GimpShop Review – Part I

Recently I migrated my current home machine to Linux from Windows for a variety of reasons: Cost, Annoyance, Bugs, Virii and generally inexplicable sluggishness in Windows.

As with most Windows to Linux converts I soon learned that there are certain applications that I seem to not be able to live without, and unfortunately there are not Linux versions of these same apps. Some that come to mind include WinAmp and Photoshop. I’ll talk about WinAmp later, for now, lets talk Photoshop.

By Photoshop I, of course, mean Adobe’s Photoshop. I’ll let you pick the flavor you will miss, any one of them(6, 7, CS, CS2 and CS3) is an extremely powerful image manipulation application, and the newer the better. We all know how bloated Adobe PDF can get, but when it comes to photo editing, Photoshop is the king. When I went to screw around with some images the first thing I reached for was Photoshop and realized that I’ll have to boot into Windows just to do it; and that would be the only reason I would boot into Windows, for the first time in over 3 weeks. This would never do, I thought, there has to be a free (as in beer) alternative for Linux

At first I tried running Photoshop in WINE by simply installing it. That sort of worked a little. There were some errors on startup and it ran kind of sluggish. Then I found an article somewhere online (I wish I had a link) that recommended copying your installation directory and registry entries from Windows and forcing them into WINE. This worked a little better but it just didn’t feel “right.”

As an alternative, Ubuntu comes with a free (as in beer) image manipulation program called GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program. By “comes with” I mean that it is installed automatically when you install Ubuntu. So I gave it a try. Boy was that ever an exercise in futility for a long time Photoshop user. Everything was in different places, things were done differently and the learning curve appeared to be quite steep with less than stellar results. But it was there and it was free, and I thought that if I was going to embrace Linux, I better step up to the plate and live the life. And it hurt!

Apparently I wasn’t the only one. A quick surf of the internet will tell you that almost all Photoshop users who move to GIMP feel the same way. Heck, it’s so important that Disney paid to have Photoshop ported to Linux. Ahh but to have $15,000 USD hanging around.

But why pay when someone else will do it for free… Enter GIMPShop, it’s The Gimp updated to perform much like Photoshop. So much so that I was able to start using GimpShop almost immediately after opening it. Within minutes and a few quite intuitive clicks I was doing all of the same stuff in GimpShop that I would have been doing in Photoshop under Windows. And I was doing it in VERY similar ways to how I was used to doing it in Photoshop. As an exercise take a look at these “before” and “after” shots of an Ubuntu logo I whipped up from something I got off the net…

This is what I started with:

Original Ubuntu “Strap” logo

And in about 5 minutes I had whipped this into shape:

ubuntu upgraded logo

Both are clickable thumbnails if you want to look at them in higher resolution. If you are using Ubuntu you have a copy of the first one in higher resolution in clear .png format on your computer in your Home/Examples folder named logo-Ubuntu.png.

That’s pretty impressive to me at least. And I’m not talking about “what I can do,” I simply mean that the Gimp isn’t such a beast so much as it takes a different approach in the interface to get it done. With the right interface an application can do FAR more for the user than they may have ever expected. I know that I have a completely new respect for GIMP and from open source software.

And this is why open-source is good! Here is an excellent application (GIMP) that is very difficult to use for a new or uninitiated user. But the code is free for anyone else to look at and use, within particular open source licensing, depending on the license it is released under. So one of those users who had a tough time with GIMP but liked Photoshop took the source code, reconfigured it slightly to make it easier to use and re-released it. All of this is free of charge to the end user.

[If you are enjoying this article or are new to GIMP or GIMPShop be sure to check out the GIMP Tips Tricks and Tutorials on my T3 (Tips, Tricks and Tutorials) page.]

What does it look like? I was hoping you would ask… I’ll take you through a walkthrough of creating the Ubuntu logo I made above. When you install GimpShop it actually replaces (so far as I can tell) the original installation of The GIMP. At least this is true with the GDebbie Package I used to install it in Ubuntu. Your GIMP launcher will actually launch GimpShop, not the original GIMP, and reviewing the gimpshop.files it appears that everything went into the original gimp folders.

When you launch you will be greeted with this lovely splash screen that includes a nice progress bar as it loads various components. I will say that the load time is about half that of Photoshop under Windows (and about 25% the time to load Photoshop under WINE)

gimp splash

Once it launches you will have only the Tools and Layers palettes open. These are very similar to the same palettes in Photoshop.

tool-layer-only image

You can drag and drop your file onto the Tools palette or click “File” -> “Open” to open the image you want to edit. Actually the Tools- File menu contains almost all the same items as are available in the same menu under Photoshop. I’m going to open an 800×600 pixel blank canvas at 72 dpi resolution for this job…


This should also look very familiar to Photoshop users. Right now the only colorspaces supported are RGB and Greyscale. There is rumor that the next version of GIMP will be supporting CMYK colorspace. If you don’t know what this means, don’t worry about it. If you do and it’s important you to, well, now you know!

Next we need to import the original logo we will be modifying into this new canvas. It’s as easy as opening (File-Open or drag and drop) the logo in GimpShop. There will now be two files open, the blank canvas and the logo file…

both files open

The original logo file makes this whole process very easy because it was saved as a .png with no background color. This means that the image only contains the specific logo and makes manipulating the individual components quite easy. To copy this logo onto our new canvas it’s as easy as dragging the layer from the layer palette of the original logo and dropping it onto the new canvas…

moving the logo between canvases

Now that that’s done we can close the original logo file and move on to the fun stuff! Notice in the image above that it named the new layer automatically “Background copy?” This is because it was the background of the original image. Double clicking on that name allows us to rename it something more friendly, like “logo.” You will also notice the “eye” next to each layer. Just like Photoshop, you can click the eye and make that particular layer visible and invisible on the canvas.

Also notice that on the canvas is a yellow and black dotted line. This line indicates that the particular layer seleted holds that shape. This becomes important in a few steps. First, lets take a look at the down and dirty way of making our new logo.

It’s so simple you will smack your palm on your head. The new logo’s look depends on the drop shadow effect and a little of the “jelly” effect on the color portion. Gimp (and GimpShop) and Photoshop make drop shadows mechanically in very similar ways. They take the original layer, offset it a few pixels (depending on your light source location and depth in Photoshop or the offset you select in Gimp) and then add a blurring effect to it. Specifically this is a Gaussian blur.

So lets cheat and do this the “wrong” way first. This way we can learn from our mistakes… First,right click on the “logo” layer (you did rename it, right?) and select “duplicate layer.” This will create a new layer identical to the logo layer named “logo copy.” Select the “Move” tool on the Tools Palette, it’s the one that looks like a 4 way arrow:

tolls palette - move

Now move the “Logo Copy” layer down a little, and to the right a touch:

nudge the logo

Wow, that hurts the eyes to look at huh? Are you ready for the rest of the wrong way to do this? Here it is… While maintaining the selection on the “logo copy” layer open the Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur menu on the canvas window. You should get the following dialog…

Gaussian Blur Options

Make yours look like this. Basically, an 11 pixel Gaussian Blur. Click OK and take a look at the magic we have wrought! It’s almost there! The last thing to do is adjust the layer opacity for the “logo copy” layer in the Layers Palette:

The wrong way to do this effect

With it adjusted to 70% it looks pretty damned nice! But there’s a problem. Remember the black and yellow dotted line? That’s a bounding box for the layer, specficially the “logo copy” layer. It also acted as a bounding box for our blur effect! This means that the blur didn’t extend past the edge of the box which means it’s chopped off prematurely. Don’t believe me? Click on the background layer in the Layers Palette.

And let me tell you what: no-one likes premature chopping!

Part 2 of this review will spend some time getting together the rest of this walkthrough showing how to do this “correctly.” The correct method will walk GimShop through some of the more advanced moves available in this program and show how much of a contender it is against Photoshop.

[If you are enjoying this article or are new to GIMP or GIMPShop be sure to check out the GIMP Tips Tricks and Tutorials on my T3 (Tips, Tricks and Tutorials) page.]


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