I recently got the chance to read and work through many of the tutorials in the book The Artist’s Guide to GIMP, 2nd Edition: creative techniques for photographers written by Michael J. Hammel. Having only a sloppy, self-taught understanding of GIMP going into this I wanted to accomplish two things. Learn the fundamentals and equip myself with a stack of GIMP techniques I will actually use day to day.
The Artist’s Guide to GIMP, 2nd Edition is a 287 page book that focuses on the process required to complete tasks in GIMP, not the mechanics of each tool. The book is divided into six chapters. Focusing on GIMP fundamentals, the first chapter covers all of the building blocks needed to start using GIMP and provides a reference for beginners working through the tutorials that fill chapters 2-6. The topics covered in chapters 2-6 include Photographic Effects, Web Design, Advertising and Special Effects, Type Effects, and Creative Inspiration.
Chapter 1 GIMP Fundamentals - I found the first chapter of the book absolutely essential although the author recommended intermediate users may skip it. I am obviously not an intermediate user as I learned a lot about layers, selections, and color modes in that first chapter. This first chapter helped me accomplish my goal of learning the fundamentals inside and out. What I didn’t like about the first chapter was section 1.9 on digital cameras. I didn’t feel like it was needed or fit.
Chapter 2 Photographic Effects - After setting my knowledge of tools in stone in chapter 1, I worked through Photographic Effects which I honestly use very little. I wasn’t expecting much here but really enjoyed the tutorial on casting light through a window and always wanted to know how to create light streaks after seeing them used by photographers on Facebook. A nice surprise to a usually boring (for me) topic.
Chapter 3 Web Design – The Web Design chapter was focused on the basic editing of raster graphics and I found the tutorials to be sufficient but not overly impressive. Some of the navigation elements included text which I think is an outdated technique. Although, in his defense, I believe the author mentioned this. Also, the banner tutorial was ineffective and felt more like a masking tutorial to me.
Chapter 4 Advertising and Special Effects – This chapter was exciting as it covered many of the cool little GIMP design tricks I was looking to learn. The chapter started out with a print vs web description which cleared up my clouded understanding of print quality graphics. Several of the tutorials in chapter 4 were similar to topics I’ve attempted before and failed including the word picture and glass reflection. I was able to complete both of these tutorials with little frustration.
Chapter 5 Type Effects – Type Effects are something I use while creating banners, logos and other parts of my work. A few of the tutorials offered here were more of the movie poster type than the professional logo style of design which I use more often. Working through the tutorials despite this helped me practice with the same options as I would be using to create something more professional.
Chapter 6 Creative Inspiration – This chapter included some tutorials with more of an artsy feel like you often see created in Photoshop. All of the tutorials in this final chapter allowed for a lot more creative freedom. I found the Creamsicle Love and the Starfield tutorials very useful.
Summary – I took one week to read and work through the majority of the tutorials in this book using GIMP 2.8. Although I didn’t find every tutorial a home run, overall I was very impressed with the way the book was written and organized. The Artist’s Guide to GIMP, 2nd Edition was easy for me to read and helped me do exactly what I set out to do in a short amount of time.
Because I am a migrant from Windows to Linux and Photoshop to GIMP one thing Michael J. Hammel said in the book really rung true. He said ”I often compare moving from Photoshop to GIMP to moving from one city to another. When you move to a new city, it takes time to find your way to the grocer or to the theater. But once you learn how to get there, the grocer and theater are probably much like the ones you left behind. So it is with GIMP. It takes patience to find the tools or filters that perform a given task, but the end result will be just as recognizable and familiar to you.”