Free Tools for Getting Started with the Mighty GIMP Graphics Editor

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 17, 2011

If you've spent any time working with graphics--whether you favor open source software or not--you're probably familiar with the power of GIMP, one of the very best open source graphics applications. And, if you know your way around GIMP, you're probably also familiar with the many effects you can execute with it. This particular open source graphics program is so powerful that it can be daunting for new users, so we regularly update our collection of accessible, free resources for learning GIMP and making using it easier. Here is our latest roundup, including a great, free online GIMP book.

Adaptable GIMP is a free add-on for GIMP that makes it much easier to use the program.  It was developed by the Human Computer Interaction group at Waterloo University, and PC World has done a good look into its capabilities, which includes providing easy labels for GIMP's important functions and features.

There are many good books on GIMP, but you may very well find everything you need in the way of instruction in Grokking the GIMP. The book is available in a free HTML tarball in addition to a printed copy that you can buy. I highly recommend looking at the links in the contents. This free, online book takes you through layers, filters, resizing tips, masks, blending colors, case studies and way more than that. The screenshots and instructions are from an older version of GIMP, but many of the tutorials will still give you what you need to perform advanced tasks. (For many more free books on open source software titles, check this post.)

One of the best aspects of GIMP is that it has a thriving community of plug-in developers. There are plug-ins for granular tasks such as new ways to edit images, plug-ins for more flexible graphics printing options, and more. The registry of plug-ins is here.

Keyboard shortcuts always come in handy with graphics programs, and many Photoshop users employ them. In the link at the bottom of this page, you'll find useful shortcuts for GIMP.

On GIMP's own site, you'll find many tutorials.  With them, you can create floating logos, learn how to do red eye removal in photos, make vignettes out of photos, and more. There are lots more community-driven and video tutorials at Many of the tutorials there are complemented by useful comments and tips from readers.

Scott Photographics has an excellent exploration of how to create see-through text effects posted, and you can learn to do so with GIMP in about five minutes.  While you're at it, Scott Photographics also has a great collection of more than 60 GIMP tutorials--enough to give you good practice sessions for a year.

Of course, don't forget about GIMP documentation. There's plenty of it, and you'll find it available in many languages.