Basic Photo Editing Using GIMP 2

One of the most essential skills for an archaeologist is to be able to communicate with the public about technical processes and social developments in ways that unpack or explain disciplinary jargon.  This is often complicated by the very fact that archaeologists working across the globe have developed specialized terminology and theoretical frameworks.  Perhaps the best way to break down these barriers to comprehension by the general public is to employ stunning graphic displays consisting of merged text and image that reinforce key concepts.  Your assignment is to produce a photo collage that explains a key concept (architectural, historical, social, religious, etc.) to a broad audience.

There are lots of options for image editing available.  The industry standard graphics program Adobe Photoshop is an excellent option for those who can afford the price tag, but several options exist that are low-cost or free.  For the purposes of this class, we’ll be using GIMP to assemble our collage.  The software is free, and it operates cross-platform and is compatible with both iOS and PC.

The first step for our assignment is to download and install the software onto your machine from the GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program website.

Image Manipulation Basics

When you open GIMP you should get a window that looks similar to the one above.  The first step in creating an image collage is to open a new workspace.  The left hand section of the window comprises the toolbox where you can find a number of different tools for manipulating images.  The center portion of the window is the workspace where you will eventually create your working canvass.  Like many other image manipulation programs GIMP operates using image layers.  The right section of the window houses information on layers.

To get started click File>New and then select an image size in the dialog box that appears.  Since our eventual goal is to engage in digital storytelling on a large screen or television, choose NTSC from the options available in the Template dropdown menu.

This action will open a blank canvas on your desktop.

You can alter the appearance of your canvas easily, giving it a background color and adding other effects.  Play around with the Bucket Fill Tool, Pencil Tool, and Paint Brush Tool.  You can change the color of the tool by clicking on the colored squares in the toolbox and picking a new color, if you like.  The Gradient Tool allows you to blur your added colors in creative ways.

The next thing you’ll want to do is to obtain some material to place in your workspace.  You can do this by following File>Open as Layers and then selecting an image from your hard drive.  You probably want to work on one of the images you used to assemble your postcard earlier in the semester.  You should see something like what appears in the window below when you have completed this process.

Moving and Re-sizing Layers

One of the most useful things to be able to do with your images is to manipulate their position on your.  This is easily accomplished using two tools.  The Move Tool and the Scale Tool.  First, pick up the Move Tool by clicking on it within the Left hand window.  Make sure to select the Move Active Layer option in the control panel at the bottom left of the screne.  Click and drag your imported image around your canvas until you have it positioned where you would like.  Next, select the Scale Tool and use it to click on your imported image.

Move this image so that its top left corner rests at the top left corner of the canvas using the Move Tool.  Next, using the Scale Tool click on one of the corners of the imported image.  This will open a dialog box where you can click on the chain link icon to ensure that your scaling occurs proportionally. Click and drag the lower right hand corner so that the entire canvas is covered by the image.

Note: If your imported image is not the same shape as your canvas it might hang over the edge.  This can be solved by using the select tool to select the portion of the image within the borders of the canvas using the Rectangle Select Tool and then cropping the image: Image>Crop.

Layers and Layering Images

The feature that makes GIMP so versatile is the ability to work with images in layers.  As you have already noticed you have created a pair of layers via the previous actions.  Follow the procedure described above for importing an image in order to add one or two more images to your canvas.  The result should look something like the screenshot below.

Once you have imported additional images onto your canvas you will see that a series of layers are listed in the box at the top right of your screen.  Move your cursor into this box and click on one of the layers.  The label for this layer should turn blue and the layer should be surrounded by a dashed yellow box.  Whichever layer you have selected is the one available for editing.  Anything that you do will only affect the layer selected.  Layers can easily be arranged and re-arranged.

Select a layer to make it active and then select Layer>Stack to see the options available to move layers up and down in your stack.

One of the most commonly used techniques used to manipulate layers is to alter their opacity.  When each layer is selected a slider appears above it in the Layers panel of the GIMP workspace.  Try playing with the opacity of your first imported image to create a semi-transparent background that revels the background layer underneath.

One of the things you can to do most improve the look of your collage is to apply a filter to your layers or the canvas as a whole.  Select the layer(s) you are interested in modifying and then choose: Filters from the drop down menu.  Experiment with some of the filters to alter your layers and their appearance.

Adding and Manipulating Text

It is easy to add text to your images created in GIMP.  Select the Text Tool from the toolbox and click on your canvas in the place where you would like to insert your text.

Text layers can be edited in all the ways that other layers can.  They can be moved up and down in the stack of layers.  They can have filters applied to them.  They can be scaled and moved once they are created.  In addition, text can be customized by using the options available in both the dialog box at the top of the text entry box and in the options panel at the bottom of the toolbox.

Saving and Exporting

One of the oddities of the GIMP program is that it only allows a user to save documents in its own proprietary .xcf format.  As you work on your file, you will want to save frequently in order to prevent the loss of key progress in the event of a system crash, etc.  Nonetheless, unless somebody else has the program on their computer, the file is useless to them.  This means that you will have to use the Export function to save your completed file into another format.  This is a relatively easy process that is accomplished by choosing: File>Export

In this window you have the option of selecting both the location for the file and the format you wish to use to save the file in.  PDF files are the most common and easily readable format you can use.  Other good options are JPG and PNG files.

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