Bring in the Gimp | April 1, 2004

It sure ain’t pretty, but if your looking for a free image manipulation package for OS X, the Gimp may be worth a try. The Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) has been around on Linux for an age, and has recently been ported to OS X

The version I’ve installed comes from OpenOSX and can be downloaded for free from their FTP Server. To run this you’ll need a windowing system like Apple’s X11 which you can freely download from the Apple site.

Posted at April 1, 2004 3:13 PM


Kory Garner said on April 1, 2004 10:48 PM

One of the coolest things about the Gimp, is that the books on how to use it are free too. Grokking the Gimp is great and is available online. Perfect for those of us too poor for Photoshop.

pid said on April 2, 2004 12:38 PM

I’ve always been a Photoshop person, but I have spent a little bit of time playing with Gimp.

I think it’s one of the better examples of Open Source programs, though I do feel that they’d benefit massively if their site looked as good as their software works well.

Justin said on April 2, 2004 6:58 PM

I’ve often wondered how well the Gimp can be used for website design. Of course it depends on your style of design and the types of features you depend on. My first question is really this: can a designer use it in a production environment?

Or would the initial design be best served by PhotoShop or Fireworks, etc, while allowing site maintenance or tweaks to be made with the Gimp?

Is there a way to leverage the Gimp to save licencing costs in a production environment, even if you also use another proprietary program?

Andy Smith said on April 6, 2004 5:02 PM

Justin: I think the Gimp is very well suited to web design. I’ve used both the Gimp (although only older versions, not 2.0) and Photoshop. I prefer using the Gimp although I think a lot of that’s down to the fact that I’m more familiar with it.

The Gimp’s main weakness, even in 2.0, is that it doesn’t have very good colour management for printing. You can’t edit natively in CMYK, and it can’t natively use ICC colour profiles (I think you can apply one as a filter when saving an image but it doesn’t use it while editing). This arguably doesn’t matter much for web graphics.

Another limitation is that you can’t have more than 8 bits per channel, which may cause problems particularly with photos or scanned images, but I suspect many people don’t use the higher colour depths in Photoshop anyway.

One area where the Gimp is really good for web development is scripting. If you know a bit of one of the scripting languages supported (including Scheme, Python and Perl), it isn’t too hard to write scripts to automate making things like titles or navigation links, if you use images for these. You can even run it on the web server and generate these images on demand if you want them for a dynamic site. See for an example - although the effect there probably isn’t much use for websites it gives you an idea of what you can do. I’m not sure what kind of scripting capabilities Photoshop has these days - last I looked I could only find out how to record sequences of actions, not how to write a more complicated script.

I guess even if you still need Photoshop for things the Gimp doesn’t provide, you may be able to get away with fewer copies if people aren’t using it all the time, and reduce licensing costs that way.

Andy Smith said on April 6, 2004 5:09 PM

I said: “I’m not sure what kind of scripting capabilities Photoshop has these days - last I looked I could only find out how to record sequences of actions, not how to write a more complicated script.”

I should add that this recording is a useful feature itself for many types of effect - where it works, it’s often easier to do it this way. And it’s something that the Gimp, version 1.2 at least, lacks - I don’t know if it’s been introduced in 2.0.