Installing GIMP

Note: Depending on your computer, screen size, operating system, etc., the screens you see may look a bit different. This is just a guide to show in a general way what you need to do to download and install GIMP.

1. Gto to download GIMP. You should see a screen that looks like this:

2. Click on the "Download GIMP vxx" link, and you may get redirected to another site for download. In my case, I was sent to a download page at

3. If you get a message on your screen that your browser is blocking the download, click on it and choose "download now." Mine went automatically to the download and I got this message at the bottom of my screen:

4. Keep in mind that different versions of operating systems and browsers will give you different looking messages, and different wording, but the upshot is you want to allow it to download and run the file.  I clicked on “Run,” which took me to the installation screen for Gimp:

5. Click "Next" twice, then click on the “Install now” button. If all goes well you should get this:

6. Click "Finish" and leave the “Launch GIMP” box checked.  It should open the program.  It will do some housekeeping and information gathering for a bit, but then the program opens. Unfortunately it’s going to look rather odd.

7. GIMP is open and running, but its various components are sitting right on top of my browser.  This is one of the odder features of GIMP. It has no actual desktop of its own. Fortunately there is an easy solution.

8. The box in the center of the screen represents the main functioning part of the program. If you look at the three small icons in the upper right-hand corne (where the arrow is pointing in the image above, you’ll see the usual three options most Windows programs use.  If you click the center of those three icons, the box will expand to fill your screen, and it will become a de facto desktop for your program.  Your screen should look approximately like this:

9. Much better. A note about the side panels: they may not initially fit nicely onto the screen, but you can fix that.  If you click on the lighter colored area at the top of the side panels and hold down the mouse button, you can drag them around on the screen.  If you cursor over the edges of the boxes, the cursor will change on the edges to a double-sided arrow.  Click the button and hold and you’ll be able to resize the boxes by dragging the edges.  On mine, the bottom parts of each side panel were off the screen, so I clicked on the top edge and dragged the edge down to make the panel shorter. Once it was shorter, I clicked on the light part to pull it up, pulling the lower part of the column back onto the screen.


10. You’re ready to start using GIMP, but before we get going, there are a few general things we need to understand first.

A couple of basic concepts you need to know about digital art.

Pixel sizes – In print, you size pictures and other images by fixed, spatial measurements, like inches or centimeters. Because monitors and video boards vary so much in output capacity to the screen, using physical measurements doesn’t work for the web. When dealing with digital images intended for web use, the standard measurement of size is the pixel.  You can think of a pixel as being equivalent to one dot on the monitor’s screen.

Layers – Images are built in layers.  Normally each graphic and each piece of text will be placed on its own layer when you’re creating an image.  By keeping each piece on a separate layer, you can move them around independently of each other. 
To understand the concept of layers, think about taking a piece of paper on your desk and drawing on it with crayon.  You can move the whole piece of paper around, but you can’t move the position of the colored area on the paper.  That’s the effect you get if you put all the elements of your cover on the same layer.
By contrast, think of that piece of paper on your desk again, but instead of coloring directly on it, you build a collage by cutting out pieces of other paper and laying them on top of each other.  Now you can move pieces around independently without affecting the rest of the layout.  That’s what you can do when you put each part of your image on a new layer.

A few general things about GIMP

GIMP is a surprisingly powerful program for being free.  It will do a lot more things than we’re going to talk about here right now, but if you want to experiment with various functions, why not try?  If you’re not happy with what happens…see the note below about using the “Undo” function.


GIMP’s toolbox is on the upper part of the left menu.  You’ll notice that when you click on a tool, the lower part of that column will change to show you options that relate to the particular tool you’ve chosen.

Layers, Channels, etc.

The right-hand sidebar shows a variety of functions, including the layers palette.

One seriously helpful menu function

Undo – This is the universal out when you’ve done something to an image you wish you hadn’t.  Go to “Edit” and “Undo” to back up a step.  You can continue using “Undo” to completely undo everything you’ve done in a session.