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28.07.2022 23:53

GIMP step-by-step – how to use the best free graphics program

Software & applications

GIMP is a popular program that is used to process raster graphics, that is, represented by pixels. Do you want to master the basics of this software and start working as a designer? If so – be sure to read the guide below!

GIMP, a free graphics processing program. This you must know! 

GIMP is a free program that allows you to edit graphics. It is often used as a replacement for the well-known Adobe Photoshop program. It doesn’t have as many advanced options as its competitor, but it’s perfect for learning basic graphics programs. 

If you want to learn computer graphics on a free program – choose GIMP. It will allow you to remove an image from the background, paint with a brush, clone objects, change the size, perspective, and apply layers and masks. Perfect for both photo retouching and web projects. 


It is best to download the program from the developers’ official website, this will ensure security and guarantee that viruses and other threats will not appear on your computer along with the installation. It is worth remembering that manufacturers care about software development, so you should check the website from time to time to see if there is a new update.

Users praise the software for the fact that the program is available in multiple languages, it has the option of creating layers (which is not available in all free graphics applications), it supports many plugins that offer an additional range of possibilities. Plus, learning how to use GIMP shouldn’t take as long as mastering competitive Photoshop. No wonder that the program is very popular.

However, there are also a few shortcomings of this app. Internet users complain that the interface is not very intuitive, which can be a bit annoying at first. Another disadvantage is the fact that the application does not have as many guides online as its popular replacements.

Related: Free drawing software – what free PC and tablet drawing programs are there?


Basic GIMP Features

The basic element to pay attention to when opening the interface is the toolbox. It contains the basic software tools that are used for cutting, coloring and many other basic graphic activities. By clicking a specific icon, functions relating to the selected tool only appear. 

The first three icons from the top allow you to select objects. With their help, you can choose the shape you prefer to extract – polygons, rectangles or circles. The next icon is the wand, which offers the possibility to select a fuzzy regular area based on the color. The next character is the “select by color” tool, it allows you to select elements by similar colors. Smart Scissors are used to mark areas using edge fit, and the icon next to it is “foreground selection”. It extracts the elements that are in the foreground. 

Another feature that the software offers is paths. You will activate them by selecting the central icon in the second row of the toolbox. The next character is a color picker, which is usually found in any, even not very advanced graphics program. It is with its help that you will be able to recognize every color in a photo or illustration. Another icon in the GIMP toolbox is to make it easier to zoom the image at any time, which is an integral part of the work of every designer. 

gimp instruction
All news that appear in the program are regularly described on their official website | Source: GIMP

The icon that is placed under the smart scissors is a measuring cup. Thanks to it, you can easily and quickly measure distances and angles. The next item is “Offset” which provides the functionality to move layers, objects, and selections while working in GIMP. Another icon is “alignment”, its task is to align objects or layers on your canvas. This option is very useful, just like the next one, i.e. cropping. Thanks to it, you will be able to remove unwanted edges of the photo, which is used in almost every processing. Another tool in this row is responsible for rotating paths, layers and selections. 

The first character of the third row is responsible for scaling, the next for the slope, then perspective and reflection. These are some basic functions that every designer should know. They are useful, for example, when matching an element to the background. The next icon in the toolbox is the capital letter “A”, clicking which of course allows you to insert and modify a text field. 

A bucket fill is a symbol that allows you to fill a selected area with color or pattern. The next icon, “gradient”, is used for a similar activity, but instead of a uniform color, it fills the area with a gradient. The middle element in this row is a pencil and you can use it to paint with a hard brush. The next icon is a “brush” and has a similar function, but paints in a smoother way. The last image in this row shows an eraser that erases the background or transparency of the layer.

The icon that opens the next row of tools is an airbrush that allows you to draw with variable pressure. The next element is called the “nib” and resembles a paint wrapper, it allows you to calligraphy. The next tool is a stamp, thanks to which you can easily duplicate an image or pattern. Another icon is a patch and its task is to remove irregularities from the image, right behind it there is a perspective clone. The tool next to it allows you to selectively sharpen or blur an object with a brush. Next is spreading, and the last icon allows you to dim or lighten the selection. 

In addition to the functions described above, in the toolbox you will also find tools responsible for the colors of the graphics. The icon below the previously mentioned shows the foreground color, the next one opens the color selection window. Small black and white square icons reset the colors, and pressing the arrows causes them to change. 

The toolbox contains a lot of tools that can seem quite complicated. With time, however, you will find out that these are the basic elements of every graphic artist’s work, and working without them is impossible. 

GIMP for Beginners. 

Discussing the basic tools is one thing, but you should know how to use them. Here’s a simple instruction to get you started in GIMP 2.10. It will answer the question: what functions should I choose to create and save a new document?

Opening files

To start working with a selected document, select the “File” option in the menu, and then “Open”. Now you just need to load the relevant data. Gimp allows you to apply graphics in a native application format, such as XCF or in other popular formats, such as JPEG. After uploading the selected element, the program allows you to change the conversion to the RGB working space, in most cases it will not be needed and it is enough to click the “Do not change” field with the mouse. 

The software also offers to load an image as a layer. To do this, select the “Open as Layers” option from the “File” menu. In this case, the selected items will be added to the already open document as a layer.

The final way to put a file into GIMP is to simply drag it directly onto your canvas or load it from the internet using the “Open Location” feature. 

Creating an Image

To create a new blank image, select the “New” option from the “File” menu. Now enter the dimensions of the graphic you are interested in or choose the ones from the template. You can add other parameters, e.g. resolution or background color. If you want to use the dimensions of a file from the clipboard, from the “File” menu, click “Create” and select the appropriate item. Then use the tools available in the toolbox, and if you are new to Gimp – do not be afraid to experiment!

Saving a Project 

To save your editable work, select “File”, then “Save As” from the menu. Thanks to this solution, you will always be able to return to your work. If you want to save the file in a different format, such as JPEG, click “Export” and use the appropriate option. 

GIMP Tutorial – Check out more tips on how to use GIMP

Learning a graphics program on your own always raises a lot of questions. Sometimes there are very annoying situations when a novice designer wants to do something quickly, but does not always know how. In such situations, it is best to use free online guides. There are a multitude of tutorials available on YouTube and just a quick search will highlight some of the best ones.


Mastering graphic programs such as GIMP is not very difficult, although it requires some time and commitment. To get acquainted with all the possibilities of the application, a good way is to both experiment yourself and practice with various types of online tutorials. Remember that over time all tasks will become less and less difficult, in the case of mastering GIMP it is perfect to say that training makes perfect!



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