Click on the application starter (the big K), scroll up to the Graphics submenu, and click on the GIMP. You can also use your program quick launch by pressing <Alt+F2> and entering gimp into the command field.
If you are starting up the GIMP for the very first time, the GIMP User Installation dialog will appear (Figure 17-1). You'll be asked a number of questions regarding the location of your personal GIMP directory (defaults to a directory called .gimp-version.no under your personal home directory), how much memory you wish to allocate for the GIMP to do its work, and so on. For the most part, you can just accept the defaults by clicking Continue through the various screens.
Figure 17-1. When you start the GIMP for the first time, you'll need to adjust a few settings.
Once you have entered all this information, the GIMP proper will start up. You will probably get a number of panels aside from the GIMP's main screen. You will also likely get the GIMP Tip of the Day. As with all such tips, you can elect not to have it appear each time the program starts just uncheck the button labeled Show tip next time GIMP starts before you hit Close, and you won't be bothered with it again. What you are likely to see (minus that Tip of the Day) should look a bit like Figure 17-2.
Figure 17-2. First time through, the GIMP will start with the layers, channels, and paths dialog (right) open as well.
The long window on the right is split into two main areas. At the top is the layers, channels, and paths dialog. The dialog below has three tabs, one for brushes, another for patterns, and another for gradients. If you choose to close this window, there is no harm done, but you'll end up calling up dialogs as you need them. We visit this again when I cover brushes later on.
The most important of those windows is the GIMP toolbox. That's the window to the left in Figure 17-2. The toolbox itself is the top half (see the close-up in Figure 17-3). The bottom half of the dialog represents the options available to the currently selected tool. If you were using the text tool, you would have a choice of font styles and sizes at your disposal.
Figure 17-3. The GIMP toolbox.
Along the top, directly below the title bar, is a familiar-looking menu bar labeled, quite simply, File, Xtns, and Help. Clicking on these will show you additional submenus. Below the menu bar is a grid of icons, each with an image representing one of the GIMP's tools. I cover all of these things shortly, but first let's take the GIMP out for a spin.
Easy Logos with the GIMP
The nitty-gritty can wait. I think we should do something fun with the GIMP right now. I'm going to show you how to create a very cool-looking corporate or personal logo with just a few keystrokes. If you don't have the GIMP open yet, start the program now. From the main toolbox menu bar, select Xtns and scroll down to Script-Fu; another menu will cascade from it.
From the Script-Fu menu, move your mouse to Logos. You should see a whole list of logo types, from 3D Outline to Cool Metal to Starscape and more. For this exercise, choose Cool Metal.
Every logo has different settings, so the one you see in Figure 17-4 is specific to Cool Metal. Particle Trace will have a completely different set of parameters. To create your Cool Metal logo, start by changing the Text field to something other than the logo style's name. I'll change mine to read Linux Rocks! The font size is set to 100 pixels, and we can leave it at that for now.
Figure 17-4. Script-Fu logo settings for Cool Metal.
In many of these logos, a default font has been selected for you. You can override the current choice (written on the button itself) and pick something else by clicking on the font button. The Font Selection window shows you the various fonts available on your system and lets you try different font types, styles, and sizes. A preview window gives you an idea of what the font looks like (Figure 17-5).
Figure 17-5. Script-Fu Font Selection dialog.
To create my logo, I'm going to choose a font on my system called ActionIs (and just like that, the old Spiderman theme jumps into my brain). You may choose whatever you like. When you have decided on a font, click OK. Then click OK again, this time in the Script-Fu: Logos/Cool Metal window. The result should be something similar to my own logo in Figure 17-6.
Figure 17-6. Just like that a professional-looking logo!
If you don't like the results, close the image by clicking the Close button in the corner (usually an x, unless you have changed your desktop theme or style). A warning box will pop up telling you that changes have been made and that perhaps you might want to save your work (more on that in a moment). Your options are Save, Don't Save, and Cancel. Click Don't Save, and it goes away. Then start over with another logo. You might try changing the background color or the gradient this time. You might even want to try a different type of logo altogether.
Saving and Opening Your Work
Now it is time to preserve your masterpiece. It's also a good time to have another look at the image window, in this case your logo. Every image created in the GIMP has a menu bar across the top labeled File, Edit, Select, View, and so on. These menus can also be called up by right-clicking anywhere on the image. To save your work, right-click on the File menu, and select Save As. The Save Image dialog will appear (Figure 17-7).
Figure 17-7. It's time to save your creation.
Notice the small arrow beside the words Select File Type (By Extension). If you already know that you want to save your image as a .jpg or a .tif file (or any number of formats), you can simply add it to the filename. The GIMP can figure it out for you. If you would prefer to see a list of available formats, click the arrow; the Save Image dialog will change to display the various formats supported by the GIMP. There's also an arrow beside the label Browse for other folders. By default, the GIMP will use the current folder to save your work. To choose another directory, click the arrow; a more comprehensive navigation dialog will appear (Figure 17-8).
Figure 17-8. A more comprehensive folder navigation dialog to save your work.
When you have entered your filename and selected a file type, click OK, and you are done. Opening a file is similar. From the GIMP toolbox menu bar, select Open (or use the <Ctrl+O> shortcut) to bring up the Load Image dialog. The difference between this and the Save Image dialog is that when you click on a filename, you can also click on Generate Preview to display a small thumbnail preview in the Open Image dialog.