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When you first launch GIMP, you will see a splash screen, shown in Figure 12.1. This screen is there to let you know the progress of GIMP in loading its various components and tools. How long this process takes depends on your computer. However, even on slow computers it is usually less than one minute. Of course, if you have several applications running simultaneously, this will slow things down quite a bit.
Figure 12.1: The GIMP splash screen.
Once the splash screen is done, you are shown a tip screen, depicted in Figure 12.2. There is a small check box on the bottom of this screen where you can elect to have tips show up at startup all the time. As a beginner it is probably a good idea to keep these tips showing. You will probably learn a lot about GIMP by reading these tips when learning GIMP. After you are more comfortable with GIMP, you can then decide to stop the tips from showing up every time you start GIMP.
Figure 12.2: The GIMP tip screen.
Once GIMP is running and you have made it past the splash screen and tip screen, you should immediately notice one major difference between GIMP and Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop, shown in Figure 12.3, has all the various tools together on one screen.
Figure 12.3: Adobe Photoshop.
GIMP has each set of tools in a separate window, shown in Figure 12.4. These windows can be moved or even closed in any manner you want. Some people find this layout a little confusing, but once you get used to it, you may come to realize that it provides you with a great deal of flexibility. You will find that many professional graphics programs choose this sort of layout. This is due to its flexibility. It enables the software user to place things in any way that he finds convenient.
Figure 12.4: GIMP.
In a single chapter we will not be able to make you a master of GIMP, and no book will be able to give you creativity or artistic talent if you happen to be lacking in that area. However, this chapter can provide you with a basic understanding of the tools available to you in GIMP. Even without artistic inclinations, a person with a firm grasp of the basics of any graphics tool can create some interesting and compelling images. The author is lacking in artistic talent but has been able to create interesting and exciting Web graphics using both Adobe Photoshop and GIMP. This means that even if you are not an artist, don’t give up; you might find that GIMP gives you the right tools so you can at least fake it!
Let’s begin our exploration of GIMP by examining the drop-down menu at the top. This is actually a good place to begin examining any software package you are new to. Usually the drop-down menu provides access to an application’s core functionality. You will find many useful menu items here. Start with the File menu, shown in Figure 12.5a. As you can see, this menu offers some basics you probably expected, such as Open, Close, New, and Exit.
Figure 12.5A: The File menu.
Most of these are standard menu options that you have undoubtably seen in countless applications, with both Microsoft Windows applications and Linux. The Open menu, however, will present a dialog box that looks just a little different from the one you may be used to in Microsoft Windows. This dialog box, shown in Figure 12.5b, works just like any other dialog box but has a slightly different look and feel than the standard Windows dialog box.
Figure 12.5B: The dialog box.
This menu also has a few items you might not be familiar with. The first is the Acquire menu, shown in Figure 12.6. This menu item is for acquiring images directly from some source, usually a device attached to your computer such as a scanner, Web cam, or digital camera. The sources include a screen shot of your current screen, the clipboard (items that were previously copied from some source), and a scanner you might have connected to your PC.
Figure 12.6: The Acquire menu.
After you start GIMP you will be working with either a new image or an existing image. The most common choice is to modify an existing image. Working with an existing image, you can alter and enhance that image, and very little artistic ability is required. To create an image completely from scratch requires a certain level of artistic competence. In this chapter we will concentrate on how you can alter existing images, with only moderate coverage of creating new images. This emphasis is because many readers lack the artistic skills to create images from scratch; as was previously mentioned, it is certain that the author is lacking in that regard!
To follow along with this chapter, you can open any image you like. In the figures in this book, you will see that we will be working with a picture of an eagle. But it should be stressed that for our purposes, any image will do. Our eagle image is shown in Figure 12.7.
Figure 12.7: The sample image.
Before we jump into all of those interesting-looking tools you see in your toolbox, we want to find out what we can do with this image by clicking a few options (without any artistic acumen at all). Don’t worry, we will be experimenting with them in due course. But first, let’s examine what you can do with a few quick clicks of your mouse. If you will right-click your mouse on the image, you will see a pop-up menu like the one shown in Figure 12.8. This pop-up menu gives you access to a lot of options that we will explore.
Figure 12.8: The pop-up menu.
As you can see, there are several options, and most of them have submenu items under them. That means that there is a lot to explore in this pop-up menu. The same functions you see in the pop-up menu are also available in Adobe Photoshop. However, in Photoshop they are available from the drop-down menu at the top of the screen. You will find that in many cases the menu items even have the same names. They are just in a different location. The first option, File, repeats what you found under the File menu. Once again we see an application giving you multiple avenues to the same functionality. This is common practice in any application whose aim is to be user friendly. The second option, Edit, shown in Figure 12.9, should also be familiar to you. Most of its options are standard to all Edit menus. You can cut, copy, paste, undo, and so on. There are only a few items that you may not have seen before, and their functions are obvious. For example, Fill with BG Color fills the entire image with whatever color it has in its background.
Figure 12.9: The Edit menu.
The next item on this pop-up menu may be quite new to you. It is the Select menu, shown in Figure 12.10. This menu enables you to take a selected portion of the image and invert it, grow it, and more. You also can choose to select the entire image or none of the image or invert your selection (select the area you did NOT drag your mouse around). In case you are wondering how to select an area of an image, the default tool for GIMP (and for Photoshop) is the Selection tool. Just drag your mouse anywhere around the image and it will draw a dotted-line rectangle. The area inside the rectangle is selected.
Figure 12.10: The Select menu.
The View menu, shown in Figure 12.11, is also quite important. You can zoom in or out, turn the toolbars on or off, toggle the status bar on or off, and more. Often, people using a graphics application—GIMP, Photoshop, or some other program—find that zooming in enables them to make changes easier. They can then zoom back out to normal size when done making those changes.
Figure 12.11: The View menu.
Next we come to the Image menu, shown in Figure 12.12. This menu enables you to change the image itself in a number of interesting ways. The Image Mode, the first option you have, determines if this image is RGB (Red Green Blue), which is how JPEG and bitmap images are, or indexed, which is how GIF images are. This is actually quite important. It is not at all uncommon for people using graphics applications to want to change an image from one type to another. This can be done for many reasons. It is common on Web pages to want the smallest image possible. That is usually a JPEG. Any image that is a GIF or BMP file, when converted to a JPEG, will be significantly smaller. In order to change an image, you must first make certain that its mode is correct. You cannot save an image as a JPEG if its mode is not RGB. In many cases you can change the mode of the image, thus enabling you to save the image as a different file format. The Decompose option enables you to extract layers from the image. A layer is when you have sections that were pasted into your current image. These different sections are layers. This is a task that the casual user will not likely perform, but one a graphics designer might use quite frequently.
Figure 12.12: The Image menu.
Next we come to the Layers menu, seen in Figure 12.13. This menu enables you to work with the various layers in your image. As we previously mentioned, when you copy and paste image fragments from different images into a single image, you have layers. Each image that is brought in is in its own layer. The Layers menu enables you to work with these layers.
Figure 12.13: The Layers menu.
The Tools menu, shown in Figure 12.14, gives you access to the same tools found in the Toolbox. After we have worked with the Toolbox, if you find you prefer using the drop-down menu, you can use this menu item to accomplish most of the tasks you would otherwise use the Toolbox for. We will skip examining the use of tools for now and return to that topic when we examine the Toolbox.
Figure 12.14: The Tools menu.
The Dialogs menu enables you to select patterns, gradients, and brushes. For example, when you look under Dialog and select Brushes, you see the screen in Figure 12.15. You have quite a range of options in selecting your Brush settings before you begin painting. We will examine brushes in more detail when we get to the Toolbox.
Figure 12.15: Brushes.
Now to the Filters menu. This menu, shown in Figure 12.16, is full of very interesting filters you can apply to your images. These filters enable you to alter the appearance of your image completely and radically. You have access to everything from blur effects to artistic effects. We will examine a few of them here, but it is highly recommended that you take some time to see what each of the filters looks like. That way you can become more familiar with the images and discover which ones you find particularly attractive.
Figure 12.16: The Filters menu.
These filters provide a very easy to use method to add an artistic flair to any image. With the simple click of a mouse, you can add very interesting effects to your images. Filters are also used frequently with Adobe Photoshop. In Photoshop you will find them on the drop-down menu under Filters.
Let’s take a look at a few of the filters and see what they can do for our eagle image. Let’s begin with one of the artistic filters, cubism. You go to Filters, select Artistic, and choose Cubism. You are presented with a screen, shown in Figure 12.17, enabling you to alter the parameters of this filter. For our example, we will use the default settings, and we produce the image shown in Figure 12.18.
Figure 12.17: The Cubism filter settings.
Figure 12.18: The Cubism filter applied to our eagle.
As you can see, an artistic filter makes it quite easy to add a very interesting flair to any image. There are other artistic filters, including the Van Goh filter and the Oilify filter. The Oilify filter changes your image so that it looks like an oil painting. Figure 12.19 shows our image after the Oilify filter has been applied.
Figure 12.19: The Oilify filter.
Another interesting set of filters is found under the Distort menu, shown in Figure 12.20. You can add some pretty dramatic effects to any image. Some of your choices are the Ripple, IWarp, and Emboss effects. Figure 12.21 shows our image, this time with the Ripple effect.
Figure 12.20: The Distort menu.
Figure 12.21: The Ripple effect.
It should be clear that filters are a very powerful way to alter any image. You can create some startling effects in your pictures with the filter effects. One popular way to use these is to scan in a photo of some person and render it as an Oil Painting or some other effect. You can really jazz up old family photos with a scanner and GIMP. The filters we mentioned are just a few of those available with GIMP. Even a cursory glance at the toolbar will show you several other filters. Which filters should be used is purely a matter of personal taste.
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