Up Close and Personal with The GIMP (Graphics Software)

Apr 7, 2002 (Updated Apr 7, 2002)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Detailed and Step-By-Step, flows nicely at your own pace.

Cons:Book is not enough, still takes lots of practice

The Bottom Line: If you want better photos and graphics and don't have time to fool around learning it yourself this book will surely increase your skill and save you time.


There comes a time in a computer users life when they just have to say, "Either I get a book that explains how to use this program, or I never use the program again!". I have been trying to figure out the GIMP for quite awhile and have yet to crack it which brings me to this review on the entry level book,"Teach Yourself GIMP in 24 Hours".

When I got this book I said to my husband that I would know how to use the GIMP by tomorrow (as in I would learn it in 24 hours/one day). He laughed and informed me that it was more like 24 1-hour courses. I hate it when he's right.

Raise Your Hand If You Know What the GIMP Is
The GIMP started out in 1995 as a Linux/Unix graphics program and is now also designed for Macs and Windows. You can edit and manipulate photos, make graphics, and so much more. If you are not familliear with the GIMP, it is comparible to Windows programs such as MS Paint, Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro.

This book does not go into any of the history or details of the GIMP as the book is not technical at all. The GIMP program is comparible to Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, etc.

This book was written for the Linux/Unix user because Mac and Windows versions did not exist at the time. The installation instructions in chapter 1 will be the only thing that won't apply to Mac or Windows users (I think).

To download your free version of The GIMP:
http://www.gimp.org/download.html

What this book is about
The lessons are set up in order in which you will need to learn to use the GIMP, there is no jumping around. The lesson will talk about one topic. There will be a short summary, a Q&A (question and answer) section, and an exercise at the end of each chapter.

Within the chapters you will see a black bar titled, "New Term" when something new is introduced. An open notebook icon illustrates supplemental information. The light bulb icon illustrates offers time-saving tips, and the ringing alarm clock icon symbolizes the cautions and pitfalls. There are some black and white illustrations on each page.

It is easy to follow (experiment/play) along with the book if you are close to your computer while reading. I don't know how effective the book is going to be if you're not trying things out while you read, especially since there are some changes to the program since this book was written. (for example "artistic tools" are now called "paint tools")

The features are introduced one by one. A scenario is often described for when you'd want to use the feature. It also shows the two or three ways to use (via icon, drop-down box, or short-cut keys).

When you are introduced to something somewhat difficult with multi-steps, it lists the steps in order outside of the paragraph so that you can easily follow-along or go back to it easily.

The best thing about this book is that with each chapter, you will be able to actually do something at the end. It's more than just a bunch of information that you have to memorize and then apply. The author will introduce you to a few techniques and then give you a task to do on your own.

Drawbacks
The first noticeable drawback is that it's already outdated. This book was written based on version 1.0.0 and I'm working with version 1.2.3. Changes are obvious and probably will not effect the use of this book.

Secondly the book is for extreme beginners which may or may not be a problem for you. For example, a whole chapter is spent explaining how to open and save files. The author assumes that you have never used this (or any other graphic manipulation program before).

The third item has more to do with the Gimp than this book. Just because you know what button to push, won't make you an expert at this program. It takes practice and skill. Dare I say some artistic ability. You have to have some decent hand-eye coordination and a little idea of color, effects, and what details would make a photo a masterpiece.

Just out of preference I'd like to see more examples, there were usually only example per item.

Did I Learn Anything?
I am amazed at how much I've learned in such a short period. I was able to do about 2-3 lessons per sitting and finished the book in 2 weeks (delay due to demanding kids). I followed along with the demonstrations as they were being discussed which obviously takes more time than just reading but certainly helps you remember.

If you teach yourself without the guidance of a book you will undoubtedly miss out on some of the fun items. For example, making your own paint brushes and patterns. There are some features that you can not just experiment and figure out.

Who Would Like This Book
Unfortunately you have a very limited selection on GIMP books to begin with (13 I think). A lot are intermediate to advanced. The GIMP does not come with a user manual since it is fee on the operating system CD or downloadable (there is an online users manual). So if you need a step-by-step instruction book, this would be the one to pick. (But I would not consider this a reference book)

This is simple enough for those who have never opened the program before. If you are a little familiar with the GIMP you will learn at a quicker speed.

If you are learing the GIMP in order to design a web page, than you'll be pleased with this book. It seems to me that the goal of this book is to enable you to apply the graphics you need to your website to make it look professional.

If you already know how to create layers and use the toolbars, you have already outgrown this book and need to move to an intermediate book.

This is not a reference book in my opinion. I will not sit this on my shelf to refer back to. This book is written in as lessons and would take a while to pull specific information out of. (I recommend "The Gimp for Linux and Unix" by Phyllis Davis for those looking for an intermediate reference manual).

Chapter:
Installation and configuration
Getting started
Basic Gimp tools
Using brushes and patterns in depth
Working with selections
Transformations
Working with color
Inroduction to layers
Hands-on layering
Using masks
Special effects
Using filters to improve or distort images
Artistic filters
Cool text effects
Photo composting
Photo restoration and enhancement
Digital painting
About plug-ins
Using more plug-ins and extensions
What the heck is script-fu?
More with script-fu
Animations
Uisng peripherals with Linux

CD Includes:
GIMP and the GIMP toolkit
The Most up-to-date graphics libraries
Exercise files from tutorials

About the Authors
Joshua Pruitt is an instructor at a college in Tennessee and is part of a webhosting firm, Mid-Tn Network. He is the webmaster for the Nashville Linux User's Group.

Ramona Pruitt is a self-taught graphics artist. She also works web design at Mid-TN Network.

Book Details:
Title: Sams Teach yourself Gimp in 24 hours
Author: Joshua Pruitt & Ramona Pruitt
Publisher: Sams Publishing
ISBN: 0-672-31509-2
Copyright: 1999
Version of Program: Gimp 1.0
Operating System: Linux / Unix
User Level: Beginning
Pages: 334
Retail: 24.99


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