It’s no secret: I’m a big fan of free software. That’s another way of saying that I’m too cheap to buy Photoshop. If you are a graphic artist and make money with your images, by all means, you should probably hand over the big bucks and get Photoshop. But if you’re like me, and just want to make some creative images for your blog or tweak your photos, GIMP will almost certainly do everything you need.
Now, what are you going to do with all that money you saved by not buying Photoshop? Well, GIMP is a pretty complex program, and is not without its little idiosynchrisies, so perhaps you should go out and get a good reference to help you learn how to use GIMP effectively.
Enter Peck’s Beginning GIMP — From Novice to Professional. It’s a 528 page book which serves as introduction, as reference, and tutorial to the world of GIMP. It’s loaded with color illustrations, walking you through each of the menus and options of GIMP, and demonstrating how to use each of these major capabilities in a series of example projects. While I am no beginner to image editing or to GIMP, I found hidden nuggets of wisdom and tools within each of these projects. For instance, I always found the workflow for using Bezier paths to be a little confusing, but after reading Peck’s description, it made more sense to me and I find that I’m using them more and more to create selections. I was unaware of the horizontal and vertical guides, which can help layout. I hadn’t figured out how to lay text along paths. I
found out how to lock multiple layers together and treat them as a unit, something which had previously eluded me. I hadn’t ever created a custom brush. There is even a decent (but rather short) introduction to scripting and plugins, something which rarely gets any treatment at all in shorter works. I think that all but the most experienced GIMP user will find something in this book that will make them say “I didn’t know that”.
This book goes well beyond a simple reference: too often, manuals are merely lists of features that do little to organize the idea behind the program they describe. Peck’s approach is to present some of the very basics, and then go on to tasks and show how they might be achieved using stuff you know, and slowly introducing new features. By the end of the book, you are performing very sophisticated drawing and compositing, well beyond what you might have known about image editing when you began.
Books which serve as tutorials make it simple to learn a new program, but sometimes can make specific information hard to find, but this book does a good job of also serving as a reference. The index and organization of the book is excellent, and I didn’t have any problem finding specific information by scanning the table of contents or looking up the obvious keywords in the index. This makes the book a useful reference long after you learn the major topics.
GIMP itself is remarkable in that it runs on virtually every platform: Windows, Mac, various flavors of Linux and FreeBSD. The differences are very minor. It doesn’t matter which platform you will be running it on, but Peck nicely includes a section on installing on each of the major platforms that might be helpful for novices.
If you are a ten year veteran of Photoshop, you might not find this book all that useful, but if you are looking for one book to buy to help you figure out how to use GIMP effectively and to fill you in on all of the unobvious details of how it works, this one is the most comprehensive and useful books that I’ve found. I give it a five for five. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others.
Obligatory disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book to review, but have no other interest in this book.
Addendum: Below you can see an image that I retouched using GIMP, using some of the techniques that I picked up from the book. I retouched the background blur, rebalanced the color and exposure curves, and then tinted the result.
Here is the original for comparison.
Technorati Tags: Beginning Gimp, Akkana Peck, Book Review, GIMP