Can’t Afford Photoshop? Try The GIMP! It’s Free!

By LaurenMarie

I can’t remember exactly when and where I met Kristarella, but she has since become a regular commenter here on Creative Curio. Whenever I write about Photoshop, she always lets us know whether The GIMP, an open source (read “free”) alternative to Photoshop, can do the same things and if not, then she looks into an alternate way to accomplish a similar technique. She is a self-taught designer, though she is majoring in biology at her university in Australia. I asked Kristarella to guest write for Creative Curio and enlighten us all with a peek into the GIMP. Kristarella has quite the passion for digital graphics: design and photography. She has her own blog at


by Kristarella

What is the GIMP?

GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is an open source program that can be run on Windows, Linux and Mac. It has a lot of tools, filters and can be extended using scripts.

Some of the tools

As a bit of an introduction I thought I’d go through some of the tools and tell you why version 2.4 is the best yet.

tools dialogue

Selection tools

The release of GIMP 2.4 saw a huge improvement in the versatility of the selection tools. Previously when making a selection I had to watch the co-ordinates of my mouse to make sure my selection was correct.

rectangle select dialogue

Now, I can create a selection anywhere, move it, resize it by dragging the corners or edges, and use the settings to create round corners, feathered edges, fixed size/height/width/aspect ratio.

You can also select with the freehand lasso, fuzzy select, by colour, magnetic select and the new foreground select feature .

foreground select demonstration

The foreground select tool is pretty spiffy. It basically involves three steps: freehand select the area you want — the “background” appears dark blue; mark the foreground so the GIMP knows what you think is the foreground, which it then extracts — I only had to select the small section shown to get the result shown above; then you can refine the selection by adding more foreground or marking out the background.

Bezier path tool

There’s a bezier path tool, which I haven’t used much, but am starting to use more. I think it might be easier to use than it used to be. I’ve found it very useful for creating unusual and curved selections.

Measure tool

measure tool

I find the measuring tool especially useful when I need to straighten a horizon. In the above example I was taking photos on New Year’s Eve from a rather awkward spot; the Harbour Bridge was obviously crooked. By measuring the angle along the bottom of the bridge I could more accurately rotate the image.

Transformation tools

I most commonly use rotate, scale and sometimes flip. However, more exciting for difficult images, the perspective and shear tools. They change the perspective (obviously!) and angle of objects.

Painting tools

Naturally the paintbrush is one of my favourite of the colouring/filling tools. There’s a vast array of brushes that can be downloaded. You can change their opacity, spacing, and new in 2.4 you can resize brushes.

You can also fade out/apply jitter/incremental/use colour from gradient… but, I’ve never used them. I might not have noticed they were there if LaurenMarie hadn’t written her post How to customize photoshop brushes!

Heal and clone tools

I had no idea how to use them until reading Heal, clone or copy?

Since then I’ve started to use them a fair bit. Sometimes to excess, just for fun…

original imageimage after applying clone tool

More about the GIMP

There are other tools, colour tools, layer tools and a bunch of filters. If you’d like to learn more about the GIMP I plan to write about how I go about processing photos, how to follow Photoshop tutorials using the GIMP and maybe more at

The GIMP can be downloaded from the official website. Linux users may be able to install the GIMP via a package manager if you use one. For mac users I recommend the distribution from Wilbur loves Apple.

On Monday Esben will show you how to make an RSS icon in Illustrator, the next tutorial in his series on Illustrator. Subscribe to Creative Curio by RSS or email be notified for free when the next article is up!