This is part three in my series of open-sourced freeware reviews. This time, I will be reviewing one of the most well-known, popular open-source applications out there. The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a fantastic program for those dabbling in image manipulation and photo editing.
The GIMP, like Audacity, is available for all three OS platforms. GIMP can be installed on Unix/Linux systems, Mac systems and Windows-based systems.
GIMP can be downloaded from the main GIMP Web site (among many other places), and comes packaged with most major builds of Linux.
The GIMP is a great program. While there is no “suite” of applications to integrate it with, nor does it have all of the bells and whistles that you’ll find in PhotoShop, it does offer all of the necessary features and tools that you’ll find in both PhotoShop and PaintShopPro.
In addition, GIMP (as I said in my review of PaintShopPro in the past) offers some features, functions and tools that you won’t find in either of the other big programs.
For people that are just getting into graphic design, or for people that do a lot of design work, but aren’t officially “designers”, GIMP is a great alternative to the extremely expensive “PhotoShop” or the moderately-priced “PaintShopPro”. It’s also really nice for people that use a lot of different computers and is invaluable for those people trying to design things using Linux (since it’s really the only design application available for that platform).
I can’t tell you how many times GIMP has saved my hide when I needed to do some quick image manipulation on a box other than my main computer. Since it’s freeware, there are no licensing fees, which means that you can download and install it anywhere at any time.
GIMP is fully capable of saving in just about all image formats, including PhotoShop’s PSD (although it does not yet offer the psp or pspimage extension for use in PaintShopPro — no big deal, though, as PSP allows you to open PSD files as well).
Within GIMP, you can create as many layers as you want. You can open an animated GIF and edit the individual frames, which are represented in much the same way layers are. You can also save animated GIF files after creating the individual frames on separate layers.
GIMP uses vector-based text, just like PSP and PhotoShop. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a way to create vector graphics, but that may just be because I haven’t played with it enough.
GIMP handles layer masks, alpha channels, and much more just as well as PhotoShop. Gradients actually make more sense to me in GIMP than they do in the other programs. With GIMP, all you do is pick the gradient tool, drag and drop at whatever angle you want the gradient to have, and the gradient fills the selection.
The layer dialog is not quite as feature-rich as PhotoShop’s, but you can still achieve all of the same effects (color overlay, drop shadow, etc.). You just need to be a little more creative when applying them. In addition, GIMP offers a feature I have never seen in PSP or PhotoShop. Layers do not automatically occupy the entire image when you create them. You can very easily size and resize layers inside of an image in GIMP. If you want a layer that only occupies a quarter of your image, you can do that very easily.
All in all, GIMP is extremely well-built and offers a lot more functionality than most open-source freeware in the world. GIMP is truly one of the few open-source applications that comes very close to being able to actually rival its commercial competitors. It may take a while for a graphic designer to learn the GIMP interface, but once someone becomes used to it, most of the actions that can be performed in PhotoShop really can be performed in GIMP. It truly is a viable alternative to its competitors.