GIMP (an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free and open-source graphics editor, often used for image retouching and editing, cropping, resizing, photo montages, image conversion, free-form drawing, and even more specialized tasks.
It is quite similar to Photoshop or Serif Photo Plus, except that it’s free (and in my opinion more user friendly). The ‘basic tool’ – which in my opinion is quite complex – may even be augmented by plug-ins and extensions that allow the use of new file formats, effects filters and batch processing capabilities.
GIMP began in 1995, just 20 years ago, as a class project among 2 university students, and now it has grown immensely! It’s a full-fledged application, available on all types of Linux, OS X, and Microsoft Windows. It is, as I stated, entirely free for anybody – and not just to use! Absolutely anybody can look at its contents and source code to add features and fix issues.
It is truly a wonderful program – it’s expandable and extensible. What is more even more amazing about GIMP is that it’s almost entirely developed by volunteers as a free software project under the banner of the GNU Project. Development takes place in a public git source code repository, on public mailing lists, and in public chat channels on the GIMPNET IRC network.
Personally I use GIMP for everything I do in the graphical world, this includes anything from this featured image of myself on this blog post to my multimedia assignments in College! I don’t have it extremely customized or anything because to be honest the default works beautifully for me, but I love the fact that I know that I can assort absolutely everything in any way I imagine and desire.
When editing or manipulating images I can seamlessly switch between different editing windows, while the toolboxes and option-boxes remain in place, which is fantastic. Many people prefer the single-windowed mode, like Photoshop, as they believe it makes the user more engaged, that option is there too! If you’re someone who does the same thing most times when using a graphic editor, like me, who mostly uses cutting tools and colourizing you can customize your toolbox to prioritize and thus display only the tools you use most, and then you can also tag the likes of brushes to keyboard keys for quick access!
As I said GIMP is extremely intuitive and user friendly when it comes to its user interface. Many of the tools have sliders (for example ‘Opacity’ or ‘Angle’), and many other things are done by clicking a tool and swooshing the mouse a certain way (for example ‘Skewing’ or ‘Resizing’.
There are also fantastic colourizing options, including colour curving, along with the likes of saturation and brightness sliders that are super easy to use. But GIMP isn’t just for editing photos and manipulating images, many people using GIMP with a graphics tablet as a digital painting tool!
There are countless brushes, with of course the possibility to import or create your own, and each of which are all customizable with sliders – brush size, angle, opacity etc. There are also all imaginable export options where one can chose the file type & quality.
But how is it compared to the likes of Adobe Photoshop CC? Photoshop is the industry gold standard when it comes to image editing and digital art on both Windows and Mac OS, it is so widely used that ‘Photoshopped’ has practically become a verb!
Photoshop succeeds over GIMP in some ways: It of course is compatibile with other Adobe products, like ‘Lightroom’.Its online support is fantastic, and it has tons of plugins, tools, and filters. By contrast some of GIMP’s tools aren’t as polished as their retrospective versions within Photoshop, there’s also less support (albeit still quite a lot).
In conclusion, GIMP goes absolutely beyond my expectations as a free piece of software, and easily rivals the likes of Adobe Photoshop CC, which the Extended version along with a ‘Photoshop Element’ would exceed €1000 (hence why an estimated over half of Photoshop users have pirated copies). As a ‘lite’ user of GIMP myself, so to speak, I thoroughly believe it is superior in every single way to Photoshop, but if I were a highly paid professional I may still be more inclined towards Photoshop, for the few benefits it does boast. Every iteration however is getting even better and more user friendly, and as it’s growing rapidly every day the level of product support may soon rival that of Photoshop’s.