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GIMP Functionality #1- The Basics

By now you must be pretty familiar with this incredible piece of freeware, but for those who do not know it yet, GIMP is a solid free image editor which features and capabilities make of it a viable alternative (or may I say competitor?) to major commercial programs of its kind, at this point it is almost impossible not to mention Photoshop, as both programs are really similar in their functions and also in terms of popularity. But let me put this clear right from the very beginning: GIMP is not free Photoshop, but what do I mean with this? Although GIMP shares most features with Photoshop, it is quite different. Unlike Photoshop, GIMP is mostly intended for images edition, and its image creation capabilities are not as polished as Photoshop's.

GIMP's Basic Functionality

Today I'm going to tell you about GIMP's most basic functionality: image edition (or basic photo retouching). But, first things first, let's take a look at the interface and see what it brings:

As you can see, The GIMP brings a handful of windows and panels to organize all its varied tools. When you first launch, it shows two windows for the toolboxes with several options and buttons and the Image Window where every image you open in GIMP is placed. I know it may look overwhelming at first sight but believe me, it's almost embarrassingly easy.
The toolbox you can see on the left allocates the icons and options for the main tools you'll use. I know they are not few and easy to forget, but do not worry, just hover the mouse pointer and you'll see a popup description.

The left toolbox contains two tabbed panels: the upper one holds layers, channels, paths and undo history and the lower one is for brushes, patterns and gradients. Again, too much information? well, just do the same as in the other toolbox hover your mouse pointer and voilà!

Regarding the Image window, it has on the top a menu bar which contains all the menus you'll need most of the time, it also comes with scroll bars on the bottom and right edges and rulers on the top and left sides. At the very bottom there are two visible boxes and a notification area. The box on the left is for the scale used in your image (pixels,inches, millimeters, points etc.). The one on the right shows zoom level you are currently using and allows you to zoom in or out. The notification area next to it changes depending on the current selection and acts as progress bar when we apply any filters or other procedure to the image. Take a look at it.

So, now to the useful part. What I'll try to explain to you is how to use a few tools regarding the image edition abilities of GIMP. Assuming you have already installed GIMP go to the File menu and select Open, you'll get a window similar to this where you can browse to the image you want to open with amazing preview option on the right panel.

The first thing I'm going to show you is as basic as to rotate an image. To use the Rotate Tool you have to look for it either in Tools -> Transform Tools -> Rotate from the menus or in the Toolbox. Once selected the tool you click on the image and the Rotate window will appear. You can rotate by dragging the image with your mouse or by entering an angle in the "Angle" box.

There is one parameter you have to have in mind and it is the rotation center. You can define it with the mouse or by entering the position through the CenteX and Center Y boxes. Simple and easy, huh? So click on the Rotate button or press Enter in your keyboard and you are done!

Another interesting task I want to show you is how to crop an image. The Crop Tool is in the toolbox and it is useful to reduce the size of any image. Click on the knife button and just drag over the area you want to crop with your mouse, if you are not satisfied, adjustments can be made by dragging the crop marks to adjust the image. To cancel and start again, press Esc.

When you've got it apply the crop by clicking on the center of the cropped area or hitting Enter on your keyboard.

The third and last tool I'm going to tell you about is the Clone Tool. This tool can be really useful when it comes to make certain areas disappear from an image by covering it with surrounding areas of the same image. Click on the Clone Tool button and select a source area by holding the "Ctrl" key on your keyboard and clicking on the desired area.

Now you are ready to start covering the area to disappear with the source area, so, click on it to make single hits or drag to clone larger areas.

There are some parameters that can be adjusted and you'll find them in the lower panel of the Toolbox. Remember that this panel is content sensitive meaning that it will show the parameters of a certain tool only when it is selected or active. I recommend leaving all of these controls in the default adjustments except from the Scale control which you can slide to enlarge or shrink the cloning area.

One tip I can give you is to alternate the Clone Tool with the Zoom Tool in order to zoom in or out as the cloning work requires more or less detail, at the same time you can also adjust the size of the brush you are using from a single pixel to a large area with the above mentioned Scale Control.

In the next example I cloned the cloud over the palm tree to make it totally disappear. Cool, huh?

Final Words

I hope you find these three tools useful, in the up coming articles I'm going to show you how to create images from scratch and of course, together we will also go on reviewing more editing tools this extraordinary free image editing program offers. Just remember, GIMP is totally for free, so give it a chance and try it. All you have to do is to click on the "Download Now" button below or in the big button on top of this page. No cost, no registration, no hassle, just download and enjoy!

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