Getting Started with GIMP

GIMP is a power graphic editor. In this activity, you will go through some of the features in GIMP and create some graphics.

Turn In: Graphic files: MyBackground.xcf, MyBackground.jpg, MyBackground.png, Drawing.xcf, Drawing.jpg, BBandE.xcf, BBandE.png, and Selections.xcf.

GIMP (which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free graphics editor with a lot of powerful features. This activity will help you get started with GIMP. However, to really get good at using GIMP and create impressive graphics, you will need to continue trying and learning things beyond what is provided here.

For this activity, you will use GIMP to create a several graphic files then submit those. Your files do not need to look professional or even good, the intent of this activity is to learn how a few of the tools work and to get comfortable using GIMP.

Download, Install, and Start GIMP

If you do not already have GIMP installed on your computer, go to the following link.


Click on the Download link across the top of the page. The page will determine if using Windows, Linux, or OS X (Macintosh). Options are available to download the other types of operating system. Click on the Download directly button.

A file named something like gimp-2.x.x-setup.exe will be downloaded, if not able to find the file check your Downloads folder. Once downloaded, right click on the file and pick Properties. If you see an Unblock button in the lower right corner or if you see an Unblock check box, click on the button/checkbox then click on Ok. Double click on the install file to run the installer then follow the prompts.

Creating A New Image

When GIMP starts you should see a list of menu options. Click on File and pick New. The Template dropdown list shows pre-defined sizes of images, we are not going to choose any of them.

Put 128 in for both the width and height. You can use the up/down buttons or click in the box and type 128. The unit of measure will be px (pixels). A pixel is a single dot so 128 pixels by 128 pixels means 128 dots across the screen and 128 dots down the screen.

Click on the + in front of Advanced Options. Change the X resolution to 300 and the Y resolution to 300. Leave the color space RGB color (the other option is grayscale). Change Fill with to Transparency. Put in My Background for the Comment.

Click the Ok button to start of new image using the information entered above.

Saving Your Work

Click on File then pick Save. Choose the location to place your work. In the Name box at the top of the page, change Untitled.xcf to MyBackground.xcf.

Click the Save button to save your document.

Note: The XCF is a native format that allows GIMP to keep a lot of information about your image. Later we will export the image into formats more commonly used.

Tip: Save often while working, especially after completing parts of the image that you really like. If you do something that you don't like, you can try the undo key or you can close without saving then open the last saved version of the file.

The Fill and Patterns

Click on the Paintcan icon in the Toolbox. When you hover over the icon it will say Bucket Fill Tool. Below the tool are Tool Options. Select the Pattern fill option then click on the image that you just created. The pattern you selected should have filled the image.

Back in the Tool Options for the Bucket Fill, click on the image of the current selected pattern. You should see a list of the available patterns, choose a different one. Select the Affected Area option "Fill whole selection".

Inside the image, click anywhere on the image. The new pattern replaces the old pattern.

Select a different pattern and click on the image to change to that pattern. Try out at least 5 or more patterns then when finished select the one you like the most.

Note: If you have not already saved, do so now.

Export to Different Formats

Click on File then Export. Click on the + in front of Select File Type. Select JPEG image from the list. Click on Export. In the Quality change 90 to 85. This will lower the quality of image but also make the file size smaller. Smaller file size is often desired but only if the corresponding quality is sufficient. Click on the + by Advanced Options. Change the Comment to something of your choosing. Click on the Export button.

Note: JPEG and PNG are the more common image types for a number of programs, the web, etc.

Click on File then Export As (notice that Export has changed to Export to Fileame.jpg). Choose PNG image from the Select File_Type and click on the Export button. Click on the Export button again (notice the available options that can be changed).

In addition to your native XCF file, you now have the image saved in JPG and PNG formats.

Draw, Paint, Spray, and Ink

Start a new image with the dimensions of 320 by 200 (File then click New). Save the file as Drawing.xcf

To see the detail of our work better, we are going to zoom in to 200%. Click on View then Zoom then 2:1 (200%). Click and drag the lower right corner of the window to stretch the window so that you can see the entire image (or it fills your screen).

At the bottom of the Toolbox just above the Tool Options are two rectangular boxes ... the current foreground and background colors. Click on the top image, the Change Foreground Color window will pop up. You will see Current and Old colors shown. Use the buttons across the top and the color display in the middle to pick the color you want to work with. Click on Ok.

Select the Pencil Tool. On the canvas, draw with the Pencil Tool.

Change to a different foreground color.

Select the Paintbrush Tool. On the canvas, paint with the Paintbrush Tool.

Notice the difference between the pencil and the paintbush, specifically at the outer edge of the line.

Repeat changing colors and tools using the Airbrush Tool and the Ink Tool.

With either the pencil, paintbrush, or airbrush tool selected, find the Brush area in the Tool Options. Click on the icon to the left of the word Brush and select a different brush style then draw with that style. Try this with a few other brush styles.

Underneath the brush style is the brush size. The default value is 20. Select the pencil and change the brush size to 1 then draw. Change it to 100 then draw.

Do any other work with those tools and tool options as desired.

Save your work. Export the image in the JPEG format.

Background Color, Blend, and Erase

Create a new image 150 by 100 and save it as BBandE.xcf then zoom in to 400% and stretch the window so that you can see most/all of the image.

Use the Bucket Fill to fill the image with the current Foreground color.

If not already, change your background color to white. Click on the Eraser tool and make sure your brush is a solid bursh of size 20.

Use the eraser by clicking on the spots that you want to erase. For instance, create a face by clicking once in each of the locations that an eye would go. Click and hold your mouse and drag the eraser to create a mouth. Use the eraser on each of the four corners to round them off.

Select the Bucket Fill tool and click once inside each of the items that where erased.

Change both the foreground and background colors to colors different than is currently selected (and different from each other).

Click on the double arrow to the upper right of the foreground/background color. Notice that it switches them. Click it again to switch them back.

Click on the Blend tool. With the blend tool selected, try the following items ...

1. Click in the upper left corner, hold down the left mouse button, drag to the lower right corner and release the mouse.

2. Click in the middle of the bottom line of the image and drag up to the top middle of the image.

3. Click near the middle of the image and drag down and to the right for a very small distance.

4. Starting toward the lower left side of the image click and drag a very small amount toward the lower left corner and release the mouse button.

5. Try any additional variations that are of interest to you.

Save the BBandE.xcf file and also export the file in PNG format to BBandE.png.

Selection Tools and Shapes

First 5 tools in Toolbox are Selection tools. You can use the Selection tools to make shapes by creating selections then filling them in.

Create a new image 300 by 300 and save it as Selections.xcf then zoom in to 200% and stretch the window so that you can see most/all of the image.

Click on the Rectangle Select Tool and draw a Rectangle in the lower left corner of the image. Click on the Edit menu then Fill with Pattern.

Click on the Ellipse Select Tool and draw an ellipse on the upper right corner of the image. Click on the Bucket Fill tool then change to Pattern fill and a different pattern. Click inside the ellipse.

Click on the Free Select Tool (looks like a lasso) then in the lower right corner, click and hold your mouse then draw a shape of your choosing finishing the shape at the starting point. Release the mouse button. Use the Bucket Fill tool with a different pattern to fill in the shape.

Draw an Ellipse in the upper left corner of the image, while drawing the ellipse hold down both the shift and the alt keys ... this is cause the ellipse to be a perfect circle. Select the Rectangle Select tool, hold down the ctrl key then draw a rectangle inside of the circle. Use the Bucket Fill tool with a different pattern to fill in the part outside the rectangle and inside the circle.

Save the Selections.xcf file.

Drawing Tablet (optional)

GIMP will work with a drawing tablet if you have one that plugs into and works with your computer. None of the items in this activity required a tablet but for those that want to pursue using GIMP for artistic type of activities, there are a number of resources that illustrate how to use a drawing tablet with GIMP and provide some recommendations on tablets to consider for such purposes.

Wrap Up

This activity is a very brief look at the features and capabilities of GIMP. If graphic creation and editing is something of interest to you, there are a number of learning resources available to help you learn more about graphic creation and design using GIMP.

The GIMP web site has a Tutorials section. There are numerous YouTube videos covering GIMP. One other excellent resource is the LittleWebHut site.

LittleWebHut GIMP Tutorials

Copyright © 2021 Eric Schumm. Permission granted to freely use this in your classroom.