Thursday, September 10, 2015

My Review of Gimp Photo Editing Software

Why Gimp?

Even if you have no experience with photo editing, you have no doubt heard of Photoshop. I must be honest here and say that I have never used it.  I should also admit that when I have researched it I have been thoroughly confused by all of the different versions that are available. So as far as giving you a breakdown of the differences between Photoshop and Gimp, the truth is that I am not qualified to do that.

Here's what I do know: Photoshop costs money. Gimp does not.  So if you are familiar with Photoshop and what it costs (which varies depending on the version) then you know how much money you can save by choosing Gimp.  And that's the main reason for using it.  It's free, and so far I've found it to be pretty good.

Why do I need Photo Editing Software?

I have recently written a book that I have decided to self-publish.  Because I'm really on a shoestring budget with this project, I need to design the book cover myself.  I want it to be good, so I need software that is a good deal more sophisticated than Paint.  But again, I'm on a budget, so I don't want to purchase Photoshop. So I'm using Gimp.

What do I like about Gimp?

Before answering that, I'll show you the first project I've managed to complete on this software.

This is the photo that I have now set as the banner on my Twitter page.  It is not my finalized book cover, but it is similar to what I want the book cover to be.
Here's what I like about this picture: I was able to blend two photos together to achieve the exact look that I had in my mind when I imagined a cover for my book.  It took many tries to get the effect that you see in this image, and the Youtube tutorial that I've just linked to was very helpful in this endeavor.  I'm not completely happy with the text that you see here, but I've been watching lots of other tutorials and am confident that I can get the look I want with the text as well, as soon as I learn the process.
One Possible Problem With Gimp
Alright, I've openly admitted that I'm a newbie here, so it's possible that I'm just doing it wrong and that there is a way to accomplish the very thing I'm getting ready to complain about.  (Update: I have now figured out a way to do it.  You can read my tutorial here.)  If you have experience with Gimp and can set me straight on this, please leave a comment letting me know.
I've been playing around with color manipulation.  Basically the image above is too cheerful for what I want.  My book is a paranormal mystery, and I want the woods to have a creepy feel about them. In making my Twitter banner, I did change the coloring a little.  Here's the original photo that I was using:
As you can see, the original image was much greener.  I was able to make it look a little more eerie by bringing the overall color saturation down, and then bringing up the blue just slightly.  However, if I really want a creepy feel to the image, I think I need to go with a different photo.  Maybe this one:
In this photo I have already brought down the color saturation, but have not added any colors.  I would really like it to have a blue tint, because blue just seems to scream, "spooky!"  Here's a slightly blue version of the same picture:

Ideally I would like it to be even bluer than this, but here's what happens when I try to do that:

I do not like this at all.  The trees look like they are glowing.  What I want is a nice even blue tint to the picture that just sort of mutes all of the other colors, but I cannot find any tool in Gimp that will allow me to do that.  As I said before, I'm a newbie, so if you know of a way to get the look I'm after please let me know in the comments.  However, my first impression of the program is that color manipulation is one of its main weaknesses. (Update: As I said above, I have now solved this problem and you can read about it here.)

My Overall Impression

Again, please note that I have never used Photoshop, so I am not prepared to say how Gimp measures up.  What I will say is that I think I'm going to be happy with my result once I get finished with it.  My main concern now is learning the advanced text options so I can put my title on the cover and have it add to the creepy look that I'm going for.  I haven't fully mastered that process yet, but when I do I might post another review.  For now, I must say that I am very pleased with this program and would recommend it to anyone who needs to do photo editing on a budget.

Remember to follow me on Twitter if you would like to know more about this blog, my book, and other projects I'm working on.

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