Review: The Artist’s Guide to GIMP, 2nd edition

I was lucky enough to get to review the “early beta” PDF version of the soon-to-be-released GIMP book The Artist’s Guide to GIMP, 2nd edition by Michael J. Hammel (published by No Starch Press, 2012). The book covers the new 2.8 version of GIMP, which had its first release candidate just about a week ago and is expected out any day now.

gimp2-cover.png

This book is not a complete reference on GIMP, but rather a set of hands-on tutorials. The book starts with a fairly quick intro to basic GIMP usage, and then consists of tutorial chapters for

  • Photographic Effects
  • Web Design
  • Advertising/Special Effects
  • Type (Font) Effects
  • Creative Inspiration

The last one seems to be the “miscellaneous” category . I’ll focus on the photography parts since that’s where I feel I have the most to say.

Being familiar with basic GIMP usage, I initially skipped straight into the Photographic Effects chapter. However, if you’re not familiar with basic GIMP usage, you should definitely read the first chapter, since certain steps of the tutorials might seem a bit too concise (for example, the instruction “Using the Fuzzy Select tool and the Quick Mask in combination, make a selection around the rose” might be a bit off-putting if you’ve never done this kind of thing before.).

The good

Already in the first tutorial of Photographic Effects we move straight into how we can create a high pass filter using layers and blurring, a very useful effect for bringing out the subject in a picture (and kudos for mentioning that a script exists in the GIMP Plugin Registry which performs the same steps, albeit with less control to the user). The methods are explained in simple steps, with screenshots along the way. After a simple walkthrough, we also get tips for further fine tuning. The author seems quite knowledgeable about how to get the most out of the tools available, as well as about when the tools are insufficient (e.g. Inkscape is suggested as a more advanced alternative to Gfig for vector drawing).

screenshot.png

Screenshots all the way

The author introduces various tricks into tutorials as they become useful, e.g.:”The white lines may need to be enhanced. Use the levels dialog and pull the White Point slider to the left.” I believe this kind of realistic, usage-based introduction to tools is much more pedagogical than technical explanations of how the tools work. Of course, if you’re looking for a reference to a specific tool, you may find other types of books more useful.

Apart from the high pass filter tutorial, the color swap is some times surprisingly useful to make a picture less “loud” and inconsistent. Also useful are the tutorials on changing Depth of Field and Colored Lighting (confusingly placed in Advertising instead of Photographic Effects); a handy technique even with just simple black/white gradients.

I really like the landscape format of the book. It’s a little thing perhaps, but compared to the typical portrait or square format, it’s a relief to be able to see one whole page on a wide-screen computers, and, I presume, for keeping a physical book flopped open on your desk while you work a tutorial.

The … not so good

I would also have preferred if the example images were available from one place, although this is a minor point.

Some of the tutorial screenshots seem to overdo the effects, but note that I’m reviewing a preprint, perhaps they look more subtle in the final print of the book.

overdone.png

I prefer the original and I hope you do too

I’ve seen much better tutorials on Minituarizing a Scene (e.g. the one by Rob Antonishen); if you’re just making a simple gradient anyway, I would rather just use the Toy plugin which does it all in one step. I’m not sure how useful the tutorials Lake Reflection and Reflections on Glass are, though I guess the methods might come in handy. And, perhaps it’s just me, but whenever I see tutorials on text effects (brushed metal, neon, etc.) I can’t help but think of bad WordArt. But then again, those effects are obviously very popular … and the Distressed Text effect actually looked rather classy.

distressed.png

Who knew text effects could look good

One thing that bugs me, that I often see in tutorial-type books, is the assumption that the user is a hobbyist, e.g. the advice on using JPEG over RAW/TIFF because of memory/processing constraints or cheap cameras. Those assumptions will definitely be off-putting to those who do invest a lot of time and resources in their graphics/photography work, no matter how useful the tricks in the rest of the book are.

So, should you buy it?

All in all, I would definitely recommend The Artist’s Guide to GIMP 2.8 to those who want an all-round, practical book on how to use GIMP.

For photography, the main alternative book would be GIMP 2.6 for Photographers by Klaus Goelker (see the review by Alexandre Prokoudine – as the title indicates, that one needs an update to 2.8, it’s also not in landscape format ;)). The Artist’s Guide … is perhaps a bit more fast-paced, a bit less in-depth, but also more varied in what it covers. Recommended.

Publisher’s info:

Artist’s Guide to GIMP, 2nd Edition
Creative Techniques for Photographers, Artists, and Designers
by Michael J. Hammel

July 2012, 320 pp.
ISBN: 978-1-59327-414-6
Available both as print and PDF e-book.

Photoshopping i Gimp (ei omtale)

Eg kom just over ein svært detaljert og lærerik gjennomgang av Gimp 2.6.4 i Ars Technica; det som er litt kult med denne er at forfattaren, Dave Girard, har jobba mange år i design- og trykkebransjen. Artikkelen er frå januar 2009, Gimp 2.8 kjem jo snart ut (med nytt brukargrensesnitt, laggrupper, mm.) så det er kanskje noko der som er utdatert, men det er interessant å sjå samanlikninga mellom Gimp og Photoshop. Det er sjølvsagt ikkje ei helt rettferdig samanlikning sidan Gimp ikkje er meint å vera ein Photoshop-klone, men på visse punkt (t.d. spesifikke funksjonar, filter og tillegg) går det an å stilla det eine opp mot det andre.

På den positive sida skryt Ars Technica veldig av støyfjerningstillegget GREYCstoration (no innlemma i tilleggspakken GMIC), som er på linje med Noise Ninja; «and hopefully Adobe will take notice that a free program destroys their rather useless Reduce Noise plug-in». Bokeh-uskjerping i Gimp krev at ein lastar ned Focus Blur, men Uskarp-maske er «a capable, professional-quality tool». Fjerning av raude auge, kurver/fargenivå, kanalmiksing og selektivt gaussisk blur fekk bra kritikk, det same gjeld verktøy for 3D-teksturar.

Det er sjølvsagt ein del negative punkt au. Endringar i pikselbaserte penslar blir ikkje lagra (så ein må gjere same endring ved kvar oppstart…). Fargeprofilar er som i Photoshop og fungerer bra, men det er ingen automatisk konvertering når du limer inn frå eit bilete med ein annan fargeprofil, så du må sjølv konvertere kjeldebiletet først (dette er noko det frie teikneprogrammet Krita har hatt ein stund). Biletkart for nettsider er au ganske tungvint i Gimp. Hårmasking – dvs. å lage eit utval som inneheld berre håret til ein person – krev mykje meir arbeid enn å køyre pluginen Fluid Mask i Photoshop, men sidan Gimp kan køyra Photoshop-plugins burde vel det gå an der au? I tillegg er brukargrensesnittet til Gimp svært dårleg ikkje 100% integrert i Mac OS X (men sjå Gimp on OS X) i forhold til på GNU/Linux-system (til gjengjeld er ikkje Photoshop heilt knirkefritt på GNU/Linux…).

Derimot var forfattaren svært imponert over rasterisering av vektorgrafikk frå t.d. Illustrator og InDesign i Gimp. Han nemner au UFRaw, eit «mørkeromsprogram» for å endra på fotografi i råformat som er integrert med Gimp.

Eit par punkt har blitt retta på etter at artikkelen blei skriven. T.d. kjem penslar til å få ein god del nye funksjonar i 2.8; i tillegg kan ein no laga HDR-bilete i Gimp med Qtpfsgui (om ein overlever namnet på programmet =P), og der ein før var nøydt til å køyra Krita eller CinePaint (ein fjern slektning av Gimp) er Gimp no på god veg til å fullt ut takle 16- og 32-bitsbilete, HDR og CMYK.

http://bloggurat.net/minblogg/registrere/83e65dc2ef535820d49271e5877d45afc45f1956

Søndagsdilling

Søndag. Eg har hatt ein verkeleg nerdete søndag. La meg sjå…

  1. Eg lappa saman eit lite Ubiquity-skript (kode her, eller abonner her) for å henta originalstorleiken av eit flickr-bilete (sidan vennensin driv og hentar ned ørten teksturar til dagen), og i prosessen lærte eg meg å nytta jQuery.ajax med callbacks. Minte meg litt om Scheme-kurset eg tok for nokre år sidan.
  2. Når me er inne på Scheme, så oppdaga eg at Gimp ikkje ser ut til å ha noko menyval for å laga eit utval som dekkjer same område som eit lag. Vips, så var det gjort.
  3. Også har eg omsett meir på Audacity (bokmål) og NoseRub (nynorsk).

Men no er det på tide å lesa litt. Siste Granny-boka.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/1b/Wintersmith.JPG