Getting Started With GIMP

GIMP is a free raster graphics editor comparable to Adobe Photoshop. GIMP can be used for image retouching and editing, free-form drawing, resizing, cropping, photo-montage, converting between different image formats, and more.

Just getting started? We’ve complied some basic GIMP tips, tutorials and videos below:

How To Use Tools In GIMP

  • The tool box contains a drop target area where you can drop images from other places onto your hard drive to open in GIMP.
  • The first row of the toolbox is only for selecting various parts of your image.
  • The art of carefully selecting parts of your image is crucial for many tasks that you will perform in GIMP. This selection process is also crucial when it comes to painting shapes like squares, circles, etc…
  • A common problem beginners have is forgetting where they made a selection. If this happens, you won’t be able to paint outside of it and the paint tools will appear to not work. If this happens, in the menu option “Select” > “All” or “Select” > “None.” These functions will prove to be so useful that you might want to learn the keyboard shortcuts: Shift+A and Shift+Ctrl+A.
  • To add/remove from an existing selection, hold “Shift” or “Ctrl” down. You can also hold “Esc” down to abandon a selection in progress, and “Return” to finish it.
  • The rectangle select tool creates a square selection. Press “Return” or click inside the selection to finalize.
  • The elliptical region select tool will create a circular selection.
  • The freehand select tool is a very useful tool. It is a combination of a freehand and polygon select tool. To use, click the mouse to place nodes linked by straight lines. You can combine the two modes however you want and ladjust the polygon nodes after you’ve made them. Tie the ends together or press “Return” to finalize your selection.
  • The continuous region selects connected areas. Click and drag.
  • Color select (Shift + O ) selects areas of similar color. Click and drag to include a wider range of colors.
  • Select shape from image selects along a precise edge. This tool can be very useful to select and cut out parts of an image.
  • Foreground select tool is an advanced algorithm intended primarily for cutting out items and people from photos. Might be a bit advanced for a beginner. If interested, reference the GIMP user manual.
  • Path tool creates “paths”, which are mathematical objects that can be perfectly adjusted and modified to any shape and form.
  • Color picker picks color from the image and makes it your active color.
  • The zoom tool is very useful. The keyboard shortcut keys are + and -.
  • The measure tool measures pixel distances and angles.
  • The move tool allows you to move layers and selections around.
  • The align tool can be used for aligning or distributing layers relative to each other. It is very useful for text.
  • The crop tool can be used as a photo manipulation tool to crop images.
  • Rotate: Rotate a selected area or layer.
  • Scale: Scale a selected area or layer.
  • Shear: Skew a selected area or layer.
  • Perspective: takes a 2D-part of your image and angles it downward.
  • Flip tool: flips your selection from one side to the other.
  • Text tool allows you to place text in your image.
  • Bucket fill fills parts of the image with a color or pattern.
  • Gradient fill fills parts of the image with a gradient.
  • Pencil tool creates pixellated, jagged lines.
  • Paint brush emulates a real paint brush by smoothing the edges of brush strokes. This tool is great for creating smooth, more realistic lines. Paint brush is the primary tool for digital painters.
  • Eraser tool erases the color from an image/layer.
  • Airbrush emulates an airbrush or paintbrush to create a fuzzy “sprayed” effect.
  • Ink tool emulates a fountain pen or steel nib.
  • Clone tool will clone parts of an image.
  • Healing tool is a specialized tool that will allow you to remove small blemishes in photos.
  • Perspective clone is a more advanced tool used for cloning parts of an image into a plane different to the screen.
  • Blur tool can be used to soften or sharpen colored edges and blend colors together.
  • Smudge tool mimics the effect of painting with a finger. Not recommended for beginners since it can get messy.
  • Dodge/burn will allow you to selectively darken or brighten the area you paint.

Free GIMP Software Learning Resources

  • Official GIMP Tutorials & FAQ

    Learn from the developers of GIMP.

  • Just Starting With GIMP?

    Watch this introduction video that will take you through the user interface and basic tools.

  • Beginners Tutorial Series

    Learn the basics of using GIMP so you can start editing and manipulating photos now!

  • Advanced Techniques Series

    After you’ve mastered the basics, build your skills with this series for intermediate and advanced GIMP users.