What are some good GIMP tutorials

Gimp for Beginners: Tutorial for Free Image Editing

Hans-Christian Dirscherl

Gimp is a powerful free photo editor for Windows, Linux and macOS. Our Gimp tutorial introduces this not very easy program and explains the first steps. With download link also for the portable version of Gimp.

EnlargeGimp: Introduction to free photo editing for Windows, Linux & macOS
© Piotr Swat / Shutterstock.com

The image manipulation program Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is available for all relevant PC operating systems - so you can edit an image with Gimp under Windows, add to it with Gimp under Linux and then finish with Gimp on the Mac. Gimp is free and powerful, but its many features require a certain amount of training on the part of the user. In addition, the structure and operating concept are not exactly intuitive - especially in direct comparison with the also free Paint.net for Windows, Gimp is much more cumbersome to use. With our introduction to Gimp you will find your way around and you can take the first steps with this image processing and then familiarize yourself with more complex topics such as layers or masks.

Download: Gimp

Gimp is available for Windows, macOS and Linux for permanent installation: Download Gimp.

You can also use Gimp Portable if you don't want to install the program.

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The Gimp help pages can be found here.

Basic structure: three windows / docks

Gimp starts with three windows, because in addition to the main window with the image to be edited, GIMP also opens a tool window / dock on the left and a dock on the right, for example for layer and color management, for displaying histograms or the history of the opened images . The menu bar is also located at the top of the screen.

EnlargeThe different parts of the Gimp windows / docks.

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The three windows / docks can be arranged separately from each other on the screen. However, if you want to connect the three windows firmly to one another, do this via the menu "Window, Single Window Mode". And you've already fixed a single Gimp window with the two docks on the left and right.

The left dock contains the tool palette at the top. Below that comes the color selection. Below that, in turn, are the settings for the currently selected tool.

The middle window (document window) shows the opened images. If you have several images open at the same time, you can keep an eye on the overview with the preview images in the top center. In the footer, on the other hand, Gimp shows data on the currently active image, such as its file size and the zoom level, which you can change here. You can zoom in and out with the mouse wheel faster than with this small menu while holding down the CTRL key.

The right dock shows the brush palette, the layer palette or the history of the open image files. You also have access to channels and paths here.

You can change the content of the docks via "Windows, Dockable Dialogs". There is a tiny triangle symbol on the right edge of the docks. Use this to open the submenus of the respective dock.

Menu bar

Gimp includes a menu bar with eleven menus (there are also keyboard shortcuts for almost all commands). Some examples,

File menu

In the “File” menu you not only open images, but also export them in the formats that suit you. Important: By default, you save images in Gimp's own xcf format. However, if you want to pass on the finished images or use them in other applications, you should use a cross-platform and Gimp-independent image format such as jpg or png or TIFF. You can do this via "File, Export to". You can easily change the image format by simply rewriting the displayed file extension in the "Export to" menu. You should only convert this from xcf to another format at the end and always save the original as xcf with all the layers it contains.

The contents of the clipboard - which you created with the push button under Windows, for example - can be imported directly into Gimp for further processing via "File, Create, From Clipboard".

If you want to close the picture that is currently open, go to "File, Close View" (CTRL + W).

You can import images in many formats. PSD files from Photoshop can also be imported, even with multiple layers. However, not all of the features Photoshop provided with the PSD files are available in the Gimp.

Edit, Select and View menus

Under "Edit", for example, you can undo the last steps or you can display all processing steps with "Journal". You can cut or copy a previously marked area or paste something into the open image. The "Settings" for Gimp can also be accessed via this menu.

By default, Gimp adopts the language of the operating system ("System language"). If you want to change the language of the Gimp interface, go to "Edit, Settings, Interface, Language". After that, you need to restart Gimp.

With the “Selection” menu, you can, for example, display auxiliary lines and manage zoom levels and select parts of the image with the same color - in order to then recolor these areas with the fill tool, for example.

In the "View" menu, for example, you can add a frame to the picture.

Picture and level menus

An important menu is "Image": There you can convert a color image into an atmospheric grayscale image with one click, for example. Or you can rotate or mirror the image. The canvas size can be changed here just as quickly as the print resolution. The next menu item “Layer” is aimed at more ambitious image editors who want to work with layers, masks and alpha channels.

Colors menu

Under "Colors" you can easily adjust the color values ​​or the color temperature using sliders. For the latter, Gimp provides selection menus with specific color values ​​using the small triangle icons on the right.

Under "Colors, values" you can make an image lighter or darker. You can also achieve this effect via "Colors, Curves", where you work with the gradation curves. There you can also change the channels for red, green and blue individually. If, on the other hand, you take the standard curve for all three color channels, drag the curve up in the left section, set a breakpoint and then drag down in the right section, then your image will get an almost mysterious effect.