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For Version 1.2.5 or older!   Details.
This tutorial is for your first friendly contact with GIMP. If the GIMP user maual discourages you because of it's complexity, if other tutorials do not invite you and if you failed painting a simple stickman, you are right. We'll do one togehter.

My intention is not to show you much, I want to help you to dicover GIMP by showing you how to start. Get experienced with this beautiful programme, is what you have to do afterwards by yourself. I offer you, to send me your result. If I like it, I join it to this gallery with your name. I may set a link to your homepage too. (This gallery is not covered by a Creative Commons License!)
    This is the prototype of our stickman or girl. Go offline if necessary and open the Win-GIMP on top of this. You can toggle with the taskbar button of this page betwenn both. Linux users open a second workspace. Stay cool, if it is nerving!

GIMP opens some windows. The toolbox on the left is the most important. But the layers dialogue is as important. Close or ignore all other windows. If you happened to kick out the layers diolog or if it was missing, go to File/ Dilog/ Layers in the toolbox to get it.

You can move windows when you touch the titlebar with the mouse. Keep the left button down and place e.g. the toolbox on the left bottom, the layers dialog on the right. You should see the green pointer in the toopbox pic above. Your browser needs CSS enabled for it's correct position. This pointer always shows you something. If a click aktion is not specified, it is a normal left click.

Do not maximize a single window. GIMP is organized with different windows open.

Now we lift off! Click "File" and then "New" in the toolbox. You don't have to be too much impressed, but look a bit. Type for width 75 pixel and for height 100 pixel. Click OK. The image window appears. It is also present in the layers dialog. We made a new picture, consisting of one layer, the empty background. This is not intellectual sophisticated rubbish. Please accept the GIMP's layer philosophy. Without, you better use simple paint programms. If you want to give another name to the first layer, click it's blue bar or the existing name.

Now click the eye symbol. It turns the layer on and off. The image window gets empty. Think about it. - If your pic exist in Layers, you have a lot of possibilities. If you set some text over a pic, you have not to change the whole. You may produce a second text and keep the old by switching it off.
So do not ask, why we need a second layer, if we want to paint our stickman. We add layers by clicking the blue bar with the right button. Select "New Layer". Remember, the right click often opens new menues. Name the layer for better identification with the stickman's name. Leave the dimensions as they are and select "Transparent" for the fill of the new layer. After OK you see that layer. At least in the layers dialog. In the image window, it is invisible. That's magig! This layer now has the blue bar. It is the active layer at the moment. You may change it, by clicking the other. In case you touch something with the move tool in the image window, the affected layer automaticaly gets the focus of beeing active. But normaly you set the layers active by a click in the layers dialog. Bevor you do something with your pic, be shure that it happens on the layer it should. Click our new one if it isn't active for drawing a bit.
Therefore we select a brush. Click the big dot which the pointer shows in the left. You get the brush selection. "Circle (03) (3 x 3)" will do. Close and click the button next which the pointer shows on the right: "Draw sharp pencil strokes". Now we can draw with the mouse in the image window. Try your stickman. You need an erazer? Of course there is one in the toolbox, but I show you something better. You can undo a certain number of your last actions or you can clear the whole layer.

This is the opportunity to get familar with the context menues. Click the image window right. Here you pass the entry of some peoples nightmares. This menues are very nested. If they were all open, they may bury you.
  Instead of going mad, you can fix the one you need often. Let's take the "Edit" menue. Click exactly the dashed line as on the left. Now you can move it like any other window.

Try "Undo", test "Redo" and if you don't like your first strokes at all, clear them. Be patient and make a nice stickman. The number of undos depends on the GIMP program settings and on your computers RAM size. If you're interested, click Files/ Preferences in the toolbox. Select from "Categories" "Environment". Here you can set the number of undos and the tile cache size. Please leave a minimum of RAM for your operation system. If you are not shure, do not change the default values.
If you have completed your stickman, it is time to save it. Save often. GIMP has no autosave routine. Get used to create a new file at the beginning of every work. For saving and storing, click the image window with the right mouse button. Go to "Save as".
If you ain't new with computers, you understand this dialog. You have the known drive names on the left. If you doubleclick them, you enter. You'll see subdirectries on the left and files on the right. At bottom where you can type in your file names, there is always something to read. Do not trust it! Trust only the path above the input field. That's mean but true. - If you're in the directory, where to store your stickman, give the file a name, a dot and the extension "xcf". XCF is the GIMP's own format that saves all layers. Before you create a JPG or a GIF or whatever, store it as XCF. Otherwise you have no access to the steps of your work and then you realy don't need GIMP. If the panel "Determine File Type" shows "By Extension" You can click OK for storing. The panels opens a selection of all formats GIMP can handle. If you select another format, the panel shows it and it's written automaticaly.
This is a opportunitiy to explain the Probem with GIFs. This format cannot be created or stored by default because of license issues. You need a special plugin if you have the right to use it. A better solution is to avoid GIFs if you don't need transparency. With it's 256 color it is a little poor. We can wait for PNG and MNG browser implementation.
Please halt for a little rest. Look at the image window. Let the steps of all we have done pass. Read again if you forgot something. Than you'll remember it for ever.
I hope your stickman looks like this or "bedder". It still looks a little bit pale. Let's place some color on a layer below for a more vivid complexion.

Let's apply one more layer and name it complexion. If we rightclicked the stickman layer it lays upon. To move this layer down or others up, there are arrow buttons at the bottom of the layers dialog. Place the new layer under the stickman. This layer has to be active for the next operations.
We will create a selection with the shape of the stickman's head and fill it with a color. For magnifying, we change the view from 1:1 to 4:1. Rightclick the image window and go to "view" and next to "Zoom". Select 4:1 by a click. Don't get angry. This menues are nervous too. You need a quiet hand and some mouse artistics. Both is good for graphics. Perhaps you have to resize the image window. Touch it somewhere at the edge or at the corners. When the mouse pointer becomes bidirectional, you can pull. If you want an automatic window resise, set it in the toolbox, Files/ Preferences/ Categories/ Image Window. Set "Resize Window on Zoom".
Click the toolbox button showed on the left "Select regions using Bezier curves"*. Track the stickman's head with the mouse. Click at start and everywhere you want to change direction. Always stay right in the middle of the line. When you close the circle, click the starting point again and then click inside the circle. When it works, you see ants running. They mark the selection you choose. This selection exists as long as you don't click another selection tool or cancel it by the selection menue.

*If you try this turorial all the same with a newer version than 1.2.5, the Bezier tool above is called "Create and edit Paths". To switch your path into a selection hit "Enter" or click the image with the right mouse button and choose Select/ From Path. You get your running ants this way. Alternatively the "Paths" tab in the layers dialog offers a button "Path to selection".

A small excursus about the real purpose of this Bezier tool. You may leave it to give your nerves a break: Bezier curves can "easily" be controlled by tangents. It is possible to draw rather smooth curves. Place your second point a bit farer for that. If you click for it, hold the left mouse button and drag the mouse a bit away. You should realize the tangent and how it forms the curve. If it fits on the contour of your stickman's head, release the button. If you set the next point, you have to keep the button pressed again. If you can't manage to follow the whole contour with this Bezier tool, you know at least, why I only suggest it here for making a curved line out of a number of dots. Perhaps this tool inspires you, to play and paint with after this tutorial. Of course you can manipulate paths, after you set the last point. You can grap points and move them. You can reshape the curves with the tangents. This tool is rather mighty.

If the selection fits accurately to the head we return to the original view: rightclick/ view/ zoom/ 1:1.
For the complexion, click where the lower pointer is. Select a color and close the box. The upper pointer shows our next tool: "Fill with color or pattern". Default is color. When you doubleclick the botton, you get the tool settings. This works with most of the toolbox buttons. Pattern fill makes no sense now, but you select patterns by clicking the area beside the dot for brushes.

When you cross the image window, the mouse turns into a bucket with some color inside. Be carefull, check the layer dialog for the right layer. No matter where you click the image window, only the selection is filled with the color. Ain't that great? Imagine the selection as another layer on top. It is like a mask for all layers but only one can be aktive and affected.
If we do not need a selection any more, we cancel it. Most common way is to press the first toolbox button below "Files". It is the standard tool "Select rectangular regions". It is the most harmless one. You never can fill a whole layer with it by chance or stupidity. Nevertheless, neary everything can be undone.

It is time to remeber you to save all again. Rightclick the image window, go to "File", click "Save". If you forgot to create a file, do it now.
For pedagogical reasons, we nerv you again with the interruption of a rest. Look at the image window again. Try again, to run in your memory through the steps of your work. Find out, what's better to read one more time.
In a simple programme our stickman might be ready now. But the shadow is missing. To make it, we exercise layers a little more. We'll do destructive layer actions. We keep the originals for save. It is recomended but in real life it is your decision. Here we do it for practice and as a positive example. Only the gone is always missing.
Duplicate every layer, except the background: Select the layer, click the blue bar and then "Duplicate Layer". Switch off the originals by clicking the eye. Switch off the background. Click the blue bar of any of the two remaining layers, select "Merge Visible Layers". A small dialogbox opens. Leave everything and click OK. Remember the background had to be off. Othercase ask the "Edit" menue for help.
Your layers dialog should be like mine. We turn on the background again. Here's a little pladoyer for backgrounds: For some work, we may use extra backgrounds for better contrast. It's also a way to avoid transperency by placing our web graphics on one with the background color of our web document. Same time this allows higher quality formats for our pics. I think you are already convinced by the advantages of the layer model. It is worth the work it takes.

Finaly babamm, we reach what you have to pay for, whithout having much influence on the results, when you don't use GIMP:  D r o p   s h a d o w ,  the classic item of GIMP workshops for beginners aiming at the highest professionel score. But save first, then go on!

Make a copy of the merged layer, name it "shadow", leave it's position upon the original. Follow the green pointer in the layers dialog picture above and click "Keep Transparency". You'll see the effect soon. Click again the toolbox dot for the brushes selection and take the most fathest one. Click the sharp pencil strokes and smear stickman's head entirely black. The quickest way to get black back is to click the small black square below on the left bottom of the toolbox. What is "keeping transparency"? - For the following action, we need to turn it off, so click again "Keep Transparency" to release the button. The left picture below shows, how the copied layer of our stickman looks now.
To make a true shadow of it, we blur it. Look at the image window right click menue for "Filters", where "IRR Gaussian Blur" is. You may fix the filter menue or open Gaussian Blur directly. Leave the small dialog by it's default or play with using "Undo" from edit dialog. But blur with a 5 pixel radius and click OK.
Use the arrow buttons of the layers dialogue to move the shadow below the stickman. Press the toolbox button "Move layers and selections". Keep for a little rest and eat it completely: This tool moves a layer as well as a selection. You even can crop a part of the layer and move it inside of it. If you click the stickman, his layer gets the focus of being active. You could move the layer with the stickman while keeping the left mouse button pressed. But there is a more precise method. If you have clicked a visible layer, you can move it pixel by with the cursor keys of your keyboard. Move the stickman against the shadow until it looks similar to the left picture below. Moving the stickman is the simpler way. To move the shadow, we have to switch she stickman layer off to get hold of the shadow layer.

We are nearly ready, reaching the light of the shadow. As it looks too dark we adjust the opalogy of the shadow layer to make the shadow brighter. There is a fader for, right above the layers dialog window. First we activate the shadow layer. After a click at the fader we also can move it with the cursor keys. The default value of 100 means full opacity. A smaller value makes the layer more and more transparent. 35 or less may fit. A shadow is one you nearly can't see. Decent turns out elegant.

What more to say, we are ready! Please save by clicking "Save" at the file menue. What action for a stickman! - Our last job is to create a JPG from the XCF, in order that the world can see it without having GIMP. Bevor that, you get a little exercise, you should want to do.
But first, you have to endure another rest. You know what we should always do. Halt for a rest and recapitulate.
The exercise is: Try the other stickman with the sunny shadow.

The friendly green pointer shows you for the last time, where to find the tool you need. A double click tells you everything about it. I will not show you the process. Mostly there are different ways to reach a specific result. You have to find out by yourself. GIMP offers so much. What I have shown to you is below a percent of GIMP's abilities. You find nearly erverything you need. At least you always find a praticable way for your jobs. It is you to yield a professional output. You will complain all that compromises of quality, to keep the loading time of your web graphics low. GIMP even helps you, to reduce the quality to a reasonable degree. This will be the next and last operation.
We have stored our stickman in the XCF format so far. That means, we have it like a box of bricks. Now we store it as we see it in the image window. Go to the layers dialogue and click the blue bar no matter which layer it is. Select "Flatten Image". Now we have only one layer with all on it. We might do more things to it, but we said it is ready. Click the image window one more time with the right mouse button. Select "Save as" from file. The well known "Save Image" dialog appears. Chose the directory. Trust only the path above the input fild at bottom. If the "Determine File Type" panel shows "By Extension", type in the file name with a dot and the extension "jpg". If not, type only the name, click the panel and select JPG.
If we click OK two things may happen. The third is more a question of your operation system. First is, the "Save as JPEG" dialog comes immediately. In the other case a small new one appears.
The "Export File" dialog is GIMP's special service. You may have merged the layers instead of flatten. There is still an alpha channel with transparency data. You might have forgotten at all to flatten the image. When you press "Export" GIMP does it for you! Now you have the right to see the "Save as JPEG" dialog.
The button "Preview (in image window)" is set by default, so you can immediately see the results of your settings for storage. You see how the compression rate influences the quality of your pic. The next line shows the actual size of it. The difference between byte an kilobyte results from the fact that the computer knows not decimal but dual numbers. One kilobyte is exactly 1024 byte, that's 210. Don't think to much about.

The compression is adjusted with the "Quality" fader. 100 means no compression, but 94 is already the maximum. Again, don' mind. Such graphics are too heavy for the web. Below 75 they look too bad. It is hard to say, what the best rate is. It is a question of experience to find the best relation between the file size and the size of the pic in pixel. There opinions differ in america and in europe. That depends on the price for internet access. If you have not much to pay for, you have a quick acces or at least you are willing to wait. If you pay much, you won't wait for big bitmaps beeing loaded. For me, some graphics are good between 10 an 15 kilobytes. A foto may have 25 to 30 KB if it is worth. If your stickman weights about 3 or 4 KB, I do not mention as long as I haven't 100 of it on the same page. Set "Subsampling" to "1x1,1x1,1x1" and select "Floatin-Point" for the "DCT-method", thats the best for non-bleeding colors. Compare the file size with the graphical quality and decide to click OK.

The fader "Smoothing may be interesting, if you have to compress very much. It is a kind of flat iron for the occurring grains and spots, but the pic gets blured too. You don't have to understand all buttons and faders. Most is alchemy and black mathematics. Restart markers and frequnecy, as well as subsampling and DCT are settings for the compression, how the data is to be processed. With "Restart frequency (rows)" you can gain a trace of sharpness. It only works, when "Restart markers" is activated. If you move the fader without, because it was somewhere and you forgot, the save as jpeg routine crashes. But you still can close the dialog with the task bar button. The button "optimize is active by default. It has something to do with colormanagement. Do you want to manage over 16 million colors? If you set the "Progressive" option you are european. The picture will first be loaded raw and then detailed. What you realy need for storing is "Quality", "Subsampling" and "DCT-method". With this three settings, you have enough possibilities to influence how your JPEGs look and how heavy they become. After a while you get better results than any self-acting optimizing software.

If you think it's neccessary, you can add a comment to your original work. Most people steeling pictures do not know about and how to read or delete it.
Have fun and success with the GIMP, the GNU IMAGE MANIPULATION PROGRAM.

If you need some more turorials, you may try the Open Directory Project. (Unfortunately dmoz was discontinued by AOL.)
A n n o t a t i o n s :

To print this, enable "printing backgrounds" - somewhere in your browser or printing options.

Since Version 2.0.0 the GIMP got a new more colored but not because oft that better graphical user interface. In default mode, it differs much from the old. With some imagination, you may use this tutorial, but it has lost its immediate usability.

BTW: 2.0.0 makes trouble on Win 98. You can download the last stable Windows Version of GIMP before 2.0.0 from here. You can avoid these problems, if you install the necessary package "GTK+ Runtime Environment" without the GTK-Wimp component. It even can be fixed by de- and reinstalling it. Than you have a new but poor looking GIMP.
©  Designed with the GIMP. Content by Zacke for UFOCOMES, Berlin August 2002. Some changes 2007.
Since 2012 under Creative Commons: by-nc-sa, which means attribution, no commercial use and share alike.

This license does explicitly not apply to the Base Gimp Gallery linked above!