Gimp: Some quick tips

August 17, 2009

The Gimp is a very powerful piece of software and it can take quite some time to figure out all the little things it can do for you to help make your photo editing routine easier. I know some of these things might seem a bit obvious, but I didn’t notice them all at first, so I thought you might not have, either.

Cropping to the Rule of Thirds

Remember when I talked about the rule of thirds? Did you know there was an easy way to crop your photos keeping the rule of thirds in mind? In both the crop tool and the selection tool, after you select it, a bunch of options show up below, and one of them is a dropdown for what guides you’d like to see, and you can select “Rule of thirds”:

Show Guides

Once you’ve set that, when you use that selection or crop tool (I prefer to use the selection tool and then use Image –> Crop to Selection… I’m not sure why, though…), you’ll see the guide lines as you select/crop:

Rule of Thirds Guides in Action!


Aspect Ratio Crop

Just a bit above where you selected Rule of thirds in your crop/selection tool, you’ll see where you can set an Aspect Ratio to use when selecting/cropping:

Select an Aspect ratio

This is really handy when you’re about to get a print made of one of your photos – keep in mind that your image is probably not going to be the same ratio as whatever frame you’re trying to fill. For instance, when getting an 8×10 print, it’s going to chop off a lot of your photo. Before ordering my prints (which, btw, I use, I like to crop the photo myself so that I know I’m getting the exact final image in a print that I want.

More Split-Tone

Remember the Split-Tone Plug-In I talked about last week? I forgot to mention one other thing, so I’ll throw it into this entry. Remember how it takes your current layer and desaturates it before doing the highlight and shadow layers? Did you know you can still have those highlight and shadows but apply them to a full color layer? Before running the plug-in, and while you still have your color image, create a duplicate layer (either right-click on the layer in the layer dock and select “Duplicate Layer”, go to Layer–>Duplicate Layer, or hit Ctrl+Shift+D). Now run the plug-in. It will turn your duplicate layer into black-and-white, but keep your original color one untouched. Now you can just make the black-and-white layer invisible by clicking on the eye icon next to it:

Final Layers Dock

My final image looks like this:

Split tone with color

The original, full-color image can be seen here.

Creating Shortcuts

If you’re like me, you’d rather use keyboard shortcuts than having to keep dragging and clicking all the time. Did you know you can create your own keyboard shortcuts for things that Gimp doesn’t automatically create for you? First, go to Edit –> Preferences and select Interface. Once in there, make sure that “Use dynamic keyboard shortcuts” is checked (it’s not by default, so you’ll probably have to check it):

User dynamic keyboard shortcuts

After it’s checked, click the “Configure Keyboard Shortcuts…” button right under it. Now you just find the command you want to create a shortcut for, click on it and then press whatever keys you want the shortcut to be. For example, remember how I said I like to select part of my image and then do Crop to Selection in order to crop? I created a shortcut (Ctrl+R) for this command:

Ctrl+R for Crop to Selection

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now… do you have a quick tip? Share it in the comments, maybe it’ll make it into a future post! Do you want to know how to do something in Gimp that you haven’t figured out let? Ask away, maybe there’s a way, and I can share it in a future entry!

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  • padmav

    Hi, Thanks for sharing some quick tips on gimp. I am a regular visitor of ur site as I get to know more of gimp and some of your photography techniques.
    Your website design is also good. Simple and easy to navigate. Did you do that in Gimp itself. If you have some tutorials on the same. Pls share.

  • meiteng

    Hi! I dropped by from DPS. I have just downloaded Gimp recently but I have no idea where to begin. Where can I get resources to help me get started with using Gimp?

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