GIMP is the politically-incorrect sounding acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program, a free alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Like many amateur photographers, I have almost always used Photoshop. Despite Bill Gates’ best attempts at creating a Windows-based alternative, Photoshop has pretty much had the market cornered for years. But alternatives are nice, so when I first heard about GIMP, I was intrigued. As I quickly discovered though, GIMP is not the easiest software in the world to use. There is a bit of a learning curve, and that is where the new Book of GIMP: A Complete Guide to Nearly Everything by Olivier Lecarme and Karine Delvare comes in handy.
This is not some quickie overview, or GIMP for Dummies. At 656 pages, the paperback Book of GIMP is kind of like a textbook. Although the information is presented in a highly readable manner, this is a book that was designed for those who are looking to master the software.
The Book of GIMP is broken into three parts. The first is “Learning GIMP.” We start with the basics, such as photo retouching. This is what I have used Photoshop for the most, in fact, it is about the only thing I really used it for. We are shown how to use GIMP to fix all sorts of things, such as removing red eye, adjusting the exposure, removing an object, and more. As with every chapter, there are a series of exercises at the end. To be honest, I feel that this section alone made the book worthwhile.
There are many more uses for GIMP besides the basic manipulation of photos though. The book also explains how to use the software for animation, drawing and illustration, website design, among other applications.
Where the first part of the book gives the broad strokes of the topics, part two goes in-depth. This second section is titled “Reference,“ and is nearly twice as long as its predecessor. It covers 22 topics, including “The GIMP Interface,” “Color,” “Drawing Tools,” “Animation Tools,” and “Customizing GIMP,” to name a few. It is basically a master class in GIMP, and contains an incredible amount of information.
Part Three is “Appendices,” and offers a wide range of interesting subjects. These include sections about vision and image representation, and color theory. There are also a great number of GIMP-related resources, such as websites and the like for the user to check out. A “how to” for installing the software on whatever platform one is using is also featured here.
I have not used GIMP extensively enough to say whether I think it is “better” than Photoshop, but I do know that the price is right. For those of us who play around with photography, it is an excellent tool. In fact, for what I have used it for so far at least, it has at least equaled the results I have gotten with the Adobe product. With The Book of GIMP, I now have the tools to fully use it. This book really does contain just about everything one needs to know about this great software suite.