I installed GIMP on a friends machine the other day, this is when I realised that there are a few steps which I carry out before I ever edit a photo. These a just a few small changes to the GIMP’s default setup which make things run a little more smoothly, for me at least. These may be of use to GIMP beginners to help get them up and editing.

OK so you’ve just installed GIMP, if not download it for free at www.gimp.org/downloads and install it as usual. You may wish to look at this post which explains how to set the GIMP’s file association during the install process, or afterwards if you already have GIMP installed.

Note that I am basing this on GIMP version 2.6.2

1. Organising on screen elements

The first thing to do after you launch GIMP is to arrange the onscreen elements to your liking. Here is a screen shot of my own preferred setup. Hint: (Open an image so you can better see where to place the ‘Toolbox’ and ‘Layers, Channels, Paths’ boxes.


a.) Once you have things arranged to your liking, go to the “Edit” drop down menu and select “Preferences“.

b.) Now go to “Windows Management” and click on “Save Windows positions Now“, ensure that “Save window positions on exit” is checked also and click “OK“. Your windows should appear as you like them next time GIMP is started (you may however need to maximise the image window).


2. The Grid Feature

The default setting for the grid (a very uesful tool I might add) is too small to be very useful when it comes to the large files from a digital camera. I always like to change the default to a more usable setting.

a.) Select “Edit” > “Preferences” to bring you back to the Preferences dialog and this time select “Default Grid“. in the spacing section change the “Width” and “Height” to 100 pixels (or whatever you personally like) and click on “OK“.

To activate the grid select “View” > “Show Grid“. Repeat the process to turn it off again.


3. Ensure Best Quality

You may have read that it not good practice to repeatedly save a .JPG file. This is due to the fact that .JPG is a compressed file format, as such the file is recompressed (subsampled) each time the file is saved and this will lead to deterioration of the image.

This step will limit this subsampling as much as possible and should be OK for a few svaes, however as you become more confident I suggest that you only save a .JPG file once, at the end of editing. If you are working on an important file or making a complex edit consider first saving your file in an uncompressed format, such as .TIFF or the GIMP’s native .XCF, and save to your hearts content.

a.) Open a .JPG file and select “File” > “Save As…“. In the ‘Save Image’ dialog box enter a junk filname and click on “Save“.

b.) In the ‘Save As JPEG’ dialog’ click on “Advanced Options“. Now change the “Quality:” slider to 100% and change “Subsampling” to 1X1, !X1, 1X1 (best quality). then select “Save Defaults“. You can now click on “Cancel” as we do now want to save this image at this time.


4. Use the Historgam

For photo editing I like to add the ‘Histogram’ dialog available as a reference. This setup guide is not really the place for a detailed explanation of what the image histogram is but, simply put the Histogram is a graphical representation of the tones in an image from pure Black on the left to pure White on the right.

As such it gives us some information about the exposure. If we see that the graph is clumped to the left, it suggests that the image is too dark (underexposed) and if we see that the graph is clumped to the right it suggests that the image is too bright (overexposed).

a.) To add the ‘Histogram’ dialog to your ‘Layers, Channels, Paths’ box select “Windows” > “Dockable Dialogs” > “Histogram“. this opens the ‘Histogram’ dialog in a new window.

b.) Now with your mouse grab the ‘Histogram’ dialog and drag and drop it onto the bottom of your ‘Layer, Channels, Paths’ as shown below.


5. Restoring Closed Docks

AAArrghh!, where’s that Layers thingy gone?. I have had this same experience myself. If you accidentally close the ‘Toolbox’ or ‘Layers, Channels, Paths’ boxes select “Windows” > “Recently Closed Docks” > “Whichever you closed“, and your back in business.


Happy GIMPin’,