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Wilber - The GIMP mascotte

this article is intended for people who are new to The GIMP or like to know more about it...


The GIMP for Windows

The GIMP is a very nice and powerful software-application for digital image-processing. I mainly use the Windows-version which has been ported by Tor Lillqvist (tml) from Finland (Suomi).

I must admit I am not a graphics-artist or know much about graphics. I am just a regular user with interest in web-graphics. I learnt The GIMP just by using it and by being part of the GimpWin-mailinglist and the GimpImages-mailinglist.

Of course all the images on the page have been created and edited with The GIMP (Windows-version).

Tips for using The GIMP

Read this page to get the most from using GIMP. I hope that these will make your life with The GIMP easier. This article is the result from a couple of years experience with using the Windows-version of The GIMP regularly. The GIMP used to focus on functionality (which is good) instead of being userfriendly. However, with GIMP 2.x this has changed. Now the software is much easier to use and understand.

For your convenience I created a list with pointers to the items in this article:

  1. How do I save an image ?
  2. Detaching a menu with GIMP
  3. Creating your own dialogs
  4. Assigning your own keyboard shortcuts
  5. The GIMP and support for the GIF fileformat
  6. Convert images to indexed color palette (use less colors)
  7. Lots of GIMP-functions do not seem to be available !!!
  8. How do I know on what type of image a plugin works ?
  9. How do I make parts of the image transparent ?
  10. How do I remove the Alpha-channel (transparency-information) ?
  11. How do I change the size of my image ?
  12. Extend The GIMP's functionality with scripts and Photoshop-plugins (updated)
  13. GIMP Quick Start (gimp-win-remote)
  14. Links to other interesting GIMP websites (updated)

Changing GIMP's language

Some screenshots in this article are in my native language (Dutch). However, the language for GIMP can be changed to another language by setting the LANG-environmentvariable to "en".


How do I save an image ?

I just created an image with The GIMP, but how do I save it ?
GIMP has a File-menu in its main window. There you see a Open-command, but no Save-command. You can save an image with GIMP, can you ?!?

To understand this one has to realize that GIMP is a very image-centric application. Most commands are centered around the image. There always was a need to click with the right mouse button ('rightclick') on the image to get a menu with options related to that image. However, with GIMP 2.x the window displaying the image also got a menubar on top. That is much more convenient (it saves one click !).
In this menu you find all operations that work on an image. Clicking on the image using the right-mousebutton will bring up a menu with a lot of functions. It's quite easy, but not obvious at first...
When you read GIMP-tutorials it also comes in handy to know that this menu is referred to as <Image>. So the menu's are addressed like <Image>/Filters/Blur/Anti-alias.

Detaching a menu


GIMP gives these options with menus:
1) use the menu bar on top of the image window
2) click with the right mouse button on the image being created/edited to access the image's context menu
3) detach a specific menu and give it a special place on the screen

To detach a menu just click with the right mouse button on the image and click on the little dotted line on top of the menu. Then a normal window with the menu will appear for your convenience.


Creating your own dialogs

GIMP 2.x gives you the ability to tell how your GIMP should look like. By default GIMP starts with a main window with a Tool Options-dialog embedded and another window with Layers, Channels and Paths. Now suppose you have closed the Layers, Channels and Paths-dialog and want to get it back. You can do this from GIMP's main window using the menu Dialogs > Create new dock > Layers, Channels and Paths.

You can also rearrange the order of the tabs in this dialog just by clicking on a tab and dragging it onto another tab. You can also drop this tab on the GIMP's main window. Therefore each GIMP window dock has a line on which tabs can be dropped. When you move over the GIMP's main window you will see a tooltip that says "You can drop dockable dialogs here". That is the line on which you can drop other dialogs/tabs. GIMP will remember how you designed your own GIMP and the next time you start GIMP it will open the dialogs as you left them when GIMP closed.


Assigning your own keyboard shortcuts

When I upgraded from GIMP 1.x to GIMP 2.x I noticed that the keyboard shortcut for zooming out of an image was not available anymore. This used to be the - key for zooming in and the = key for zooming out, but now I could only use the minus-key to zoom in and the other key did nothing. It appears that one has to go into the Preferences dialog and select Interface. Then select Use dynamic keyboard shortcuts and Configure Keyboard Shortcuts. In the View menu are options for Zoom In and Zoom Out. Now you can easily assign the shortcut =. to Zoom Out.


The GIMP and support for the GIF fileformat

The GIMP does support images in the GIF file format. However, there used to be an annoying patent from Unisys on this image-format. That is why this was a seperate download. Due to this patent the PNG image file format was often used instead of the GIF file format. PNG is now a better choice for web graphics. You can find more information on the BurnAllGifs-website. Microsoft Internet Explorer always had problems with displaying transparent PNG images (when these use a RGB color palette). Internet Explorer 7 will finally support alpha-transparency in PNG-images. This will save webdesigners lots of trouble (like they had in the past years because of some errors in IE).



Convert images to indexed color palette

GIMP can switch from an RGB color palette to an Indexed color palette. The latter uses less colors. Therefore the image size (on disk) will likely be smaller. Less colors are used in the image, but you still want the same (or comparable) quality from the image. You can do so like this:

This assures that you will keep the same colors, but the resulting file will likely be smaller.
However, the results with images with a transparent background are not always good. So I am looking for a better option for images with transparent backgrounds.


Lots of GIMP-functions do not seem to be available !!!

When you open an image lots of GIMP-functions might seem unavailable (grayed out) in the menus. This especially happens with GIF-images, because these always have an indexed color palette and most of the GIMP-functions work on images with the RGB-colorpalette.
But do not fear, you can easily change the image to have an RGB color palette. Use the menu Image > Mode > RGB for this. After that you will see that a lot more options are available... Phew...


How do I know on what type of image a plugin works ?

plugin overview To answer this question The GIMP has a dialog called Plugin Details. The screenshot has been edited to show the Name and ImageTypes-columns near each other).

You can access this window by using the Xtns menu from GIMP's main window. In the Plugin Details-dialog you see the "Image Types"-colum. There are acronyms like RGB, RGBA, INDEXED, GRAY, etcetera. Below are descriptions of these acronyms:

Image TypeDescription
RGBthis works on images with a RGB-pallette
RGBAthis works on images with a RGB-pallette and an Alpha-channel
INDEXEDthis works on images with an indexed pallette
GRAYthis works on grayscale images

Tips for using this dialog:
- you can search this list by filling in the name in the field below and click on "Search by Name"
- you can click on the column names to sort on the specific column
- by selecting a plugin on the left you see a more elaborate description for the plugin
- by clicking on the "Tree View" tab you see an overview of where you can find the plugin within GIMP's menu structure


How do I make parts of the image transparent ?

It took me quite some time to figure this out, but here it is:

There is also an ColorToAlpha-plugin which takes one color and makes all parts of the image with that color transparent. Which is quite convenient...

Beware: not all graphics-formats support transparency. Well-known formats that support transparency are GIF and PNG.


How do I remove the Alpha-channel (transparency-information) afterwards ?

Sometimes you want to get rid of the transparency-information in your image. Of course you can save the image to a format that does not support transparency, close the image and open it again. But that's not a very nice method.
You'd better just flatten the image: Layers > Flatten Image.


How do I change the size of my image (scaling)

You can change the size of your image by using Image > Scale Image.... Most of the times I want to scale an image down by some percentage. To do this, select percent (see below; default is pixels). In the inputboxes for new width and height 100 appears. You can adjust this to the percentage by which you want your image to shrink or grow.

change image size in pixels, percents, etc

By default the proportions of the image stay the same when resizing. This means that when you change width or height of an image, the other value also changes. You can alter both values independently when you click on the button with the 'chain': chain closed.
The image alters to chain opened and now you can change both values without changing the other value.
To synchronize values, you can click this button again to reset to its default behaviour.


Extend The GIMP's functionality with scripts and Photoshop-plugins

You can extend The GIMP's functionality even more by adding scripts (Script-Fu) or Photoshop-filters to your GIMP-installation. A good resource for GIMP-scripts an tutorials is the GIMP User Group website.

For using Photoshop-plugins in GIMP the pspi.exe plugin for Windows has been created. you install this by extracting it to your GIMP installation directory (it will place itself to the lib/gimp/2.0/plug-ins folder). After a restart of GIMP the Xtns-menu of GIMP's main window got a new item called Photoshop Plug-in Settings. When you click on it you can set a path to where your Photoshop-plugins are stored. GIMP will load the filters that are found in that folder at startup. These filters are added to GIMP's Filters menu.

You can find free Photoshop-filters at FreePhotoshop.com. The Virtual Photographer-plugin is good to begin with. Not all Photoshop-plugins work with GIMP, so you should try using some of them to see whether they work fine.


GIMP Quick Start

There is an additional program to open an image in an existing GIMP-session. This is called GIMP Remote. There is also such a program for Windows. This is called GIMP-Win-Remote. Recent Windows-versions of GIMP already have this program in GIMP's bin folder. You can associate graphic files with GIMP like this (using Windows XP):

You can do the same for other filetypes (like BMP, GIF and PNG). Now when you doubleclick on an image from one of these types it will be opened in GIMP. When GIMP is already running the image will open in the active GIMP session. If GIMP is not yet running a new GIMP session will be started and the image will be opened with it.


For more information, visit these sites:


A previous version of this page can be found here. It focuses on GIMP 1.x, while this page now focuses on GIMP 2.x (it has been written using GIMP 2.2.6 on Windows XP SP2)

© 2001-2005 ~ Martijn Weisbeek (to show your support for this page, please send me an e-mail if it has helped you...)

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