The Best Free Photo Editing Tool: GIMP Editing Software
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:
- Digital scrapbooking
- Convert color photos to black-and-white
- Colorize old black-and-white photos
- Retouch old or damaged photos
- Cartoonize photos
- Apply watermarks
- Colorize photos to get a black/white/color effect
- Create unique photo compositions
- Create animations
- Design logos
- Create Sepia Tone Images
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!