GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program which reflects that the software is made available under the GNU General Public License. That license basically gives anyone the right to download GIMP and do whatever they want with it, even to charge for distributing it.
The software maybe used to just make subtle enhancements to digital photos or to produce advanced and sophisticated image effects.
Where to Get GIMP
GIMP has its own website where the software can be downloaded for Windows, OS X and Linux operating systems. As an open source application, users can also download the code behind the software and amend it if they have the necessary skills, though most people will use it as is.
What are GIMP Plug-ins
GIMP is a very powerful and fully featured image editor in its own right, but as with Adobe Photoshop, users can extend the functionality with the use of Plug-ins.
Plug-ins are small pieces of software that usually can only function when used with GIMP. When installed, Plug-ins can be found under the Xtns menu and they can then be used to produce effects quickly and easily.
Plug-ins can be downloaded from the GIMP Plugin Registry where all the available Plug-ins can be browsed or searched through in a number of ways. It should be noted that some Photoshop Plug-ins can also be installed and used in GIMP.
How Easy is GIMP to Use?
GIMP has a large number of tools and features, which can be radically extended through the use of Plug-ins, and for that reason it isn’t the easiest piece of software to learn thoroughly.
That said, however, there are many tutorials available online, both at GIMP’s own site and at many other third party sites, and these can be a fantastic way to start to learn how all the different tools can be used. There is also a user manual available in a number of languages.
Users of other image editors will recognise many tools and features, but some aspects of GIMP can seem a little alien at first . Many Adobe Photoshop users complain about difficulties when first acclimatising to the software, but much of this is down to small points of difference meaning that workflow isn’t as quick.
For instance in Photoshop Ctrl-D (Cmd-D on Mac) will deselect a selection, while in GIMP you need to click the canvas outside of the selection. It’s a small point, but these differences do add up and for experienced Photoshop users the frustration these differences cause can take a while to overcome.
Alternatives to GIMP
As mentioned, Adobe Photoshop is the big name competitor to GIMP, but the cost may make it prohibitive to many users. Photoshop Elements is a cut down version that offers many of the important tools, but at a greatly reduced price.
Windows users may also consider the free Paint.NET, while those on OS X have a few interesting, though not free, options in the shape of Graphic Converter, Pixelmator and Acorn, which range in price from $30 to $59.