GIMP is a miracle of modern software. It is a professional image manipulation program, much like the well known Photoshop, but it is completely free to use. If you have ever wanted to edit an image beyond doodling a mustache or cropping out your ex, you're likely to have stumbled upon GIMP at one point or another.
GIMP makes no compromises with its interface. As a beginner, you might feel a bit helpless, and unless you have experience working with a similar program, you might also need some time to familiarize yourself with how everything works. However, once you've understood what each tool does and decided which widgets are useful, you can easily customize the workspace.
There are several tools that let you manipulate colors, the Curves Tool being the highlight. With it, you can adjust brightness on tones and on individual color channels at the same time.
GIMP makes plenty of use of stacked layers. Working with these enables you to maintain control over several graphical elements simultaneously. Whether you intend to superimpose two or more images or to selectively enhance parts of an image, the concept is the same. By manipulating colors and making use of layer masks, you can enhance and put a spin even on the most boring of photos.
For quick touch-ups, there are a plethora of filters that range from the most common effects to web-friendly set-ups and even animations. GIMP also features various brushes that can be edited, as well as gradients and pattern fill colors. This combined with the support for external input devices, such as pressure sensitive tablets, makes GIMP into a powerful tool for digital artists.
One thing to note is that traditionally, GIMP opens up three distinct windows. The main window, the brush window, and the tool window. For those who find this bothersome, there's a recently added Windows option called Single-Windowed Mode. When using this everything snaps into one window, while different files are viewed in tabs. Honestly, this was my only beef with GIMP. But now that it's out of the way, I find that the usability has increased considerably. From what I can tell, there is an even bigger interface update coming up with GIMP 2.9, which is already downloadable, but currently unstable.
GIMP is plugin friendly. The GIMP Plugin Registry contains close to a thousand plugins, which are also easy to add.
- Professional photo manipulation and retouching
- Graphic design elements
- Highly expandable through plugins
- Customizable interface
- Peripheral hardware support
Gimp, is unarguably Photoshop for the cheap-ass. However, it is continuously under development and getting better with every release. There's an entire universe of resources for learning and working with GIMP, so there's no excuse for not giving it a try.