5 Top Tips for Working with Gimp

5 Top Tips for Working with Gimp


We know that a lot of blog readers use Gimp and, in the interests of taking a step away from Photoshop for a minute, here are 5 of my top tips for working with Gimp.

1. Rounded corners


Gimp makes it dead simple to round the corners of an image. To do this, choose Filters > Décor > Rounded Corners. A dialog will open. Select the Edge Radius, which is the amount of curve, and if desired, click to add a Drop Shadow and then set the Shadow Offset and Blur Radius. You can select to work on a copy of the image (rather than the original), and select whether or not to add some background behind the curved corners – the current background color is used for this. Click Ok to round the corners of the image.


2. Reassign keys

When I use Gimp, I sometimes forget and use Photoshop keys for things like deselect. Unfortunately in Gimp, the Photoshop deselect keystroke duplicates an image! You can, however, remap your keyboard shortcuts by choosing Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts. So, for example, to map the Ctrl + D keystroke to the Select > None option, click to open the Select menu, locate the None option and click it so that the words New Accelerator appear in the Shortcut column. Then press the keystroke to use – I chose Ctrl + D, which is the Photoshop equivalent. Because this key combination is already used a warning appears – if you are ok with replacing the shortcut, then proceed to assign the new shortcut key.


When you change or reassign a shortcut, Gimp is smart enough to add the new shortcut to the appropriate menu so the Select menu here shows the newly assigned shortcut.


3. Move the selection mask

It is so much easier in Gimp than in Photoshop to move the actual selection marquee once you have made it. To see this at work, make a selection, then click the Move tool. Make sure that the Move option is set to Selection in the panel and you can now drag the selection into a new position. This works for circles, rectangles as well as selections made with the free select tool. Once you’re done, return to the tool to perform another task such as Ctrl + Alt + drag to move the selected area or Shift + Alt + drag to copy it.


4. Merge to a new layer (and keep the original layers)

One command that is useful when you need to flatten an image but where you don’t want to lose the layers you have already created is the one which flattens the visible portions of an image to a new layer. This layer is at the top of the stack but is created in a way that leaves the original layers still in place. In Photoshop you do it by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E. In Gimp, choose Layer –> New From Visible. Now you can, for example, sharpen the image but, if you need to make changes to the image, you can delete the top merged layer, adjust the image on the layers below and then remake the new merged layer and sharpen it.


5. Crop Tool Smarts

The Crop tool in Gimp includes a range of cool options. When you select it, check out the panel options. You can, for example, crop just the current layer (or all the image) or you can select the crop area from the middle out (rather than drawing from one corner). You can crop to a fixed aspect ratio or a fixed width (height is variable), fixed height (width is variable), or set both height and width. From the list which shows No Guides, you can choose to display a Rule of Thirds overlay, Center lines or Golden Sections to help you create a well composed image. Enable Highlight to see a dark border around the area you plan to crop to.


So, there are my 5 top Gimp tips. It is over to you. What is your favorite Gimp tip to share with our readers?

Read more from our Post Production category

Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

Some Older Comments

  • Phil Walker January 26, 2012 02:38 am

    Haven't used GIMP before but viewing the preceding piece and information could be tempted to give this post production programme software a try.

  • Helen Bradley January 25, 2012 01:23 am

    @Julia You make a good point. GIMPShop is still available from gimpshop.com and it is a modification of Gimp made to look and feel more like Photoshop. You can even enable Photoshop shortcuts with this version.

  • julia January 23, 2012 03:58 am

    there used to be a "brand" of gimp called gimpshop which I believe had all things set up for an easy transition for photoshop users.

  • Stasha January 20, 2012 09:09 am

    Lovely image Helen and very useful tips. I like Gimp, some things are so much easier then in PS.

  • Jeet January 19, 2012 12:34 am

    Thanks a lot, Helen, really useful tips.
    I think another post worth discussing might be the batch processing scripts available for GIMP.
    I only do minor corrections (if any) and wish I could use something like that to quicken the post camera labour.

  • Dewan Demmer January 18, 2012 10:42 pm

    I use GIMP for almost all my editting, and I really have become so used to how it works, so much so that when I try to use photoshop I end up saying many mean things ...
    GIMP is really a useful photo editting tool , I can do pretty much anything I need to do in GIMP.
    I do sometime rely on other tools to do bulk work but when I need finesse work I rely on GIMP.
    These, for example, were edited with GIMP:

  • KP January 18, 2012 05:03 pm

    My tips would be (1) the use of layers before modifying anything and to experiment different blending methods for them, when merging, and (2) if you want to work on the image later, save it in gimp's XCF format.

  • tinyhands January 18, 2012 09:41 am

    #5 is awesome and I use it all the time. When cropping my vacation photos, I would select all, then use the crop tool with rule of thirds to select the best portion of the picture with fixed aspect ratio for printing. Done in seconds.

  • George Fragos January 18, 2012 09:08 am

    I realize there are many fewer users of GIMP than Photoshop and really appreciate when you take the time to provide GIMP tips.

  • Helen January 18, 2012 07:00 am

    Thank you for remembering that not everyone can afford Photoshop! ;-) Very useful tips.

  • cpando January 18, 2012 06:01 am

    thanks a lot, this kind of tips briefly explained are a realy good way to get knowing the program.

    I hope you can keep posting more of them.

    Once again, thanks

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  • Helen Bradley January 18, 2012 01:36 am

    @abby what a great idea.

    These images were shot in Port Isaac, Cornwall, UK. If you have watched the UK TV series Doc Martin, this is the village that was used for shooting the external shots. It is a typical Cornish fishing village and very beautiful.

    I share your frustration, and a hint for the future (sort of a tip in a reply) check the filenames in the screenshots -sometimes the answer is right there!

    cheers ...Helen

  • Leandro January 18, 2012 01:19 am

    Thank you very much!

  • Richard January 18, 2012 01:08 am

    I'd like to add the tip for vigneting found in this flickr discussion: http://www.flickr.com/groups/gimpusers/discuss/72157628320008749/

    (come to think of it, that group can be a tip in itself)

  • Abby Gordon January 18, 2012 01:05 am

    Hi Helen,

    This is a very useful post, thank you. I know it's not the point of the post, but for those of us with a passion for travel as well as photography, could you tell us where the photo is from? When writers post photos of beautiful places like this, I always wish they could just mention in a caption or footnote or somewhere where the photo was taken.

    Thank you!

  • BrandiK January 18, 2012 01:04 am

    Thanks for the tips - I'm a casual GIMP user but did not know any of these!! Will definitely use now.