Originally Published: Monday, 24 July 2000 Author: Alex Pearsall
Published to: learn_articles_firststep/General Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

GIMP for Newbies, Part 1

So, you've just finished installing Linux at the recommendation of your friends, or just out of personal interest. You're browsing through some of the programs that came with it, and you happen to see one in the graphics sub-menu called "GIMP". Hopefully, this article will help to demystify this wonderful graphics program for Linux.

So, you've just finished installing Linux at the recommendation of your friends, or just out of personal interest. You're browsing through some of the programs that came with it, and you happen to see one in the graphics sub-menu called "GIMP". You pop it open, a whole bunch of weird and funky dialogs come up, and *BAM*, you're there. It looks like a drawing program, but some of it still leaves you scratching your head. Or, perhaps you dont have it installed, but you've heard a lot about it and wish to give it a shot. Hopefully, this article will help to demystify this wonderful graphics program for Linux.

GIMP stands for "GNU Image Manuipulation Program". For those of you who have ever used Photoshop for Windows, some of this will seem like a review, but this article will help you transfer from Photoshop into GIMP. GIMP was initally created by Peter Mattis and Spencer Kimball as a viable alternative to the X paint programs at the time. The first release was in 1996. For those of you that dont yet have the GIMP, go to http://www.gimp.org and follow the instructions to download and install GIMP. This article assumes that you already have GIMP installed. With that out of the way, its time to get to the good stuff...

When you first open the GIMP, a dialog will come up, and a loading bar will scroll showing various plug-ins loading into GIMP. Then, you will be presented with a toolbox and a "Tip of the day". Dont turn off these "Tips of the day" - I've been using GIMP for a long time, and I still find that sometimes a tip will popup with exactly the answer I have been looking for. The dialog box that comes up has a variety of tools that you can use to create and manipulate your image. To find out what each tool does, hover your mouse over its button, and a dialog box will come up.

One of the most important parts of the GIMP is the menu system. Many people go about creating images the hard way in GIMP, never knowing that there is a menu that contains the function they were looking for. On the toolbox, there are 2 menus - File and Xtns (Xtns stands for extentions, as you may have guessed). Within the File menu exists some basic functions (Open, Save, New, Preferences and Dialogs). Dialogs is one of the more important functions in this menu. If you check the dialogs submenu, you will see Patterns, Brushes, Gradients, Palette and Tool Options. This is important. The brushes section contains all the brushes that come default with GIMP (you can make your own, but we'll get into that at a later article). You can select all sorts of brush types, shapes and sizes. You use the pattern dialog to change what pattern the pattern stamp uses.

In the Xtns menu you find some very nifty functions, specifically Script-fu. Script-fu is basically the programming language of the GIMP, and comes with some cool scripts by default. If you go to "Xtns" -> "Script-Fu" -> "Logos", you are presented with a variety of graphical logos you can make. Lets make a basic one first. Select "Basic II". A dialog box will pop up with some fields for you to fill out. The "text-string" is the text that will be displayed in the image you create. Whatever you enter into the "text-string" field must be surrounded in quotes, as is the default text "Script-FU". So if you wanted to change the text displayed into the image to Gimp RULES!, you would enter "Gimp RULES!". The "font-size(in pixels)" is exactly what the name implies. The font size usually dictates the size of the image you will be making (with Script-Fu, anyway). Around 150-250 is usually a good number. The next two dialogs tell you which colors will be used for the text color and background. Most script-fu dialogs have these options.

After you have entered in all of the necessary information, click ok, and wait for your new image to finish. If all went as you expected, you should see your new image. You can then fine-tune it with the various GIMP tools. Test out all the tools in the toolbar, and change brush sizes to see what each one looks like. Once you've finished testing, it's on to saving. The gimp can save in a wide varity of formats, such as BMP, JPEG, PNG, HTML, and more. Simply right-click on the image and select the "Save" function from the File menu. Then you will be presented with a basic file-manager type of dialog. Choose where you want to save the file, and enter a name. Since this is a GIMP image, it makes sense to use the GIMP picture format, XCF. Select "XCF" from the file type menu in the save dialog. The reason you cannot save this as a JPEG file and have it show up properly is because your image is Layered (we'll cover layers in Part 2). There are more advanced functions within the GIMP that you can use to make your image really funky, but we'll cover that in Part 2 as well. Have fun, and EXPLORE... Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained.