The Best Free Photo Editing Tool: GIMP Editing Software

GIMP: The GNU Image Manipulation Program
GIMP: The GNU Image Manipulation Program

Get the Power of Photoshop, for Free

The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is a powerful photo editing software. The most spectacular aspect of the GIMP program is it is entirely free to use: just download the software from the GIMP website, and begin photo editing tasks such as:

The GIMP program has possibilities only limited by your imagination!


The Basic Toolbox

The GIMP takes a while to learn, especially if the user is new to photo editing software. The program features an easy-to-use toolbox, with the following tools:

Rectangle Select Tool (rectangle): Select square or rectangular areas in a photo.

Ellipse Select Tool (oval): Select circular or elliptical areas in a photo.

Free Select Tool (lasso): Select any irregular shape in a photo; area is selected by freehand placement of the boundaries.

Fuzzy Select Tool (wand): Select any continuous area in a photo, based on color.

Color Select Tool (hand on color panel): Select all areas with the same color.

Scissors Select Tool (scissors): Select shapes based on intelligence edge-fitting.

Foreground Select Tool (man in foreground): Select objects in the foreground.

Paths Tool (path drawing tool): Create paths (useful for creating circular text and more).

Color Picker Tool (eyedropper): Set colors from image pixels.

Zoom Tool (magnifying glass): Zoom in or out on the photo.

Measure Tool (protractor): Measure angles and distances.

Move Tool (4-directional arrows): Move photos, layers, and selections.

Alignment Tool (square with 4-directional arrows): Arrange and align layers and objects.

Crop Tool (scalpel): Remove unwanted areas from an image or layer.

Rotate Tool (tilted rectangles): Rotate an image or layer.

Scale Tool (large and small rectangles): Enlarge or shrink an image or layer.

Shear Tool (sheared rectangle): Shear an image or layer.

Perspective Tool (angled rectangle): Change the perspective of an object or layer.

Flip Tool (mirror image rectangles): Reverse the layer, path, or image.

Text Tool (big Letter A): Create or edit text layers.

Paint Bucket Tool (paint bucket): Fill a selected area with a color or pattern.

Blend Tool (rectangle with gradient): Fill a selected area with a color gradient.

Pencil Tool (pencil): Hard edge painting using a brush.

Paintbrush Tool (paintbrush): Smooth strokes using a brush.

Eraser Tool (eraser): Erase to background or transparency using a brush.

Airbrush Tool (airbrush): Paint with a brush, with variable pressure.

Ink Tool (ink): Calligraphy style painting.

Clone Tool (stamp): Copy and paste objects or image areas, using a brush.

Healing Tool (bandaids): Smooth out image irregularities.

Perspective Clone Tool (stamp on a slanted rectangle): Selectively copy and paste after the perspective tool has been applied.

Blur/Sharpen Tool (water droplet): Selectively blur or sharpen image areas, using a brush.

Smudge Tool (pointing finger): Selectively smudge image areas, using a brush.

Dodge/Burn Tool (burn tool): Selectively lighten and darken areas in a photo, using a brush.



Across the Top

The tabs across the top of the GIMP program are the locations to open, edit, and layer your photos.

File: Create a new image file, open an existing photo file to edit, or create an image file.

Edit: Copy, paste, undo past actions, fill with foreground and background colors, and more.

Select: Select sections, deselect image areas, feather, shrink or grow selection areas, and more.

View: Various options for viewing the image, including layer boundaries and selections.

Image: Duplicate, scale, transform, crop the image, and more.

Layer: Create layers to the photo, which allows the user to modify one element of the image at a time. In addition, scrapbook pages and original compositions can be created with layers.

Colors: Desaturate your image to create a black-and-white image, adjust the color balance and hue, and more.

Tools: This is another location to access the tools in the toolbox (explained in the previous section).

Filters: Many functions are found here. Create animations, logos, sharpen the image, add bevel edges, and more.

Windows: This is the location that you can open a window showing your layers, paths, channels, and more.

Help: When you get really stuck, the Help tab will offer guidance.

Anyone Can Do This

Much More to Learn

For neophytes to image editing software, the concept of "layers" is sometimes difficult to understand. For most interesting photo effects (like the black and white photos with a splash of color), layers are required. These features will be explored in future articles, and soon even a "newbie" to the world of GIMP will be able to produce portrait-studio quality images at home!

Check Out Basic GIMP Functions

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Comments 25 comments

Wade 5 years ago

"The most spectacular aspect of the GIMP program is it is entirely free to use"

Well, yes and no. There's a famous quote by Richard Stallman: “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.” (also: "“free as in freedom, not as in beer.”

There's a good discussion of the topic here: http://innovate.ucsb.edu/799-richard-stallman-free...

Regardless of the philosophy, remember that it takes a lot of people to keep Gimp moving forward. Writing code, testing new releases, fixing bugs, documentation.. and of course, writing tutorials :)

So, whenever you work with Open Source software be sure to think of the people that support that project. Also, if you like working with images in Gimp, you might also want to try Inkscape and Blender.


Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

well rats. this is totally cool. however, i have a mac so i won't be able to download. awsome info.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York Author

Hi Lynn, here is some info on how to download GIMP for Macs! http://www.gimp.org/macintosh/


tatiana 5 years ago

where can i download the software of GIMP ?


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York Author

Hi Tatiana - you can simply go to GIMP.org to download the software. There is no charge to download!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 5 years ago from United States

Great information! What I'm currently using is so inadequate. I'm going to download GIMP now. Thanks!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York Author

GIMP takes some "getting used to," but it is a very sophisticated program. It can do anything that photoshop can do, though there is definitely a learning curve (particularly with the use of layers). I hope it works well for you!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 5 years ago from United States

Thanks, Leah. The downloading was easy. Now comes the hard part: learning! Take care, Jill


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York Author

Good luck with it! I have a few tutorials - making a picture that is black and white with one color accent is fairly easy, as is turning a photo into a "line drawing" or cartoon. Of course, there are always fun and easy things like adjusting the color saturation to punch up a photo!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

Great information Leah. I use gimp for all my photographs. There is a lot to learn and I am still a newbie at it too. I think it works great so far and free is always good! Voted up and following you! :)


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York Author

Thanks, sgbrown! I've been using GIMP for a while - my cousin told me about the program and I love it! There is a learning curve, but some of the fun "tricks" (like making a photo black and white with one color accent) are fairly easy. Good luck with the program!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

Thank you Leah. Maybe between several of us on here, we can figure it all out. Have a great day!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York Author

There are a lot of great editing ideas! I use GIMP for "fixing" photos (ones that are too light or backlit) and for digital scrapbooking. If only I had the time to do more scrapbooking pages, though - I can't keep up with the kids' ages/events!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

The first thing I will do with a picture, if it is a good one, :) is to edit in GIMP with auto white balance and sharpen. Actually the "unsharp mask" is the one to use, sounds backwards, but it works!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York Author

I use unsharp mask a lot, too - the "sharpen" is a little too much (most of the time, anyway), but the unsharp mask gives just enough edge to the picture. I often adjust the colors, too - but sometimes the auto white balance is off. In that case, I either go to color curves and adjust manually, or I use the slider bars on the auto adjusting tab to achieve the right amount of white balance.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

I haven't worked with the color curves much, don't really understand it yet. I can spend way too much time messing with gimp! :)


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York Author

I started playing with them sometime last year. I've been able to turn completely backlit photos into usable pictures... I'll have to write a hub on it (but not this week - life has been a little crazy with the little one and Thanksgiving is creeping up on us)!


htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

That is great tool..Thanks for sharing


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

GIMP is pretty good, htodd- it can do everything photoshop can do, but you do have to learn the program. I do have problems with it crashing every once in a while, which can be frustrating when you're in the middle of a project!


Dina Blaszczak profile image

Dina Blaszczak 4 years ago from Poland

I've been using GIMP for about 2 years now and I'm so glad there are such great and kind people (creators), who offered this program for people for free!

I Love GIMP! :)))

Voted up.

P.S. @leahlefler Do you have a lot of brushes there? I used to have and it was leading to crashes.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

I need to check the quantity of brushes I have in GIMP - that is a very good point, Dina! I have a lot of crashes, particularly when I work with a lot of layers for scrapbooking. It can get quite frustrating! I now save my work in .png format every few seconds so I can retrieve my work after a crash and still have the layers separated.


bizwin profile image

bizwin 4 years ago from England, UK

Great hub. I have been looking for something like this to use on my black and white pics. Thanks for sharing. Voted across and share.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York Author

It can be a bit difficult to learn in the beginning stages, bizwin, but it is very powerful. I do all of my photo editing with it!


jainismus profile image

jainismus 3 years ago from Pune, India

Gimp is a great photo editing tool, I am using it from last few months.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York Author

I love GIMP, jainismus! I do all of my photo editing with the program - we don't own Photoshop, but I am happy with using the GIMP!

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