I’m Learning How To Use GIMP


I’m not an artist; the visually creative side of my persona is critically anorexic.  Heck, I can’t even dress myself in anything other than boring jeans and T-shirt without someone wanting to hurl me into a bin before they throw up.  I’m just glad I don’t have to look at me.

Okay, that was an exaggeration but my goal this morning was to get the phrase ‘throw up’ into the blog, so with one tick off my to-do list I can continue.  After a few frustrating months (I’m talking a year and bit ago) where my ideas of my book cover and the publisher’s designer’s ideas of a book cover didn’t gel, I decided to play around and give them an approximation of what I wanted.  You can see the end result (although if you’re reading this after the cover has changed once again then this sentence is redundant).

So, I thought, what a nice little skill to pop under my belt for 2013 if I learn how to Photoshop.  This, of course, was before I saw the price for the software, added on the cost of a course and the amount of time required to attend the course (including driving there and back + homework) and very nearly packed it in (I’m very decisive when it comes to giving up).  Then I remembered GIMP – a piece of software I’m always telling the students to use at home – and decided that I may as well see what all the fuss was about.

GIMP, as I’m sure you already know (otherwise why would you be reading this post?) is a piece of software that allows to manipulate and create digital images.I am going to share my journey with you in the hopes that if I have to record it I am less likely to give up!  I’m going to ignore your reminders about the gym and weight watchers!

I downloaded the software.  Great.  Clicked onto a tutorial in YouTube that immediately launched into brushes and layers and tools and …..what?  None of this was helpful.  I needed something more basic, primarily someone to tell me exactly what the heck all these different things were and why they were.  I believe wholeheartedly that if you explain ‘why’ while you’re explaining the how then it makes more sense and the lesson will stick like glue otherwise we’re talking post-it notes and heavy winds (and  now I know you’re thinking of telling me about that film where that guy had post-it notes all around his room and a tornado lifted them, but just shut up and let me go with my simile because I have to get to work in half an hour). So:

LAYERS: Every image is composed of LAYERS.  Have you seen those greetings cards which are layers of transparencies, each transparency with a different image, so when they are all laid on top of each other they make one picture and it looks slightly 3D?  Well, this is the same.  You create layer upon layer – each with its own unique name.  Let’s take an example:

I will put a picture in here at some point

The blue of the words is one layer; the black outline is another layer and the shadow effect is another layer again.  Now, why?  Well (please remember this is pure speculation and maybe those in the know would care to correct me politely) I think it is to make it easier to manipulate the image at a later date – the shadows can be lengthened, the outline thickened, colours changed, etc  Because each layer exists separately from the others and can be manipulated it makes it easier to alter the picture, fine tune it.  It also means you can add in layers and they can be moved to sit between other layers.  For example, if I wanted to add in a sparkle I would place it between the outline and shadow layer.

You can take a photograph and separate it into layers…more about that later as I don’t know how to do that yet!

BRUSHES: These are fabulous once you’ve added more.  You know all those wonderful flames, icicles, scratches, scars, swirls and curls and curlicues, edges and feathers and leaves that look so fantastic?  I always thought they were painstakingly done pixel by pixel, or even dragged in from other photographs, but no!  They are brushes!  Now, this is where I was completely blown away.  Go to Deviant Art and type in GIMP Brushes in the search field.  You will find a whole array of different things.  Click on the one you want and on the right you’ll find a download button.  Make sure you open and save (look to Windows tutorials for directions on downloading, opening zip files, saving, etc) to the brushes directory (in my case it is user/user/gimp 2.8/brushes).

When you next open gimp and click on brushes (bottom of the Layer panel) you’ll find them all sitting pretty.

http://www.junauza.com/2009/10/25-awesome-gimp-brush-sets-1000-free.html – list of someone’s fav brush sets.

PATTERNS:  Just like the brushes you can download a whole load of different textures and backgrounds.  This time on Deviant Art search for GIMP Pattern and make sure you save the download to the pattern folder.  Again, they won’t show until you exit and reopen Gimp.

These patterns can be used for backgrounds or to enhance the texture of an object (eg a word you want to appear all cracked…sample to appear soon)



One of the best tutorials I have come across (and I’ve watched loads!).  This chap is concise, no stutters or vagueness and the screen shots are very clear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KY6fzWOYtdU


About Bea Turvey apprentice author and witch

I am a wild-haired author who cannot stop writing. The writing process is not a task for me. It is an extension of myself. When I write, I lose myself as easily as if I slipped into the story for a swim. Writing became a serious part of my life in Decmber of 2009. Unless you're reading this in 2017 it wasn't that long ago, and the bug hit me hard and fast. My first novel, Banished, was published in March 2010 and is available at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Banished-ebook/dp/B008PGM4TQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361913026&sr=8-1. If you read it, or anything else I've written, I hope you'll post a review and let me know why you liked it - or even why not!
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