Gimp is a GPLed cross platform graphics suite which rivals many commercial graphics packages available in the market. I have been using Gimp for all my graphics needs for the past two years. And believe me, this is a winner not only in terms of price (which it is) but also in quality and features. You can do everything and almost anything using Gimp that you can achieve in Adobe's Photoshop. All the screenshots and images used on this site have been created or modified using Gimp.
Gimp is an ideal tool for optimizing the images meant to be hosted on the web. The most endearing aspect of Gimp for me is the plethora of scripts and plugins that are installed with it. Gimp uses a scripting language called Script-fu which can be used to create beautiful banners and buttons meant for use on websites.
You should not mistake a script with a plugin. A plugin requires a image to work on, where as a script will create an image from scratch. There are over a hundred plugins and script-fu's available for gimp. Want to create a ripple effect on your image? No problem! you can create it with the click of a button. The area where Gimp outshines Photoshop is in creating images optimized for the web.
As a first time user, you will find the user interface of Gimp a bit clumsy because each function has its own window unlike Photoshop which has a single main window which encloses all the features. But after working in gimp for some time, you will realize that it is really a great advantage to have multiple independent windows. Let me elaborate on what I just said. Usually, you will be doing graphics manipulation using a monitor having atleast 1024x768 or higher resolution. In this resolution, you can neatly arrange the multiple windows in gimp in such a way that they don't overlap each other (See Fig below). This makes working in gimp easier and enjoyable. Gimp is available for multiple platforms (Windows, Linux, Unices ).
Some of the powerful features in Gimp are as follows:
- Support for creation of Layers, Channels and Paths.
- Excellent collection of plugins and scripts (Script-Fu)
- Creating Alfa channels and Layer Masks.
- Good set of tools equivalent to those found in Photoshop like crop tool, gradient tool, Magic wand, Clone tool, paint brush and so on which will make a Photoshop user feel right at home.
- Save images in over 34 formats including in Photoshop file formats, not to mention TIFF, GIF, JPEG, PNG and Postscript.
- Gimp maintains a history of your actions which helps you to go back to any previous point if you have made a mistake.
- Can easily automate a function by writing your own scripts to do a particular task using script-fu.
- One of the biggest short comings of Gimp is lack of good CMYK support.
For those in the dark, CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) refers to the color of inks used in the printing process. So if you are readying a graphics (maybe a brochure) to be send to your neighborhood commercial printers, then you have to convert it to CMYK mode before sending it to them. CMYK support is very important for any graphics package to make it big in this profession. And Photoshop is where it is because it has better CMYK support. But that is bound to change as Gimp developers have promised better CMYK support in the next major release of Gimp.
- Home users need not look at any other software when Gimp is around. You get all the power that you need - be it photo retouching, red-eye removal, creating borders for your photos and more - in Gimp.
- If you are a web developer creating images to be used on a website or to be viewed on a PC, you will be working in RGB (Red,Green,Blue) mode. I strongly recommend using Gimp as your graphics software.
- But if you create graphics meant for printing, then it is better you stick to Photoshop for the time being because of poor support for CMYK mode in Gimp.