Why I Love the G.I.M.P.

Sep 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Recommendations

I use the GIMP for almost every­thing. Before you Pho­to­shop purists go and scream at me, point­ing out the rea­sons I’m an idiot, just hear me out. I know that GIMP doesn’t do CMYK (at least, it doesn’t do it well), and that the user inter­face isn’t the way you like it, but I use it just the same. There are the peo­ple who will be angry that I didn’t include their pet image edi­tor in this arti­cle (Paint Shop Pro and the like), but real­ly, in my world there are only the two.

Let’s face it. If you aren’t a design­er who does print and screen work, invest­ing in Adobe Cre­ative Suite ver­sion what­ev­er isn’t on your short list. The major­i­ty of peo­ple in the world who have a legit copy of Pho­to­shop prob­a­bly couldn’t tell you what half the func­tions are. For that mat­ter, don’t even both­er ask­ing them what a plu­g­in is. That leaves a minor­i­ty who do know all about the Pho­to­shop expe­ri­ence, and they tend to be pro­fes­sion­als (or peo­ple who stole it).

The GIMP (Image curtesy of Wikipedia)

The GIMP (Image cour­tesy of Wikipedia)

The GIMP has sev­er­al things going for it. First, there’s the price. I don’t care who you are, but com­ing up with a bet­ter price than free is a tough sell (except that you intend to pay me to use your soft­ware). Sec­ond, I’m a big fan of mul­ti­ple mon­i­tors so the GIMP mod­el of not hav­ing a stage sur­round­ed by tools is great. I use four mon­i­tors in sort of a cock­pit (or com­mand cen­ter, as my friend Mike says) con­fig­u­ra­tion. I put the tools box on one side of the image, the lay­ers / paths box on the oth­er and then I have this huge image area to work with. With Pho­to­shop, I’d have to stretch the stage across sev­er­al mon­i­tors, and that’s just hard to man­age.

Anoth­er thing I like about it is the unbe­liev­able num­ber of built in func­tions. It must have been a year before I even fig­ured out what most of them were for, and why I need­ed them. Many of them you’d have to pay for if you want­ed the same thing in PS. In fact, pret­ty much every PS plu­g­in I use, I’ve already installed in the GIMP. That’s right, with a lit­tle tweak­ing, it can run PS plu­g­ins.

Then there’s the sim­ple script­ing lan­guage that allows me to take a long process that I do over and over and make it a but­ton click. Seri­ous­ly, can life get bet­ter for the lazy?

I know there are thou­sands of tuto­r­i­al sites on PS, but most of them want you to join and pay fees to see how to do things that you can go on YouTube to find out for free. With the GIMP, I have yet to find a tuto­r­i­al I had to pay to see. By all means, cor­rect me if I’m wrong. You can go to Deviant Art and get more brush­es and tex­tures than you know what to do with (which is true of PS as well), and mak­ing your own is a snap.

So, why do I advo­cate the GIMP for every­day stuff like crop­ping and red eye removal? I believe the idea of great soft­ware that is both pro­fes­sion­al grade and open source is one that should be sup­port­ed. My clients always ask me what they should use to make cool pic­tures for their web­sites, and if they should buy Pho­to­shop. I like to let them play with it first. They get over­whelmed in short order. They have the same reac­tion to the GIMP (why is the con­cept of lay­ers so daunt­ing?), but when I tell them it’s free the choice is made.

That being said, I have and use Pho­to­shop. I must. Until a print­er can take an RGB GIMP file and make a card or brochure out of it that doesn’t look like it came from an RGB file, or the good folks who write the GIMP come up with a work­able CMYK option, I’ll just wait. It isn’t all that hard main­tain­ing two envi­ron­ments, and I don’t even know if the GIMP folks have any inten­tions of mak­ing the fix. I’ll keep GIMP­ing and evan­ge­liz­ing it at the same time. Maybe then Adobe will reduce the cost of PS to a lev­el that will allow those who don’t earn mon­ey with it to use it with­out pira­cy.

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