek, Slovak, Irish etc. Just choose Edit>Preferences>Interface and set the language there. Your chosen language will appear the next time the GIMP starts up.

The GIMP has many uses:

  • It can be a useful utility for converting images between different file formats such as gif, jpeg, tiff, etc. (more on file formats later). Or it can be used to adjust image size or file size e.g. for faster loading on a web page.
  • It can be used to correct faults in individual photographs, by adjusting colors, contrast, brightness, sharpness etc to give an image that is as true to life as possible.
  • Without falsifying the image, the image can often be improved by trimming the edges, a technique known as 'cropping' the image.
  • At the next level, the GIMP can be used improve the photograph in ways that deliberately falsify the image. For example, unwanted parts of the image could be removed, such as the lamppost that appears to be growing out of someone's head, or the unwanted 'red-eye' effect in a flash photograph. Or the wrinkles in the face of an older person might be softened or removed. A boring white sky could be replaced with a blue one...
  • the GIMP can also be used to incorporate text into an image
  • At the highest level, it is possible to be highly creative and artistic when using the GIMP, combining images together to form montage effects or changing colors and using special effects to give the photographs a surreal quality...

The GIMP used to have a major drawback: an awkward multi-window interface where one window would often block another. Recent versions (2.8 onwards) offer a single-window mode which I recommend you choose (Windows>Single Window Mode). The program will remember your choice.

Recent versions still have one annoying little quirk: 'saving' does not work as in other programs. In other programs if you open a file in a certain format (jpeg, for example), modify it and 'save' it then it will be saved in the original format, overwriting the previous file. In the GIMP the save operation ALWAYS saves in the GIMP's native format, XCF. If you want to 'save' in the original format you have to choose 'Overwrite' in the File menu - there is no shortcut for this. If you are wanting to save (sorry, export) a new image in any format other than the native format then you must choose Export To. Similarly, 'Save As' does not work as expected - it ALWAYS saves in the XCF format. The equivalent to the 'Save As' command of other programs is File>Export.

This course includes many photographs, almost all taken by me (© Nigel Ward).