Gimp

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Gimp, an open-source bitmap im­age editor, has been around for as long as OS X. If your Mac runs Moun­tain Lion, Mav­er­icks, or Yosemite, you can in­stall it as a na­tive ap­pli­ca­tion, oth­er­wise you’ll have to

in­stall X11 first (http://ap­ple.co/1ML4qBk).

While the app’s in­ter­face is very dif­fer­ent

to Pho­to­shop, many tools found in Adobe’s heavy­weight im­age editor are also pro­vided here. There’s the lasso and magic wand for se­lec­tion, a pen tool for draw­ing Bézier paths, a paint­brush, and a clone stamp. You can build up your im­ages on mul­ti­ple lay­ers, too.

Some tools can be hard to find if you’re used to some­thing Pho­to­shop – the Lev­els dialog is in the Color menu, for ex­am­ple. The good news is that the in­ter­face is cus­tomis­able, so you can set it up just how you like, and have dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments for dif­fer­ent tasks.

The app in­cludes a full set of paint­ing tools, in­clud­ing Brush, Pen­cil, Air­brush, and Clone. It fea­tures a pow­er­ful gra­di­ent editor and a blend tool, and you can im­port cus­tom brushes and pat­terns. There’s full sup­port for mul­ti­ple lay­ers and chan­nels, in­clud­ing al­pha chan­nels, and the num­ber of undo oper­a­tions you can per­form are lim­ited only by the amount of disk space that’s avail­able.

Tai­lor-made fea­tures

For se­lect­ing pix­els, fa­mil­iar rec­tan­gle, rounded rec­tan­gle, and lasso tools have you cov­ered, as well as ad­vanced path tools for cre­at­ing Bézier curve and polyg­o­nal se­lec­tions. Trans­for­ma­tion tools in­clude ro­tate, scale, shear and flip, and there are tools to fix lens dis­tor­tion, bar­rel dis­tor­tion and vi­gnetting.

Per­haps Gimp’s most im­por­tant fea­ture is that it’s ex­ten­si­ble. Any­one can cre­ate plug-ins for it and share them – over 100 are al­ready avail­able (http://reg­istry.gimp.org). Plug-ins can be writ­ten us­ing the Scheme, Python and Perl lan­guages, and this script­ing lan­guage sup­port al­lows Gimp to be au­to­mated too.

Gimp isn’t per­fect, of course. Its Text tool is in need of much im­prove­ment, and there are none of the 3D tools avail­able in Pho­to­shop to be found here. Nor does it sup­port any­thing

like Pho­to­shop’s non-de­struc­tive Ad­just­ment

Lay­ers for easy ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with colour

changes. Other miss­ing fea­tures are taken care of by third party plug-ins, such as sup­port for the CMYK colour space, which is avail­able in Sep­a­rate+ (http://bit.ly/mf289sep­a­rate).

Gimp is not a com­plete re­place­ment for Pho­to­shop, but it pro­vides so many fea­tures found in Adobe’s ven­er­a­ble bitmap editor that, for most pur­poses, it’s a per­fectly us­able al­ter­na­tive. Thor­ough doc­u­men­ta­tion and tu­to­ri­als make it rel­a­tively easy to get started, and a large de­vel­op­ment com­mu­nity and user base mean Gimp’s con­stantly evolv­ing.

Although Gimp’s in­ter­face is dif­fer­ent to Adobe Pho­to­shop, its lay­out – with tools and their op­tions on the left and other pal­ettes on the right – is fa­mil­iar and eases you into free im­age edit­ing.

Gimp’s al­ready ex­ten­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties can be taken fur­ther by down­load­ing plug-ins from a huge online repos­i­tory.

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