Scientists, photographers, graphic designers and illustrators are among some of the professionals that use the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). One thing that makes it so popular is that it’s a free, open-source application. That means professionals who use it can use their resources to produce more high-quality work instead of paying high monthly fees for an expensive proprietary application. (Free and open-source means that hobbyists can use it, too, and many use it to gain the skills they need to become professionals.)
Users can contribute their own custom features to it, as well as use a variety of plug-ins. Many programmers have contributed to both GIMP itself and to developing plug-ins to give it increased capabilities. For example, Peter Sikking, a usability architect, contributed to developing the polyline and rectangular selection/cropping tools and the single-window mode. With open-source applications, developers often focus on creating the features most requested by users. Within an open-source community, new features can be added almost as soon as users realize they need or want them.
Here are some of the features that make GIMP so popular:
- An artistic toolbox that includes brushes, a pencil, an airbrush and cloning
- Plugins to add file formats and special effects filters
- Selection tools including intelligent scissors, free, eclipse, rectangle, fuzzy and bezier
- Scripting capability
- Transformation tools to rotate, scale, flip and shear
- Multiple redo capability
- Sub-pixel sampling for anti-aliasing
- Layers and channels, including a full Alpha channel for working with transparency
- A database to use GIMP functions from external programs
Whatever operating system you have, Windows, macOS, or Linux, GIMP works across platforms. It comes with support for a wide variety of popular programming languages, too, including Python, Perl, C, C++ and many others.
Just as GIMP works across several platforms and programming languages, it also integrates well with other free software like Inkscape, Scribus, and Swatchbooker. Its framework makes creating high-quality color reproductions a breeze, whether it’s digital media, printed media—or a combination of both.
Downloading GIMP is easy, and so is accessing help—just press F1. So many people find this application indispensable that the user manual for the latest release comes in 15 different languages. It supports just as many different image types as well, including GIF, JPEG, PNG, XPM, TIFF, TGA, MPEG, PS, PDF, PCX, and BMP, to name a few.
Another contributing factor to its continued popularity is the degree of control users have over how much computer memory it utilizes. You can pre-set the size of the tile cache to tell GIMP to transfer image data from memory to disk once it reaches a certain percentage of memory usage. That means it won’t slow your system down to a crawl. Another space-saving feature is that you can install just the fonts you want and need.
Whether you need a high-quality image manipulation application for professional reasons or you want to become the next social media meme master, GIMP is a great option. Their website provides tutorials for a multitude of uses. Whether you want to learn to use it to tone map in photo editing, automate editing with Python, or create an original painting, it’s all possible. It’s also possible that you’ll find a completely new and unique way to use it—and share your discovery with the rest of the GIMP community. That’s how open-source applications just keep getting better.