High-end graphics editing in the commercial world has been defined by Adobe’s Photoshop. It is so dominant and so prevalent that the name is frequently used as a verb, sadly enough Photoshop is not available for AmigaOS4. In the free and open source world the standard of comparison is GIMP and thanks to Edgar Schwan AmigaOS4 users can do some high-end graphics editing on AmigaOne computers. GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and was first released in January of 1996. The latest stable release for AmigaOS 4.1 and AmigaOne computer systems is version 2.6. Both Photoshop and GIMP are categorized as raster graphics editors. A raster graphics image is essentially an n by m array of pixels where n and m are the dimensions of the image. Each pixel represents a color and typically consists of three or four components. Traditional display systems use the three base colors of red, green and blue (RGB) to create a specific color. The print industry has traditionally used the four colors cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) for their purposes. GIMP really shines when it comes to enhancing or retouching digital photos. While it can be used for other tasks, it has come to be the open source tool of choice for professional photography enhancement. Vector graphics are a whole different story. Images based on vector graphics use geometric primitives such as curves, lines, points and polygons as the basic building blocks.

GIMP’s UI is split into three main parts: “Toolbox,” “Layers, Channels, Paths, Undo,” and the main image editing area. You can blow the main image editing area up to full screen, but you can’t pin the other sections to the side so that they minimize and maximize in step with it—they stay the same size, which can be good or bad, depending on your tastes. The menu bar houses a number of familiar options—File, Edit, Select, View, Image, Layer, Colors, Tools, Filters, Windows, Help—but GIMP replaces the traditional tools menu with the aforementioned Toolbox. It offers more options than any other graphics editing program on AmigaOS; in fact, some may be intimidated by the unfamiliar icons. There are so many options available that the GIMP development team has wisely given users the ability to create custom menus so that they can quickly access their own most frequently used tools. GIMP includes the standard brushes, text editor, and colorization tools that you’ll find within other image editors and it supports layers. Touching up images was relatively easy with the Clone tool (which let me copy and paste a portion of an image over another) and the Heal tool (which makes automatic fixes of minor issues such as a misplaced brush stroke). Although it feels a little clunky in comparison to the Adobe Photoshop near-effortless Spot Healing, it’s still a worthwhile tool for touch ups. Adding effects in GIMP, for the most part, was as simple as setting effect intensity and applying it to the image, but more skillful edits, such as layering, required multiple steps and may demand that novices seek for help.

So GIMP 2.6 isn’t perfect, although many of its imperfections are niggles in the face of all that it offers. If you’re a web designer you’re unlikely to require batch actions, CMYK support, or cross compatibility with other video and image management software. Then there’s the price. GIMP is free, and now it’s easy to install and use on AmigaOS 4.1 from Hyperion Entertainment CVBA, however you will need the free X11 environment AmiCygnix version 1.2 (or higher). GIMP is, without question, the most powerful open source raster graphics application, but with that power comes complexity. The good news is that you can find a wealth of tutorials and training materials on Youtube and other interesting websites offering valuable information for novice users. Keep in mind that many alternative operating systems (HaikuOS, Syllable, SkyOS, AROS, etc..)  don’t have GIMP, a big surplus for the AmigaOS community.

More news: Generation Amiga magazine