GIMP Can Be Learned

I’ve been using GIMP on and off for years. Mostly off for most of those years, but recently I’ve found myself using it more frequently.

There are a few reasons. At work, I was upgraded to Windows 7 and lost Adobe Fireworks with the upgrade. That’s forced me to bounce between GIMP and the surprisingly robust Between the two programs, I pretty much have 95% of the functionality I had in Fireworks.

On my hockey blog, and here in Tumblr, I’ve also been working with images more, forcing me to use GIMP.

But I’ve also been using GIMP more because I’m finally understanding how to do things better.

GIMP is considered a bit of a joke among users because it is so robust yet so convolutedly complicated to use. The icons often seem deliberately cryptic, like they’re daring you to figure out what they mean and what they do.

But using it more frequently, as I have been doing, has really helped me to get a handle on the program.

Now keep in mind I don’t do anything horribly complicated. I resize images. I crop pictures. I build very simple graphics. But I’m able to accomplish all of those simple tasks in less and less time using GIMP.

I wish I had some magic words of wisdom to explain how I got to this point, but sadly, it seems like practice might be the only path.

However, here are some guiding principles that have helped me get more proficient with GIMP.

  • Use layers. When you build and edit images using layers (Ctrl-Shift-N), it makes it much easier to go back and correct a mistake. Layering images has saved me days worth of effort when I need to go back and correct or update an image
  • Use the text menus along the top navigation. The icons don’t always make sense but the GIMP menus are usually relatively explicit. If you work the text menus, you can usually find the option you need
  • The Tab Trick. The two menus that surround the image editing area are one of the more challenging aspects to GIMP. They’re two separate menus that float around a third box and everything is connected yet disconnected. You often need the menus but they get in the way about just as often. Recently, I learned that clicking Tab will hide the menus, allowing you work with your image. When you want the menus back, just hit Tab again. It’s a simple tip that makes GIMP about ten times more usable.

    screenshot of gimp

I’m not here to praise GIMP. I just want people to realize that one can learn to use it. And as you learn to use it, you’ll realize it is a flexible, powerful image editor. It has a steep learning curve, but it is possible to become relatively proficient with it. After a few weeks of being forced to use it, I feel competent with it. So if you’ve played with GIMP for a few hours and then given up, I encourage you to give it more of an extended look. It’s worth the time investment.

GIMP can be learned. I’m living proof.