What is GIMP?


GIMP will feel familiar to any one familiar with Photoshop or other image editing applications; its fundamental elements, the Image window and Toolbox, remain identical.

GIMP organizes images into layers. In order to edit an image or erase something from it, simply select the relevant layer.

GIMP doesn’t provide a welcoming screen or quick tutorial when you launch it for the first time; rather, you are taken directly into its editing interface.

What is GIMP?

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), commonly referred to by its initials in acronym form, is an open-source raster graphics editor used for photo retouching and editing, free-form drawing, transcoding between various image file formats and extensible via plugins and scripting. GIMP runs on most UNIX-like operating systems and features both manuals and books for help as well as online communities which develop plug-ins, artwork tutorials and techniques. Originally released in February 1996 using GTK programming framework,

This program can be freely downloaded from multiple sources and typically comes bundled with many Linux distributions. Additionally, Windows and Apple’s Darwin (Mac OS X) support are both included; you can install it on any platform which supports GNU General Public License licensing terms.

Adobe Photoshop offers extensive support for advanced imaging tasks like image retouching, restoration and composition. Its layered interface is especially suited to working with textures, brushes and patterns, and supports an unlimited number of layers per image. Furthermore, this program can create and edit shapes – an especially valuable feature when applied graphic design.

GIMP features various selection tools, from rectangular and circular selections, as well as the fuzzy select tool which automatically detects areas with similar brightness or contrast, to foreground select tools utilizing the Simple Interactive Object Extraction method commonly employed by digital photographers when extracting subject images from photos. GIMP also provides several masking tools capable of creating effects ranging from bordered selection borders all the way up to full pixel manipulations.

GIMP lacks support for CMYK color space, which may pose problems when creating prints; however, various plugins exist to address this issue. Furthermore, there’s no support for the ICC color management model which may hinder users who work with professional printing presses or digital camera workflows that require specific color profiles; but the software supports high resolution displays and files can be saved in multiple formats.


GIMP provides many features that enable you to complete a range of image manipulation tasks, from photo editing and logo design, through painting and image composition, with ease. Furthermore, advanced color management capabilities and a powerful scripting framework make GIMP ideal for performing all sorts of image manipulation tasks.

GIMP software is available free for many operating systems and supports many graphic formats, including JPEG, PNG, TIFF and BMP. It can also import Adobe PDF documents and save files as PNG, SVG or EPS formats; additionally it can import raw image formats used by certain digital cameras (though cannot save directly to these formats). Furthermore it can even export as HTML, C source code and ASCII art!

When you launch GIMP, a short splash window appears while it loads the program, followed by the main GIMP window displaying an image or canvas where you will work as well as toolbox and Layers dialog windows.

There are tools in the toolbox designed to crop, zoom, paint, erase, smudge, draw, measure and blur an image. When clicked upon one of these buttons, its button becomes recessed to indicate its presence and activation. Many of these tools also offer customisable options which can be seen by double-clicking its icon to open its Tool Options dialog.

GIMP goes beyond basic pixel painting with brushes, airbrushes and pencils that allow users to either paint new pixels onto existing ones, or blend existing pixels together. Furthermore, there are numerous selection tools such as Rectangle Select, Free Select, Fuzzy Select Ellipse Select Foreground Select By Color Select that enable users to either make small custom path selections or select large regions of an image.

GIMP allows you to create an unlimited number of layers and display them all together as one image, making fine adjustments without altering its overall look easier than ever before. Furthermore, there are numerous filters available through the Filters menu of Toolbox that you can apply directly onto images for further customization.


GIMP layers are the building blocks of any image, enabling you to craft complex images while protecting their base image from being altered or damaged. Each layer acts like an opaque plastic sheet which can be layered one upon another for easy editing; once in view in the main window these individual sheets merge visually into one cohesive output in what’s known as compositing.

GIMP layers feature separate color channels for red, green and blue tones as well as an alpha channel to control transparency – creating an extremely flexible and powerful method of building digital images similarly to paper collage.

GIMP layers help users create images by building up “layer stacks”. Each layer can contain either a clipping mask or image object; if it contains a clipping mask, its contents are only visible within its boundaries; otherwise it resides wherever you draw in the layer stack.

Each layer can also be given its own color tag to easily identify it at any point in time, making your work more organized and simpler to keep track of. Take advantage of this feature to stay organized!

Layer modes (or blending modes) are functions that determine how a layer interacts with layers beneath it in the layer stack during composition. There are 38 distinct layer modes available in the Layers Dialog for selection.

By clicking on the folded paper icon in the bottom-right corner of the Layers Dialog, you can quickly and easily create a layer group. Furthermore, existing layers can also be linked into it by simply clicking and dragging. This makes editing group of related layers far simpler than trying to individually adjust each one separately.

After you are finished editing a layered image, you can convert it to a standard RGB file format that can be read by most web browsers and applications by using the File menu and Export As. This will convert your layers to flattened files that will look great across various applications and platforms.

Tool Options

GIMP’s default location for the Tool Options dialog is beneath the toolbox; if this changes or moves, creating a new Dialogs -> Tools dialogue via File -> Dialogs and docking it below it (please refer to section on dialogs and docking for assistance with this).

The Paintbrush Tool allows you to add brush strokes and fills to images. It offers numerous settings and features for creating different effects. The Pencil Tool was created to emulate the behavior of real pencils or calligraphy pens; similarly, its settings and features mirror those found in actual pens or calligraphy pens. Finally, Ink Tool mimics dip pens or calligraphy pens; its settings and features match those found in both Pencil and Paintbrush tools.

There are various selection tools, such as the Rectangle Select Tool and Ellipse Selection Tool, which allow users to easily select rectangular or elliptical regions within an image or layer. Once chosen, these selections can then be used for various purposes – adding background color or text, creating an outline (stroke), etc.

Other tools of note in GIMP include the Rotate Tool for rotating an image or layer and Crop Tool for cropping portions of it to a specific size or cut out for specific cropping. You will find additional useful tools under Tools menu as well.

Certain tools, like the Gradient Tool and Text Tool, feature sliders which enable you to set their values via the Tool Options dialog. Repositioning or reset can also be done easily using these sliders.

If all the tools in your Toolbox have disappeared, chances are it was due to accidentally pressing the Tab key – an effective shortcut for optimizing screen space when working at high zoom levels. You can restore it by clicking its icon or accessing Image Windows menu within GIMP application menu and unchecking Hide Docks.

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