Manipulating Images with the GIMP

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The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an image-manipulation program written by Peter Mattis and Spencer Kimball and released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). It is installed if you select the Graphics Manipulation package when you install Linux from this book's companion DVD-ROM. The GIMP is comparable to other image-manipulation programs, such as Adobe Photoshop and Corel Photopaint.

To try out the GIMP, select Applications O Graphics O the GIMP from the GNOME desktop or the KDE desktop. The GIMP starts and displays a window with copyright and license information. Click the Continue button to proceed with the installation. The next screen shows the directories to be created when you proceed with a personal installation of the GIMP.

GIMP installation involves creating a directory called .gimp-2.2 in your home directory and placing a number of files in that directory. This directory essentially holds information about any changes to user preferences you might make to the GIMP. Go ahead and click the Continue button at the bottom of the window. The GIMP creates the necessary directories and copies the necessary files to those directories; then it displays an installation log.

After reading the installation log and ensuring that there are no error messages, click the Continue button. The GIMP then guides you through several screens from which you are asked to specify the values of some parameters; you can accept the defaults and click the Continue button in each screen until the installation window closes. From this time on, you won't see the installation window; you have to deal with installation only when you run the GIMP for the first time.

The GIMP then loads any plug-ins—external modules that enhance its functionality. It displays a startup window that shows a message about each plug-in as it has loaded. After finishing the startup, the GIMP displays a tip of the day in a window and a number of windows, as shown in Figure 10-9. You can browse the tips and click the Close button to close the tip window.

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Figure 10-9: The Initial Windows Displayed by the GIMP.

The initial GIMP windows include a main toolbox window titled the GIMP, a Tool Options window and a Layers, Channels, Paths, Undo | Brushes, Patterns, Gradients window (as the window title implies, it includes lots of tools in a single window). Of these, the main toolbox window is the most important — in fact, you can close the other windows and work by using the menus and buttons in the toolbox.

The toolbox has three menus on the menu bar: File, Xtns (extensions), and Help. The File menu has options to create a new image, open an existing image, and quit the GIMP. The Xtns menu gives you access to numerous extensions to the GIMP. The exact content of the Xtns menu depends on which extensions are installed on your system. The Help menu enables you to view tips and get help on the GIMP. For example, select Help O Help to bring up the GIMP Help Browser with online information about the GIMP.

To open an image file in the GIMP, select File O Open. This brings up the Open Image dialog box from which you can select an image file. You can change directories and select the image file you want to open. The GIMP can read all common image-file formats, such as GIF, JPEG, TIFF, PCX, BMP, PNG, and PostScript. After you select the file and click OK, the GIMP loads the image into a new window. Figure 10-10 shows a JPEG image of a photograph that the GIMP has opened.

Figure 10-10: Opening an Image with the GIMP.

The GIMP's main toolbox also has many buttons that represent the tools you use to edit the image and apply special effects. You can get pop-up help on each tool button by placing the mouse pointer on the button. You can select a tool by clicking that tool's button, and you can apply that tool's effects on the image.

For your convenience, the GIMP displays a pop-up menu when you right-click your mouse on the image window. The pop-up menu has most of the options from the File and Xtns menus in the toolbox. You can then select specific actions from these menus.

You can do much more than just load and view images with the GIMP, but a complete discussion of all its features is beyond the scope of this book. If you want to try the other features of the GIMP, you should consult the GIMP User Manual (GUM), available online at

Some documentation about the GIMP is installed in the /usr/share/doc directory. To go to that directory, type cd /usr/share/doc/gimp* (the actual directory name depends on the current version of the GIMP). The README file in that directory points you to other resources on the Web, where you can learn more about the GIMP. In particular, visit the GIMP home page at to learn the latest news about the GIMP and to find links to other resources.

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