Working with images in Ubuntu

Ubuntu comes with some basic software for touching up images, but I wanted to do a little more than that.

GIMP (short for GNU Image Manipulation Project) is open source image editing software. It is available in the Software Centre, so it is easy to get hold of and install.

When you open GIMP you’ll see the traditional splash screen while it is loading.

GIMP Splash Screen
GIMP Splash Screen

Contrary to what it says in the screen shot above, it doesn’t take long at all. In fact it is considerably faster to load on my crumby old Dell than Photoshop is on my Windows 7 laptop.

Once it has finished loading, you will see three separate windows. I found the right hand window was squished up against the right hand side of the screen when I first launched GIMP, but it was easy to drag the edge of the window to resize it. It retains the size and position you set, so it has been fine since.

GIMP - Main Windows
GIMP – Main Windows

Now if (like me) you dive straight in and don’t read any instructions, you’ll find it pretty straight forward to get a handle on things. Firstly, in addition to being able to access all of the menus from the black menu bar at the top of the Unity desktop, you can also access a context menu (via a right click with the mouse) for common operations from the main GIMP window.

GIMP Context Menu
GIMP Context Menu

Creating images

While writing blog posts, building web sites and generally playing around with pictures, I find myself using screen shots an awful lot. GIMP has a couple of great tools for doing just this!

Choosing File > Create > From Webpage… prompts you to enter a URL.

GIMP - File > Create > From Webpage prompt
GIMP – File > Create > From Webpage prompt

After clicking on the Create button, the application downloads the webpage and generates an image from it. Brilliant! Now when I need to grab an image of a site I no longer have to edit out the browser. A big time saver!

The Spirit home page grabbed using GIMP. No editing needed!
The Spirit home page grabbed using GIMP. No editing needed!

Choosing File > Create > Screenshot… launches GIMPs screenshot options.

GIMP - Screenshot options
GIMP – Screenshot options

The ability to set a delay is key, as it gives you as much time as you need to get things just right for that perfect screen shot.

There is a Screenshot application in Ubuntu that is separate from GIMP and you can access that through the Dash. However, using GIMPs own tool is much quicker and dumps the images straight into GIMP ready for editing.

Saving pictures

Choosing the standard save options lets you save pictures using GIMPs own file formats.

GIMP File Types
GIMP File Types

In order to save something as a jpg, gif, png or some other file format, you need to select the Export or Export to option.

Handily, if you open an image file that has already been created you will see an option in the File menu to overwrite the existing file. So, you don’t need to export every time you want to save that all important jpg.

Editing images

GIMP comes with a whole heap of tools and filters for you to use. It also supports graphics tablets readily enough and handles pressure sensitivity well.

GIMP - Drawing with a graphics tablet
GIMP – Drawing with a graphics tablet

I found the brushes responsive and easy to use, which is always a bonus. I won’t go into details about the various brushes here, as there are far too many to fit into one tiny blog post!

The same goes for the various filters and special effects you can employ, including animation! So here is a short gallery showing some of things you can do. Disclaimer: Excuse the drawing, it was knocked up in a couple of minutes. Additional Disclaimer: Excuse all the images of myself!

I have been using GIMP for a few weeks now, but I am only just scratching the surface of what it can do. Considering it is free I am very impressed so far. It is definitely on my list of must have applications for Working without Windows.

Leave a Reply