Using GIMP
Desktop Apps Training - GIMP

Tip of the Day

By default, the first time that a user opens Gimp, the GIMP Tip of the Day will appear. This feature shows the user a short explanation of a function in the program.

From this screen users may navigate through many other tips that the program offers, stop Gimp from showing tips upon startup, or simply close the GIMP Tip of the Day and start using the program.


The GNU Image Manipulation Program contains a basic tool bar that holds many functions.

The tool bar has a File Menu which allows the user to open and save documents, create new images to work with, configure the program's options so that they are suitable for the style of image editing that is being performed, and also allows viewing of any dialog box the is contained within the Gimp Program.

The Xtns Menu holds modules, extensions, and plugins that can be used while using Gimp.

Finally, the Help menu helps users access a variety of resources that aids Gimp users with image editing.

Opening Screen

The opening screen that appears after opening the Gimp program contains all the functions and commands that a user will need to create an image. All the tools, tool options, and menu options are all available in this small manageable window.

Also, the Layers, Channels, and Paths window will appear. Both of these windows appear by default. Gimp saves the interface changes that are made automatically. So if closed the Layers, Channels, and Paths window, it will not appear the next time Gimp is opened. However, Layers, Channels, and the Paths dialog boxes are very easy to access in Gimp even if the Window does not appear upon startup of the program.

Lastly, be aware that the Toolbox acts as the “Head” window, so if the Toolbox is closed, the Gimp Program will close. This window will always appear be default in Gimp 2.0 upon every startup.


The tool box is placed on the top half of the Gimp dialog box. In this area, there are many small icons that have different meanings and functions. These functions will be described shortly.

The two larger icons located at the bottom of the toolbox are very significant in creating an image.

The Options Box

The options box is located on the bottom half of the Gimp dialog box. This is designated for the options of the current tool that is being used.

During the time it takes for a user to create a professional looking image, this small area may change quite frequently in size, options, and choices.

The options box may be detached or modified by the small arrow pointing to the left at the top of the options box. Here, a user is able to add or detach new tabs to make creation and editing more manageable.

Opening a New File

It is very easy to create a new image with Gimp.

Simply click on the File Menu on the Gimp Tool bar, and pull down the mouse until the “New” option highlights just like the example to the left.

You are also able to hold the Ctrl key and strike the “N” key with the keyboard to acquire a new image.

After clicking on the “New” in the File Menu, the New Image Dialog Box appears. The title of the Dialog Box says “Create a New Image”.

From this Dialog Box, choose the Image Size of the new image that will be created. A user can either choose the Width and Height in Pixels, Inches, Millimeters, and more. Also change the Resolution. The default setting is 72 pixels/in, but this can be changed very easily. When changing the resolution of an image the question the user must ask is what the image will actually be used for. The default resolution will be fine for web pages or email, but will not work well for professional printing which needs to have a much higher resolution.

Next, in the Image Type Box, choose RGB, which stands for Red, Green, and Blue, or Grayscale, which will keep all of the images in black and white. For the Fill Type Box choose Background or Foreground. Background is the default value.

Add any comments about the image that is created so they may be referred to later.

Finally, click “OK” in the Create New Image Dialog Box, and Gimp automatically creates a brand new sheet of canvas to work with.

From here the user is able to import graphics, import text, or start drawing with one of the many Gimp tools.

Open an Existing File


It is a fairly simple process to open an existing file up in the Gimp Program. First click on the File menu on the Gimp Tool bar, and drag the mouse down until “Open” highlighted is highlighted.

By clicking the mouse on “open”, the choice of which file that's to open will be available.

A user can also hold down the Ctrl Key and strike the “O” on the keyboard to open an existing document. Once “Open” has been clicked in the File Menu, the dialog box displays on the screen.

On top of the Open Image Box, choose from a drop down list of directories.

On the very left of the Open Image Box, there are three buttons . “Home” opens the /home directory, “Desktop” allows a user to view all of the contents that are on the desktop, and “Documents” allows viewing of any documents that may be contained in the current folder.

To the right of the buttons are the Files and the Folders boxes. In the Folders Box select a folder to manually navigate through the directories to find image that is needed. Notice in the Folders Box there is a ../ symbol. Use this to move up one directory from the current location in the directory tree.

The Files Box contains all of the image files in the present directory. Use the preview button to view the selected file. After selecting an image, click “OK”.

Open a Recent File


From the File Menu scroll the mouse down until Open Recent is selected. From this step a sub menu should appear with all of the recent files. All recent files may be quickly opened that are displayed in the Open Recent sub menu.

Also, along with all of the recent files, there is a Document History option . This opens up a Document History Dialog Box that allows the viewing, in order, of the latest documents that have been opened.

Acquire a Screen Shot


To acquire a new screen shot, click the File Menu on the Gimp Tool bar. Next, scroll down until Acquire is selected. A sub menu then appears with Screen Shot as one of the choices. Xsane and Xscanimage are for other devices associated with the computer.

Once the Screen Shot option is selected, the Screen Shot Dialog Box appears.

In the Grab section of the Dialog box, select a single window, or a whole screen.

Users may set a time limit on the delay of selecting a window. Finally set the time once OK is clicked so that Gimp will Grab the screen shot.

Configuring Gimp


The default settings may be reconfigured after the installation of the program. To change options, click the File Menu in the Gimp Tool bar, and scroll down to the Preferences option. This option may also be accessed by holding down the Ctrl key and striking the “P” on the keyboard.

Once the Preferences option is clicked under the File Menu, Gimp automatically prompts the program to display a large array of options. Each option has its own array of settings and choices that a user can make and change. Illustrated are all of the choices that are available. By clicking the small arrow to the left of all the main categories, the categories may be contracted or expanded.

New Image Preferences

On the top of the list of the Preferences options, the New Image choice appears. In the New Image settings there are a number of choices to choose from. First of all, if a template has been created, set all of the New Image Preferences with the template. Next, in the Image Size region of the New Image preferences, the width and height of the new image is displayed in pixels. Change this by clicking the arrows to change numbers, or simply type in new numbers.

Remember that once a change is made these settings will be the default every time a new image is opened. There are also two buttons over to the right in the Image Size section. These are to toggle between portrait and landscape images when you start up a new project.

Next, in the second portion of the Image Size section, change the Width and Height in different units, such as inches or millimeters. Once the pixels or inches change, Gimp automatically changes the opposite one to the exact size of the units that are changed. A
user is able to change the Resolution of X,Y coordinates. Notice here that they are set on 72, which is standard for both. Resolution in this case is being measured in pixels/in.

In the Image Type section of the New Image preferences, select either (RGB) or black and white (Grayscale). To the right of the Image Type section, Background has been selected as the Fill Type. Finally, on the bottom of the New Image preferences, set the maximum size of any new image that is created. In the example, 64 MegaBytes was selected, but again, the units of measurement can be changed.

Default Image Grid Preferences


Below the New Image options in the navigable list in the Preferences Box, is the Default Image Grid preferences. Click on this choice to view and modify default setting with the Grid layout on images . The first setting is the choice of the Appearance of the Default Image Grid preferences. From here select Line Style. Use the drop down arrow to choose from one of the Line Styles available. Notice here that the cross haired intersections was chosen for the default grid. Next set Foreground and Background color of the intersecting grid lines. To do this click on the square color box to the right of the Foreground and Background options.

The Color Change Box will automatically appear as shown in the picture.

Note: Refer to the section on the Change Foreground/Background Color.

In the Spacing section of the Grid settings, change the width and height of spaces in between grid lines in pixels and inches.

Modify the offset of the grid lines in the Offset section of the Default Image Grid preferences. Set the width and height of the offsets using pixels, inches, millimeters and many other units, whichever fits.

User Interface Preferences


Below the Default Grid settings in the navigable section of the Preferences Box, there is an Interface option with a drop down menu below it.

These settings are all how the user vies and uses the actual Gimp program.

These modifications are important because it allows for easy and fast use of the program if these settings have been set to specific parameters. In the Previews section of User Interface preferences, there is the option to enable or disallow layer and channel previews.

Enabling this option allows the user to set the size of the default layer and channel preview, the size of the navigation preview, and the size of the undo history preview.

The next section of the User Interface preferences provides a way to set the Dialog Box Behavior. Choose the size and tear off menu options in the Menus section. Allow or disallow keyboard shortcuts for the Gimp program. Finally, select a Gimp theme. The Default theme is the standard.

Help System Preferences


The first sub option under the Interface menu is the Help System Preferences. To access these options simply click on “Help System” in the navigation section.

In the General section of the Help System preferences, toggle between allowing and disallowing Tool Tips, Context Sensitivity Help with the F1 key, and Tips upon startup. Notice that these options are enabled.

Within the Help Browser section choose a Help. In the example,the Internal source was selected; there is also a Web Browser option that can be used. A user can set what Web Browser to use. This default setting is usually set to whatever browser that is available as default.

Tool Options Preferences


The second sub option of the Interface menu is the Tool Options preferences. To access these settings simply click on “Tool Options” in the navigation section of the Preferences Box. The first option is the Snap Distance of the Guide and Grid. In the example the setting is at 8.

Secondly, set a default threshold for finding contiguous regions. This option relates to the Fuzzy Tool in the Gimp Tool box. Next, set the default interpolation for scaling images. This option relates to the scaling tool in the Gimp Tool box. Lastly, set the paint options shared between tools.

Input Device Preferences


The last set of options under the Interface menu is the Input Devices. If there are input devices on the computer these may be changed and modified easily. Click the Configure Extended Input Devices button to configure extended input devices.

After clicking the Configure Extended Input Devices button, there are options to modify any external devices that are associated with the computer . If there are no associated devices this message will appear.

Image Window Preferences


The next main category window that is after Interface is the Image Window Preferences. This is a main Preferences category with two sub options. The first section of the Image Window preferences box is the General options.

Here users may allow or disallow “Dot for Dot” usage and they can also set Marching Ants Speed. Marching Ants Speed is the selection marquee around whatever was selected.

Next set the Zoom and Resize Behavior. All of these settings refer to Window Resizing. Users may want to configure Pointer Movement. Under Pointer Movement several sets are available; Show Brush Outline, allow Pointer Tracking, and Enable Cursor Updating.

Appearance Preferences and Title and Status Preferences

The two sub options that are underneath of Image Window are “Appearance” and “Title and Status”. To access the Appearance preferences, simply click “Appearance”.

In the first section of the Image Window Appearance preferences box, there is the choice to allow or disallow the Menu Bar, Rulers, Scroll Bars, the Status Bar, Selections, Layer Boundaries, Guides, and the Grid.

In the bottom section of the Image Window Appearance preferences box, which is labeled “Default Appearance in Full Screen Mode”, users may choose to allow or disallow the same options, just in a different environment.

When the second sub option is clicked, Title and Status preferences will be available. This allows a user to use custom number format codes to choose how they want the Image Title to be displayed. There are six different settings to choose from.

In the second section of the Title and Status preferences box, you will see six different options to display the Image Status Bar. Once again all of these settings use custom number format codes to display the status bar information.

Display Preferences

Underneath all of the Image Window sub options, the Display preferences appear. Display does not contain any sub menus. In the first section on the Display preferences, choose the Transparency Type in the Transparency section.

Mid-Tone Checks is selected, there is also the choice of Light Checks, Dark Checks, White, Gray, or Black. Underneath that option in the Transparency section, select the size of the Check. The options are Small, Medium, and Large. Next in the 8-Bit Displays section, set the minimum number of colors that can be displayed in the Gimp program.

Monitor Resolution Preferences


The next menu of preferences in the navigation section of the Preferences Box is the Monitor Resolution preferences. Access these choices by clicking “Monitor”. There are two options in setting the Monitor Resolution. The first option is to get all of the settings from the windowing system automatically. The second option is to set the Resolution manually, which is not recommended.

If Resolution is set manually set the horizontal and vertical dynamics of the Resolution.

Window Management Preferences


The next main option in the navigation section of the Preferences Box is the Window Management option. To access these settings simply click on “Window Management”.

In the first section of the Window Management preferences box, users can change Type Hints for the Tool box. Choose between Normal Window or Utility Window. The next choice is if a Normal Window is desired or a Utility Window for the Type Hint for the Docks. Now activate or deactivate the Focused Image.

Environment Preferences


The navigation section of the Preferences box is the Environment option. This option is located directly below the Window Management Option. To access the default settings simply click “Environment” to display the options.. In the first section of the Environment preferences, choose the minimum number of undo levels.

This default is set to five although, with some of the drawing tools it may be easier to choose a higher number. Next, set the size of the undo memory and the Tile Cache Size. In the File Saving section of the Environment preferences, activate or deactivate confirmation closing of unsaved images. Finally, allow the commands “File -> Save” to always save any images, and set the dimensions and the size of Thumbnail Files.

Session Management Preferences


Next on the navigation section of the Preferences box is the Session option. To access the Session Management options,click on “Session”. In the first section there are options for window positions during exiting the program. Also users can enable saving keyboard shortcuts upon exit. Lastly, users are able to save Input Device settings upon exit.

Folder Preferences


The last preferences option in the navigation list is the Folders option. After clicking on “Folders” a Temp Dir box and a Swap Dir box will appear. Here are all of the default settings for the locations of all of the Gimp functions that the program uses. Browse through other directories to set locations with the browse button to the right.

Notice that other folders are displayed under the drop down menu. All of these folders can also be changed to a different location. Again, use the browse button to find and navigate to a new directory to store any Gimp program folders.