by Nicu Buculei
Fedora 8 test releases have a surprise for all users interested in graphics: a release candidate for the new GIMP 2.4, meaning the final version will get the stable GIMP 2.41. This is exciting news, as the previous major release, GIMP 2.2, is several years old, and a lot of new features were added in the meantime.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most visible new features, but beyond them, there are tons of less visible things: speedups, a decrease in memory consumption, better importing and exporting, a better print plugin, better EXIF support, changed scripting language for plugins, zoomable preview for plugins, many bug fixes, and more.
If you’d like to see a more practical application of these tools, take a look at my article on improving portraits with GIMP.
Note: You can click on any image in this article to see a larger version.
The improved graphic interface is one of the first new things you’ll notice. There’s a new icon set (based on Tango), the menu is reorganized with a better structure (the cryptic Script-Fu and Python-Fu have disappeared, with the functions moved to a more logical place), and the dialogs now better follow the GNOME HIG.
Color management was introduced in this version. You can use ICC color profiles, load and adjust them, get your image on screen looking exactly as it was produced by your camera or scanner, and have the final results printed just as they look on screen. GIMP will even make use of the color profiles embedded in images.
The Selector Tool has been improved. With both Rectangle and Ellipse selections, you can easily modify the size and position of your selection. With one click inside the selection, you can switch between edit and move modes. As usual, watch the status bar for additional modifiers to perform special tasks. For example, press Alt+Ctrl to move the content of the selection and Alt+Shitft to move a copy of the selection).
A nice touch is the possibility to round the corners of a rectangular selection, so you don’t have to use the old workaround of shrinking and growing it back.
The Crop Tool no longer shows an annoying dialog over your image. It works similar to the Selector Tool, allowing you to modify its size and position.
My favorite function is the option to show guides, which help you make a useful artistic crop (like using the rule of thirds). It’s also available in the above-mentioned Selector Tool. These two tools have a lot of options in common.
The new Healing Tool is awesome for photo touch-ups and surgery, like removing imperfections on someone’s skin. It works somewhat like the well-known Clone Tool, but it will average the values from the source and destination, and the cloning is softer and non-obvious.
Perspective clone tool
The new Perspective Clone Tool is a variation on the classic Clone Tool, but it lets you work on perspective images by defining and cloning a perspective plane from the original image. The cloned image will follow the correct perspective.
Red eye removal
For a long time, the GIMP developers resisted adding a red eye removal tool, explaining why such an automatic tool is far from perfect and pointing to tutorials about how to do it manually (and how to avoid the red eye effect in the first place), but now it has been added. For better results, don’t run the tool for the entire photo. Make a selection around the eyes, and then use the tool.
The new Foreground Extractor, based on the SIOX algorithm, is an easy way to cut the subject from an image and remove the background. Select the zone of interest with a lasso-like tool, then mark parts of the sure foreground with a brush. Press the Enter key, and your selection is done. You will still have to make small adjustments using the classic selection tools for a perfect result.
Among the new filters introduced is Lens Distortion, which allows you to correct the barrel distortion or vignetting caused by bad lenses or filters on your camera. I am sure this filter has a lot of potential to be abused for weird effects.
Also note the zoomable preview in the image below. This feature is also available now in many plugins.
The Text Tool has its share of enhancements. It is possible to preview the font in the edit area for immediate feedback, to put your text on a path, or to transform it in an editable path on which you can edit nodes, edit fill or stroke, and transform it to a selection.
Brushes are also improved. You can change their scale (for both parametric and bitmap brushes) with a slider or keyboard shortcut, without opening the brush editor. You can add jitter for a more natural and realistic look in drawing and import Adobe Photoshop V2 brushes (.abr).
With the Alignment Tool, it’s easy to align (top, bottom, middle, left, right, center) layers and other objects relative to the image, other layers, selections, or to precisely position them with coordinates.
The Color Picker can now take a color sample not only from a GIMP image window, but also from any element on your desktop: background, window of another open application, anything, so you don’t have to take a screenshot of the desktop or a window and import it into GIMP just to sample a color.
I hope you’re excited about the upcoming Fedora 8 and its included GIMP 2.4. I, for one, can’t look back at the old versions. If you like using graphics applications and like Fedora, join the Fedora Art Team and create graphics for your favorite distro in a collaborative way using free tools and an open community.
1At this time, GIMP has gone to a third release candidate. It is likely that this will be the version packaged with Fedora 8 and that the official release will come in an update.