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Technical Information
 Gimp -- Closing In on Photoshop...

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6 Jan 2005

Coming from an interest in digital photography, I learned Photoshop quite well. When I saw the light and started using Linux, I found out there was no native Photoshop made for Linux. This almost made me turn back, that is, until I found The Gimp.

The Gimp is a photo manipulation software package which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. When I found Gimp, I soon realized that with a little bit of elbow grease in learning how to use it, it could easily replace Photoshop for how I used it.

The Gimp excels at creating and / or manipulating images for the Internet. If you are clinging on to windows because of Photoshop, and you use Photoshop for developing web images, you might want to take a look at The Gimp.

Both Novell Linux Desktop and SUSE 9.2 Professional come with The Gimp installed and ready-to-go from the default installation.

Because The Gimp is quite an extensive piece of software, this article will cover just the initial configuration, and basic usage.

To start The Gimp, simply follow: Programs -> Graphics -> GIMP Image Editor

After that, a window will appear asking you some questions. Most of these are already configured correctly for most users. Simply click Continue here.

A new window will appear telling you where Gimp is going to be installed. The default directory is a good choice. Click continue.

The next screen is one that will determine how much memory the images you load will use in RAM. If you're not sure what to do, and you only use The Gimp once in a while, the default option will probably do you good.

If you're going to use The Gimp for large images and you're using it on a machine with a lot of RAM, I'd recommend setting the Tile Cache Size to 1/4 of your total system RAM. (e.g. If you have 1000 Megs of RAM, set this to 250 MegaBytes and you should be fine)

For a more thorough explanation of the Tile Cache setting, click here

You should also set the Swap Folder to a directory with plenty of space. Usually the default setting is good enough.

When you're done, click Continue

Next comes the monitor resolution screen. Monitor Resolution is the ratio of pixels, horizontally and vertically, to inches. If you're planning on doing web work, this shouldn't matter too much. If you plan on printing, this portion of the installation is very important. If you are printing, de-select the 'Get Resolution from windowing system' and click the "Calibrate" button. Follow the instructions on the ensuing screen.

If you're using Gimp for web work, simply press Continue.

Upon clicking Continue, you'll see the flashy Gimp splash screen while Gimp is loading up.

When it's done, you'll be presented with three panels as are shown below.

  • The Gimp Toolbar

  • The Layer / Brush / Path bar

  • The ever-so-helpful Gimp Hints.
Before you delete the window containing the gimp-hints, it'd probably be a very good idea to at least scan over what it says to make sure you know what it's talking about. The Gimp-hint window contains tips telling you things that are very useful but not easy to learn by experimenting, so they are worth paying attention to. If you find it too distracting to look at them each time you start, you can disable them. They are also available at any time by using the menu command Help -> Tips.

One of the first things I noticed about Gimp when I was converting from Photoshop, was the lack of menu items. When I clicked on the Gimp Toolbar -> File, I was presented with almost no options at all. In Gimp, you can access all of the features by simply right-clicking on the image you're working on. When you do so, you'll be presented with a menu with a lot more options. Most of them look like ones you would see in Photoshop.

And that's about it for the scope of this article. It would take thousands of pages to document each and every feature Gimp has to offer, so be patient while you learn it. Once you get the hang of it, you'll wonder why you ever used anything else to manipulate your images.

Kudos to The Gimp crew for their wonderful product. If you would like to donate to The Gimp, click here for more info.

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