Gimp: The Basics

Objectives and Overview

Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a powerful tool that will help you understand the basic elements of graphic design. With the skills you acquire here you will be able to get started designing different things in Gimp.

This lesson will be a mixture of a walkthrough on Learn, direct instruction, and project practice.

Lesson Objectives:

  • Become comfortable navigating the Gimp workspace
  • Identify the different menus and bars
  • Begin to develop a Gimp workflow
  • Identify and describe the basic functions of the tools

Gimp’s Interface

The best way to refine your graphic design skills is to practice! The instruction will be kept to the minimum amount to enable you to begin creating.

Gimp’s interface is similar to Adobe Photoshop, so many of the skills and workflow habits that you develop now will help you if you transition into Photoshop at a later date.

Interface Overview

This section contains a walkthrough of the most important parts of Gimp’s interface. This content is most effective when you open Gimp and follow along with the steps.

  • The Toolbox(labeled as #1) is where your tools are contained. All the tools for selection, image manipulation (cropping, rotating, etc.), drawing, and more are all in this window.
Annotated screenshot of Gimp's interface showing the toolbox, tool options, and layers window
  • To create a new image, navigate to the File menu and select New. You’ll then be able to change the image size and choose options for the image background. In this example, the Fill width is set to Transparent. This is important for creating pixel art. If you select white, your characters, logos, and other assets will have a solid white background.
Annotated screenshot the Create a New Image dialogue box in Gimp
  • This is an example of a new document created with the settings from the above image. The checkered background is transparent, so anything you create in the workspace won’t have any added color to the background unless you intentionally add it.
Closeup of the Gimp Workspace
  • This is a closer view of the Toolbox. The grouping of tools labeled #1 are your selection tools. You should experiment with all of these to get a feel for the individual uses of each. The grouping of tools labeled #2 are your movement tools. The grouping #3 are your drawing tools, including the Pencil and Eraser tools which you’ll use for creating pixel art.
Closeup of the Gimp Toolbox
  • This is an example of Layers. If you look at the pink box on the right, the Layers window shows the blue background and then another layer for the text. Adding layers is useful as it allows you to change, adjust, and manipulate individual parts of your project instead of treating it as one combined piece.
Example showing the Layers panel in Gimp

Additional Resources

It’s recommended that you use the basic skills from the overview and instruction and jump right into practicing manipulating Gimp. However, there are more resources for you to review and use.

This is a great video with a solid overview of Gimp. It’s pulled from the Davis Media Design YouTube channel. If you’re going to use this video, it’s recommended to have Gimp open so that you can practice the skills while watching the video.