Capturing and Editing Screen Shots with the GIMP

For those of you unaware, the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) is a free, open-source image manipulation program. It doesn’t quite stand up to Photoshop, but it’s still extremely useful, and you can’t beat the price.

This is intended to be a very quick tutorial explaining how to capture screen shots and then edit them with the GIMP.

Capturing Screen Shots

There are actually two different ways to capture a screen shot when using GIMP. The first method, which works on most operating systems (though not quite all) is to simply press the “Print Screen” button on your keyboard. In Windows, that will automatically capture the screen shot and add it to your clipboard, so that it can be pasted into an image manipulation program. In some versions of Linux, it will do the same thing. In others, it will open a dialog asking what you want to do with the screen shot. When using this method, the entire screen will be captured in the screen shot. The mouse cursor will not show up in the shot. Once you have captured the screen shot, you will need to open GIMP and choose “Paste as New” from the “Edit” menu.

The other method is to open GIMP, go to the File menu and then go to “Acquire” or “Create” (depending on the version of GIMP you are using) and choose “Screenshot.” You will then be presented with a menu asking you what type of screen shot you would like to capture. You can choose to capture a single window, the whole screen, a specific section of the screen, etc. Once captured, the image will automatically open in GIMP.

Editing the Image

Within the GIMP, there are quite a few different ways to edit the image. I am only going to touch on some very common and minor items.

Cropping the Image

Quite a bit of the time, after capturing a screen shot, you will want to remove excess parts from the image, such as the window decorations, other windows in the background, etc. To do so, simply choose the rectangular selection tool from the toolbox (looks like a rectangle with a dotted line as the border – should be the top left tool).

Next, position your cursor over the top left corner of the part of the image you would like to keep. Hold down the left mouse button and drag it down to the bottom right corner of the part of the image you would like to keep. Go to the “Image” menu and choose “Crop to Selection.” Once you do that, the image will be cropped so that it only shows the part of the image you had selected.

More information can be found in the GIMP “Crop An Image” tutorial.

Adding Text

You might also want to add some text to the screen shot. To do this, simply choose the “Text” tool from the toolbox (looks like a bold letter “A”). Then, click somewhere in the image. A new dialog box will appear into which you can insert your text. Once you have typed the text you want in the image, you can highlight the text and change the font by holding the shift key on your keyboard and using the arrow keys to move across the text. Then, you can choose the font, style, size and color of the text by using the bottom area of the toolbox.

Once you have the text typed and formatted the way you want, click the “Close” button on the “Text” dialog box. Then, click the “Move” tool (looks like crosshairs with arrows at all four points). Then, left-click somewhere on the text and drag it where you want it within the image.

Drawing Lines

You might also find that you want to draw a line on the screen shot somewhere. Maybe you want to point from the text you just inserted to a specific item within the screen shot.

To draw a line, click on the “Pencil” tool in the toolbox. Then, choose the appropriate color for the line by clicking on the foreground palette. The foreground palette looks like a rectangle laid over top of another rectangle. The rectangle in the back is the background color palette. There will be a right angle in the top right corner with an arrow pointing down and another arrow pointing left. That right angle will allow you to easily switch the foreground and background colors. If you click the foreground rectangle, a palette will open, allowing you to choose from a range of colors. Once you have chosen the right color, click “Ok.”

Then, to draw a freehand line (squiggly), simply hold down the left mouse button where you want the line to begin, then drag until you want the line to end. Then let go of the left button.

To draw a straight line, hold down the shift key, then click the left mouse button where you want the line to begin. Let go of the left mouse button, but continue to hold the shift button. Move the cursor to the area at which you would like the line to end, then click the left mouse button again. More information can be found in the GIMP straight line tutorial.


You can download the GIMP for Windows by visiting the GIMP for Windows Web site. You can view instructions for installing the GIMP on many flavors of Linux by visiting the main GIMP downloads page. There are a lot of great tutorials available on the GIMP Web site, too.