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Joe’s Guide to Free eLearning Tools: GIMP (Graphic Tools & Resources) July 7, 2009

Posted by jmullock in e-Learning Tools.
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Item: GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)

Category: Graphic Tools & Resources

GIMP is an open-source, freeware image manipulation program developed on the GNU/Linux Operating System.  That is to say, GIMP is a free, Photoshop-type program that works on multiple computer platforms.  It wouldn’t even be fair to call it “Photoshop-lite” as it is much more than that.

To put it in context, I recently attended a “Photoshop for Beginners” workshop.  While it was only a two-hour session geared towards the basics, the fact is that I actually used GIMP in the class.  There were a few minor instances where I had to hunt for a tool in the program, but otherwise I was able to complete the same exercises as easily as the folks using Photoshop.

Since GIMP is open-source, virtually anyone can create additional plug-ins, extensions, or modifications to the core program.  Plug-ins and extensions are too numerous to mention, but my favorite modified versions of GIMP are GIMPshop and GIMP Portable.

GIMPshop modifies the menus and some button labels, etc. in GIMP to make it more closely align with the look-and-feel of Photoshop, while GIMP Portable is a slightly scaled down version that—as you might have guessed—allows you to run GIMP completely off of a portable drive.

What it Does:

The creators of GIMP say that it is not intended to be a Photoshop replacement, but I honestly cannot think of a better description.  Just about anything you can think of in terms of creating, editing, adjusting, or converting an image can be done with GIMP.  The tools included in GIMP allow you to scale, resize, or crop images, “paint” with a wide variety of brush types and sizes, adjust or replace colors, add a myriad of effects, or work on images in layers (great for working on the web where you want portions of an image to be invisible, but still clickable).

GIMP also allows you to “undo” multiple steps, which helps greatly when you are experimenting with a new tool or effect.  Finished images can be saved in a large variety or formats, or converted from one format to another.

When to Use:

If you need to modify images and don’t have access to (or the budget for) Photoshop, I highly recommend GIMP.  The only drawback is that it–like Photoshop–can be overkill in certain situations.  If all you need to do is to crop your picture (for example), there are other very small programs that will let you do this quickly.  Note:  It is not difficult to do this in GIMP, it’s just that the temptation to try some of the other tools may be more time consuming that you anticipate!

How to get it:

The official site (www.gimp.org/) provides links for downloads, documentation, news, plug-ins and more.  The most current version is 2.6.X.

The modified versions of GIMP mentioned above can be found at:

GIMPshop               http://www.gimpshop.com/ and

GIMP Portable:       http://portableapps.com/apps/graphics_pictures/gimp_portable

Related Resources and Documentation:

The GIMP User community is very active, and provides a number of excellent resources, from basic documentation all the way to step-by-step video instructions for specific techniques.  Here are just a few examples:

The “Official” baseline documentation:          http://docs.gimp.org/2.6/en/

Lite Quickies (individual how-tos):                  http://www.gimp.org/tutorials/Lite_Quickies/

Grokking the GIMP:                                                  http://gimp-savvy.com/BOOK/index.html

A collections of tutorials can be found at:

www.noupe.com/gimp/30-exceptional-gimp-tutorials-and-resources.html

Also, a huge supply of GIMP how-to videos can be found by searching for “GIMP 2.6” on www.youtube.com/ .

Two Quick Notes:

On Photoshop:  If you are a fan of Photoshop, please be aware that I in no way mean to dismiss that program.  In fact, if there are limitations to GIMP (vs. Photoshop) that more advanced users should be aware of, please feel free to share your comments!

On this BLOG: To all* those folks who read this BLOG, I just wanted to say thanks and to let you know that I will be making these post bi-weekly from now on (gotta continue to make time for the day job!).

*And by all, I mean there are at least three or four of you out there….who knows, maybe more!

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