Gimp is a very popular and powerful image editor offered under the open source GNU licence and as such can be downloaded for free by Graphic Designers working on a budget. There is a 101 Clip Art’s overview of the application which offers some general information about the software.
For Designers moving from working with Adobe Photoshop, regarded as the industry standard application for image editing, Gimp can take some getting used to, particularly where features are completely absent.
This problem, however, can be overcome in many cases by searching for and installing some of the many free plug-ins and scripts that are available for Gimp.
One example of a versatile tool that is regularly used by all Adobe Photoshop users, not just power users, are the Layer Styles options available in the Layers palette.
What Are Layer Styles?
Layer Styles in Adobe Photoshop allow Designers to quickly apply a range of effects to individual layers. Some commonly used examples of layer styles are Drop Shadows and Bevel and Emboss, both of which can be used to easily add the sense of depth to an image.
By default Gimp doesn’t have a comparable feature, but there are two options for Designers seeking to add this feature to Gimp.
Extending Gimp by Adding Layer Styles
The first step is to download the Layer Styles script from the Gimp Registry. There are two options available, but only the Script-Fu one will work with the basic install of Gimp. The advantage of the Python script option is that if offers a live preview of the effect, however Gimp must be installed with Python Scripting support in order to use this.
For Designers who are unsure of their Gimp set-up, downloading the version with the .scm file extension is recommended, but if the live preview is required, Python will need to be installed and Gimp then reinstalled with Python support selected.
The downloaded .scm file needs to be installed in a Gimp Scripts folder and the location of this can be found by clicking on Gimp’s Edit menu and selecting Preferences. Clicking on the Folders button and then Scripts will show the location of the Scripts folder. If there is more than one Scripts folder shown there, the downloaded script can be placed in any of them.
Using Layer Styles in Gimp
After downloading, it maybe necessary to go to Filters > Script-Fu menu and click on refresh scripts. Alternatively restarting Gimp should make the layer styles scripts available.
The new Layer Styles are accessed by clicking on the Script-Fu menu and selecting one of the options from the Layer Styles sub-menu.
The best advice for new users of this script is to experiment with the different options and settings to get a feel for the results. This is particularly important when not using the Python version as there is no live preview available for tweaking the settings before committing to the edit.
Adobe Photoshop users will find two significant differences in the way that Layer Styles work in Gimp. The first is that there is a bit of delay as various processes are run to produce the effects – this happens instantly in Photoshop.
The second is that the Layer Styles maybe added to new layers that overlay the original layer, whereas Photoshop applies styles to the original layer, with the option of turning styles on or off.
While Layer Styles in Gimp are not as flexible as in Photoshop, adding this script does extend Gimp’s abilities and takes the free image editor a little closer to matching the power of Adobe Photoshop, particularly for Graphic Designers on a budget.