GIMP 2.8 Arrives: How to Get Started With It

by Ostatic Staff - May. 03, 2012

If you spend working with graphics you're no doubt already familiar with GIMP, one of the very best open source graphics applications. OStatic has covered GIMP on a number of occasions, and the active community that drives the application forward continues to deliver improved versions.

Now, after years of development, GIMP 2.8 has been released, filled with major improvements. Here are the details on what's new, and some useful resources for getting started with GIMP if you're new to the application.

One of the chief nuisances in previous versions of GIMP were floating windows which could become difficult to manage when working with iterative graphics or several versions of one graphic. The good news is that GIMP 2.8 offers single window mode, so all of your tools, toolbars, docks and graphics can be available in one place. has a summary of the other outstanding new features:

"You’re now able to group layers and move/duplicate/make-visible/delete/etc many layers at once that you combined in the group....GIMP 2.8 comes with an extremely improved text tool, that works on-canvas and lets you make text and single characters/words of the text edit in various ways...[it] also comes with a brand new tool to transform an image on a polygon base. The so-called Cage-Transform-Tool lets you span a polygon “selection” (although its not really a selection) over a part of an image to transform the image accordingly if you move one of corners of the polygon. For the painters GIMP has been improved with a new tag&filter system for all kind of resources (brushes, textures, gradients). Take care of hundreds of brushes now and only show “flower” brushes, for example, by filtering them!"

The official GIMP site has also collected release notes and a visual tour for version 2.8. So what if you haven't used GIMP at all? While there are new features in version 2.8, there are lots of good guides to GIMP online that will still get you going from being a beginner to an intermediate/advanced user. Here are several good one to start with:

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. Many of the tutorials will 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. This set of tutorials is also very rich and varied.

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

 Finally, be aware that GIMP is just one of the many open source programs out there for graphics, and you can use a number of the others with GIMP to give you maximum flexibility. Take a look at our latest overall graphics resources collection for help in this area.