Creating Book Covers Workshop: 1 Installing and Running the GIMP

1 Installing and Running the GIMP

In this lesson, we will:

  • Learn a little about the Gnu Image Manipulation Program (GIMP).
  • Install the GIMP on our computer.
  • Learn to start and stop the GIMP and review its major components.
  • Create a blank white image and save it.
  • Use the GIMP “Create”feature to create some cool Web graphics and logos.

1.1 Overview of the GIMP

The Gnu Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is an Adobe Photoshop like graphics tool that allows you to manipulate text and images to create and modify graphics files. The program is very powerful and, best of all, it’s free. We’ll be using the GIMP throughout this workshop specifically to create book covers. As a result, we won’t explore many of its more powerful features. Instead, we’ll stick to its basics which is all you’ll need to know to create professional looking book covers and cool Web graphics.

1.2 GIMP Online Documentation

The GIMP User’s Guide is available online at the web site This document provides detailed usage information and examples for every feature of the GIMP.

The GIMP User’s Guide can also be accessed by clicking on the “Help” buttons located on the various GIMP screens. When accessing help through the GIMP program, a browser window will be opened displaying information for the specific GIMP screen on which help was requested.

In addition to the User’s Guide, people have published many GIMP tutorials on the Internet. Search for “gimp tutorial” at to find the available tutorials or enter “gimp” followed by a description of what you’re trying to do.

1.3 Installing the GIMP

1.3.1 In your Web browser, open the URL Half way down the web page is a section titled “GIMP for Windows (Version 2.6.11)”. Left click your mouse on the orange “Download” link below this title. An advertisement will be displayed while SourceForge gets ready to download the GIMP Windows setup file.

*** For Mac Users ***

If you’re a Mac user, open the URL Click on the appropriate version of the installation for your OS. I don’t have a Mac, so you’re on your own as far as instructions. The following is a note from author Susan Squires who used these instructions to install the GIMP on her Mac:

It works a little differently than your instructions for Windows, but most Mac users should be able to figure it out, if I can. When you click on the URL, it takes you to the Sourceforge screen. You choose the version of Gimp that’s right for your operating system, and that page even tells you how to look in your Apple menu, select About this Mac, to find out which version you have. I have Snow Leopard 10.6, and anything over 10.4 uses the latest version of GIMP. One caution might be that it doesn’t have an indicator for Lion, which is the latest Mac Operating system. I have not downloaded Lion, because people say it takes some getting used to. But real Mac aficionados would have Lion already loaded. GIMP may work with Lion, but that isn’t explicit.

When the program has finished loading, a window pops up with several icons in it. You move the dog picture into the App folder picture (there’s an arrow there to illustrate what you’re supposed to do.). That brings GIMP into your applications folder, where it is ready to open. Voila. I think it has fewer steps even than the directions you gave for windows.

You might want to say that they need to wait for about 86 MB to download. If you try to work with the file before it’s completely downloaded, you get some crazy messages.


1.3.2 In Windows 7, a small window will pop open at the bottom of the screen asking “Do you want to run or save gimp-2.6.11-i686-setup-1.exe?” In Windows XP a simpler window will appear in the middle of the screen. Left click your mouse on the “Run” button. Downloading will begin immediately taking at least a couple of minutes to complete.

1.3.3 In Windows 7, you’ll be asked “Do you want the following program to make changes to this computer?” If you see this message, click the “Yes” button.

1.3.4 The GIMP installer “Welcome screen” will be displayed. Click the “Next >” button. The GNU “GNU General Public License” screen will be displayed. Again, click the “Next >” button. The “Ready to Install” screen will appear. Click the “Install now” button.

1.3.5 The GIMP will now install itself. When its done, the “Completing the GIMP Setup Wizard” screen will appear. Uncheck the “Launch GIMP” checkbox and click the “Finish” button.

1.3.6 The “GIMP 2” icon should now appear on your Windows Desktop. Note that this icon will not appear if you’ve instructed Windows to not install icons on your desktop. In this case, access the GIMP through the Start Menu.

1.4 Starting the GIMP

To start the GIMP, simply position your mouse pointer over the “GIMP 2” icon on your Windows Desktop and double click it with your left mouse button. The GIMP will display a startup screen that shows you it’s progress. The GIMP is ready to use when the image manipulation window appears.

Note: The GIMP will be slow to start the first time as it gathers information about the installation.

1.5 The GIMP Menu

The GIMP Menu provides access to all of the GIMP functionality. It runs across the top of the image manipulation window, beginning with “File” on the left and ending with “Help” on the right. To access a menu item, click and release your left mouse button while the mouse pointer is over the desired menu name, move your mouse down the menu, and left click on the desired menu item.

Some menu items cascade. These items are displayed with a triangle to the right of the menu item name. To access a cascading menu, move your mouse pointer over the item and when the cascading menu pops up, move your mouse to the side to make your selection by left clicking on a menu item.

To close a menu without selecting an item, simply left click your mouse on the menu name or anywhere outside the menu.

This workshop will use the convention of identifying menu items by the menu (and optional cascading menu) on which they appear. For example, File->New refers to the “New” item on the “File” menu.

1.6 Displaying the Layers Window

Note that this step is only required if the Layers Window is not already displayed.

I display a standard window configuration while using the GIMP which requires that you open the Layers Window. To do this, select the Windows->Dockable Dialogs->Layers cascading menu item by clicking on the Windows menu and releasing your mouse button, moving your mouse down over the “Dockable Dialogs” item, moving your mouse to the side into the popup cascading menu to the “Layers” item, and clicking your left mouse button on the “Layers” item. When you perform this operation correctly, the Layers Window will appear on your screen.

1.7 The GIMP Windows

Three windows should now be displayed by the GIMP.

The image manipulation window (the one with the menu on top) is where the image being worked on is displayed. It currently displays a cartoon character because you’re not working on an image.

The Toolbox displays shortcuts to commonly used image manipulation tools on top, and configuration options for the selected tool on the bottom.

The Layers menu displays the layers of graphics that will be combined to produce the finished image. Use layers to work on discrete pieces of a complete image. We’ll have more to say about layers in a later lesson of the workshop.

1.8 The File->New Menu Item

To create a new image, select the File->New menu item. This displays the “Create a New Image” dialog box. Book covers should be 853 pixels in width by 1280 pixels in height. When creating a new book cover, enter these dimensions into the appropriate dialog box text fields and click the “OK” button to create the image.

1.9 The File->Save As and File->Save Menu Items

The File->Save As menu item allows you to save the image you’re working on in a specific named file. This operation displays the “Save Image” dialog box. In the dialog box you can specify a directory to save your image in and a file name. I save all my images in the default “Pictures” directory.

You can name your book cover image file anything you want, but I like to name my files after the book they represent using Reverse Polish Notation. This involves removing the spaces and capitalizing all but the first word in the name. For example, the book cover for the book “Moving Violation” would be stored in a file named “movingViolation.xcf” in my “Pictures” directory.

Notice that the filename in the above example ends with the filename extension “.xcf”. This signals to the GIMP that the file should be saved in the GIMP’s native format so that it can be edited again later. Always save your work in progress in files named with the “.xcf” extension on the end. Save your work again in a file with the “.jpg” filename extension when you’re ready to create a version of the image that you can use for publishing or on the web.

Once you’ve performed a File->Save As operation to establish the name and type of your file, you can use the File->Save menu item to save your latest work in the file you’re currently working on.

1.10 The File->Open Menu Item

When you start the GIMP to work on an existing project, use the File->Open menu item to open an image that you previously saved. Selecting this menu item will display the “Open Image” dialog box where you can select the image you want to work on by double clicking your left mouse button on the image’s filename.

Note that you can work with more than one image at a time by opening multiple image files in a single GIMP session. Each image will be displayed in a separate image manipulation window.

1.11 Closing Images and Quiting the GIMP

Close an image without exiting the GIMP by left clicking with your mouse on the “X” in the upper right corner of the image manipulation window containing the image. Alternately, you can use the File->Close menu item to perform the same operation. If you haven’t saved the image displayed in the window, you will be prompted to do so. You then have the choice of saving or discarding your changes.

To close the GIMP application, left click your mouse on the “X” in the upper right corner of the Toolbox Window. Alternately, you can use the File->Quit menu item to perform the same operation. Again, you’ll be prompted to save unsaved images if you have unsaved work in progress.

1.12 The Edit->Undo Menu Item

The most important operation in the GIMP is accessed through the Edit->Undo menu item. The associated operation undoes the last modification that you made to an image. To experiment with the GIMP, try an operation on an image. If you don’t like the result, simply undo it. You can undo multiple operations by selecting Edit->Undo multiple times.

Note that some operations, such a saving a file, can not be undone.

Project 1.1: Install the GIMP on Your Computer

Follow the instructions provided in section 1.3 of this lesson to install the GIMP on your computer.

Project 1.2: Create and Save a White Book Cover Image

Follow the instructions provided in sections 1.4 through 1.11 to start the GIMP, create a solid white 853 x 1280 image, save the image in your “Pictures” directory as the name “workshopLesson1.xcf”, and quit the GIMP.

Project 1.3: Find a Book Cover to Emulate

Review the book covers I created at See anything you’d like to use for your own cover. If not, browse Amazon or B&N looking for a cover you’d like to emulate.

Project 1.4: Simple Fun with the GIMP

Experiment with the File->Create->Logos menu items to create interesting logos using various GIMP effects. Close each image created without saving the result and try the next effect. When you’re done, experiment with File->Create->Web Page Themes as well.

### End of Lesson, Copyright (c) 2012, Brian Jackson


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