The screenshot illustrates the standard windows of
The screenshot above shows the most basic arrangement of GIMP windows that
can be used effectively. Three windows are shown:
The Main Toolbox:
This is the heart of the GIMP. It contains the highest level menu,
plus a set of icon buttons that can be used to select tools, and more.
Docked below the main Toolbox is a Tool Options dialog, showing
options for the currently selected tool (in this case, the Rectangle
An image window:
Each image open in GIMP is displayed in a separate window. Many images
can be open at the same time: the limit is set only by the amount of
system resources. It is possible to run GIMP without having any images
open, but there are not very many useful things to do then.
This dialog window shows the layer structure of the currently active
image, and allows it to be manipulated in a variety of ways. It is
possible to do a few very basic things without using the Layers
dialog, but even moderately sophisticated GIMP users find it
indispensible to have the Layers dialog available at all times.
The docked dialog below the layer dialog shows the dialogs for
managing brushes, patterns and gradients.
This is a minimal setup. There are over a dozen other types of dialogs
used by GIMP for various purposes, but users typically create them when
they are needed and close them when they are not. Knowledgeable users
generally keep the Toolbox (with Tool Options) and Layers dialog around at
all times. The Toolbox is essential to many GIMP operations; in fact, if
you close it, GIMP will exit. (You are asked to confirm that you want to
do this, though.) The Tool Options are actually a separate dialog, shown
docked to the Main Toolbox in the screenshot. Knowledgeable users almost
always have them set up this way: it is very difficult to use tools
effectively without being able to see how their options are set. The
Layers dialog comes into play whenever you work with an image that has
multiple layers: once you advance beyond the very most basic stages of
GIMP expertise, this means almost always.
And finally, of course, the necessity of having images displayed in
order to work with them is perhaps obvious.
If your GIMP layout gets trashed, fortunately the arrangement
shown in the screenshot is pretty easy to recover. In the
File menu from the Main Toolbox, selecting
File->Dialogs->Create New Dock->Layers, Channels, and Paths
will give you a Layers dialog just like the one shown. In the
same menu, selecting
gives you a new Tool Options dialog, which you can then dock
below the Main Toolbox. (The section on Dialogs and Docking explains how to
dock dialogs.) There is no need to be able to create a new Main
Toolbox, because you cannot get rid of the one you have without
causing GIMP to exit.
Unlike some other programs, GIMP does not give you the option of putting
everything—controls and image displays—all into a single comprehensive
window. The GIMP developers have always felt that this is a poor way of
working, because it forces the program to perform a wide range of
functions that are much better done by a dedicated window manager. Not
only would this waste a lot of programmer time, it is almost impossible to
do in a way that works correctly across all of the operating systems GIMP
is intended to run on.
Earlier versions of the GIMP (up to GIMP 1.2.5) were very profligate with
dialogs: advanced users often had half a dozen or more dialogs open at
once, scattered all over the screen and very difficult to keep track of.
GIMP 2.0 is much better in this respect, because it allows dialogs to be
docked together in a flexible way. (The Layers dialog in the screenshot
actually contains four dialogs, represented by tabs: Layers, Channels,
Paths, and Undo.) The system takes a little while to learn, but once you
learn it, we hope that you will like it.
The following sections will walk you through the components of each of the
windows shown in the screenshot, explaining what they are and how they
work. Once you have read them, plus the section describing the basic
structure of GIMP images, you should have learned enough to use GIMP for a
wide variety of basic image manipulations. You can then look through the
rest of the manual at your leisure (or just experiment) to learn the
almost limitless number of more subtle and specialized things that are
possible. Have fun!
The Main Toolbox
Screenshot of the Toolbox
The Main Toolbox is the heart of the GIMP. It is the only part of
the application that you cannot duplicate or close. Here is a
quick tour of what you will find there.
In the Toolbox, as in most parts of GIMP, moving the mouse on top
of something and letting it rest for a moment will usually bring
up a "tooltip" message that may help you understand what the thing
is or what you can do with it. Also, in many cases you can press
the F1 key to get help about the thing that is
underneath the mouse.
This menu is special: it contains some commands that cannot
be found in the menus that are attached to images. (Also some
that can.) These include commands for setting preferences,
creating certain types of dialogs, etc. The contents are
described systematically in the Toolbox Menu section.
Tool icons: These icons are buttons that activate
tools for a wide variety of purposes: selecting parts of images,
painting on them, transforming them, etc. The Toolbox Introduction
section gives an overview of how to work with tools, and each tool is
described systematically in the Tools chapter.
The color areas here show you GIMP's current foreground and
background colors, which come into play in many operations.
Clicking on either one of them brings up a color selector
dialog that allow you to change to a different color.
Clicking on the double-headed arrow swaps the two colors,
and clicking on the small symbol in the lower left corner
resets them to black and white.
The symbols here show you GIMP's current
selections for: the Paintbrush, used by all tools that allow
you to paint on the image ("painting" includes operations
like erasing and smudging, by the way); for the Pattern,
which is used in filling selected areas of an image; and for
the Gradient, which comes into play whenever an operation
requires a smoothly varying range of colors. Clicking on
any of these symbols brings up a dialog window that allows
you to change it.
(This is a new feature in GIMP 2.2) In GIMP,
you can work with many images at once, but at any given moment, one
of them is the “active image”. Here you find a small
representation of the active image. Clicking on it brings up a dialog
with a list of all the currently open images, allowing you to make a
different one active if you want to. (Clicking on the window where the
image is displayed will accomplish the same thing, though.)
The "Active Image" preview is disabled by default. If you want it,
you can enable it in the
Toolbox Preferences tab.
At every start, GIMP selects a tool (the brush), a color, a brush and
a pattern by default, always the same. If you want GIMP to select the
last tool, color, brush and pattern you used when quitting your
previous session, check the "Set input device settings on exit" in
A screenshot of the image window illustrating the important components
In GIMP, each image that you have open is displayed in its own separate
window. (In some cases, multiple windows may all display the same image,
but this is unusual.) We will begin with a brief description of the
components that are present by default in an ordinary image window. Some
of these, in fact, can be made to disappear using commands in the
menu; but you will probably find that you don't want to do that.
At the top of the image window you will probably see a emphasis bar,
showing the name of the image and some basic information about it. The
emphasis bar is actually provided by the windowing system, not by GIMP
itself, so its appearance may vary with different operating systems,
window managers, and/or themes. In the
you can customize the information that appears here, if you want to.
Directly below the emphasis bar appears the Image Menu (unless it has
been suppressed). This menu gives you access to nearly every operation
you can perform on an image. (There are some “global”
actions that can only be accessed via the Toolbox menu.) You can
also get the Image Menu by right-clicking inside the image
, or by left-clicking on the little “arrow” symbol in
the upper left corner, if for some reason you find one of these more
More: most menu operations can also be activated from the keyboard,
using Alt plus an “accelerator” key underlined in the
More: you can define your own custom shortcuts for menu actions, if
you enable Use Dynamic Keyboard
Shortcuts in the Preferences dialog.
Clicking on this little button gives you the Image Menu, except in a
column instead of a row. Mnemonics users who don't want the menu bar
visible can acces to this menu by pressing the
In the default layout, rulers are shown above and to the left of the
image, indicating coordinates within the image. You can control what
type of coordinates are shown if you want to. By default, pixels are
used, but you can change to other units, using the Units setting
One of the most important uses of rulers is to create
If you click on a ruler and drag into the image display, a guideline
will be created, which you can use to help you position things
accurately. Guides can be moved by clicking on them and dragging, or
deleted by dragging them out of the image display.
At the lower left corner of the image display is a small button that
toggles on or off the Quick Mask, which is an alternate, and often
extremely useful, way of viewing the selected area within the image.
For more details see QuickMask.
In the lower left corner of the window is a rectangular area used to
show the current pointer coordinates (that is, the mouse location, if
you are using a mouse), whenever the pointer is within the image
boundaries. The units are the same as for the rulers.
(This feature is new in GIMP 2.2; it does not appear in GIMP 2.0). By
default, the units used for the rulers and several other purposes are
pixels. You can change to inches, cm, or several other possibilities
using this menu. (If you do, note that the setting of “Dot for
dot” in the View menu affects how the display is scaled: see
Dot for Dot
for more information.
(This feature is new in GIMP 2.2; it does not appear in GIMP 2.0).
There are a number of ways to zoom the image in or out, but this menu
is perhaps the simplest.
The Status Area appears below the image display. Most of the time, by
default, it shows which part of the image is currently active, and the
amount of system memory that the image is consuming. You can customize
the information that appears here, by changing your Preferences. When
you perform time-consuming operations, the status area changes
temporarily to show what operation is being performed, and its state
Note that the amount of memory consumed by the image is quite
different from the image file size. For instance, a 69.7Kb .PNG
image will occupy 246Kb in memory when displayed. Two reasons
for that. First, image is reconstituted from the compressed .PNG
file. Then, GIMP keeps a copy of the image in memory to be used
by the Undo command.
At the lower right corner of the window appears the Cancel button. If
you start a complex, time-consuming operation (most commonly a
plug-in), and then decide, while it is being computed, that you didn't
really want to do it after all, this button will cancel it
There are a few plug-ins that respond badly to being canceled,
possibly leaving corrupted pieces of images behind.
This is a small cross-shaped button at the lower right corner of the
image display. Clicking on it, and holding the left mouse button down,
brings up a window showing a miniature view of the image, with the
displayed area outlined. You can pan to a different part of the image
by moving the mouse while keeping the button depressed. For large
images of which only a small part is displayed, the navigation window
is often the most convenient way of getting to the part of the image
you are looking for. (See
for other ways to access the Navigation Window). (If your mouse has a
middle-button, click-drag with it to span across the image).
Inactive Padding Area:
This padding area seperates the active image display and the inactive
padding area, so you're able to distinguish between them. You cannot
apply any Filters or Operations in generall on the inactive area.
The most important part of the image window is, of course, the image
display or canvas. It occupies the central area of the window,
surrounded by a yellow dotted line showing the image boundary, against
a neutral gray background. You can change the zoom level of the image
display in a variety of ways, including the Zoom setting described
Image Window Resize Toggle:
If this button is pressed, the image itself will be resized if the
image window is resized.
Dialogs and Docking
In GIMP 2.0 and 2.2, you have a lot of flexibility about the arrangement
of dialog windows on your screen. Instead of placing each dialog in its
own window, you can group them together using docks. A "dock" is a
container window that can hold a collection of persistent dialogs, such
as the Tool Options dialog, Brushes dialog, Palette dialog, etc. Docks
cannot, however, hold image windows: each image always has its own
separate window. They also can't hold non-persistent dialogs, such as
the Preferences dialog or the New Image dialog.
A dock, with docking bars highlighted
Each dock has a set of docking bars,
as highlighted in the adjoining figure. These are thin gray bars, very
unobtrusive and easy not to notice: most people don't realize that they
exist until they are specifically pointed out.
Docking Drag Handles
Each dockable dialog has a drag handle area,
as highlighted in the figure on the right. You can recognize this by
the fact that the cursor changes to a hand shape when the pointer is
over the drag handle area. To dock a dialog, you simply click on its
drag handle area, and drag it onto one of the docking bars in a dock.
A dialog in a dock, with the drag handle area highlighted.
This screenshot shows the area that allows to take a dialog off
You can drag more than one dialog onto the same docking bar. If you do,
they will turn into tabs, represented by iconic symbols at the top.
Clicking on the tab handle will bring a tab to the front, so that you
can interact with it.
Some docks contain an Image Menu:
a menu listing all of the images open in GIMP, and displaying the name
of the image whose information is shown in the dock. You can use the
Image Menu to select a different image (don't confuse this menu for the
Image Menu that is the Menu of the active image on your screen). If the
Auto button is depressed, then the menu always
shows the name of GIMP's currently active image, that is, the image
you are currently working on.
A dock with an Image Menu highlighted
By default, a “Layers, Channels, and Paths”
dock shows an Image Menu at the top, and other types of docks do not.
You can always add or remove an Image Menu, however, using the "Show
Image Menu" toggle in the Tab menu, as described below. (Exception: you
cannot add an Image Menu to the dock that contains the Toolbox.)
A dialog in a dock, with the Tab menu button highlighted
In each dialog, you can access a special menu of tab-related operations
by pressing the Tab Menu button, as highlighted in the figure on the
right. Exactly which commands are shown in the menu varies a bit from
dialog to dialog, but they always include operations for creating new
tabs, or closing or detaching tabs.
Tab menu from the Layers dialog
The Tab menu gives you access to the following commands:
At the top of each Tab menu is an entry that opens into the
dialog's context menu, which contains operations specific to that
particular type of dialog. For example, the context menu for the
Patterns dialog contains a set of operations for manipulating
This entry opens into a submenu allowing you to add a large
variety of dockable dialogs as new tabs.
This entry closes the dialog. Closing the last dialog in a dock
causes the dock itself to close. Choosing this menu entry has the
same effect as pressing the "Close Tab" button.
This entry detaches the dialog from the dock, creating a new dock
with the detached dialog as its only member. It has the same
effect as dragging the tab out of the dock and releasing it at a
Preview Size submenu of a Tab menuEl submenú "Tamaño de la vista previa".
This entry is available when multiple dialogs are in the same
dock: it opens into a submenu allowing you to choose how the tabs
at the top will appear (cp.
Figure 2.10, “
Tab Style submenu of a Tab menu
). There are five choices, not all of which will be available for
all types of dialogs:
This choice gives you an icon representing the dialog
This choice is only available for dialogs that allow you
to select something, such as a brush, a pattern, a
gradient, etc. It gives you a tab showing a representation
of the item currently selected.
This choice gives you a tab showing the dialog type in
Icon and Text
This choice gives you wider tabs, containing both an icon
and the type of dialog in text.
Status and Text
This choice, where available, shows the item currently
selected, as well as the type of dialog.
View as List; View as Grid
These entries are shown in dialogs that allow you to select an
item from a set: brushes, patterns, fonts, etc. You can choose
whether to view the items as a vertical list, with the name of
each beside it, or as a grid, with representations of the items
but no names. Each has its advantages: viewing as a list gives you
more information, but viewing as a grid allows you to see many
more possibilities at once. The default for this varies across
dialogs: for brushes and patterns, the default is a grid; for most
other things, the default is a list.
Show Image Menu
This is a toggle. If it is checked, then an Image Menu is shown at
the top of the dock. It is not available for dialogs docked below
the Toolbox. Dont confuse this menu for the Image Menu, that is
the menu of the active image on your screen.
Auto Follow Active Image
This is a toggle, and it is meaningless unless an Image Menu is
being shown. It causes the Image Menu, and hence the contents of
the dialog if they are image-related, to change to follow whatever
image you are working on at the moment.
Users with an Apple Macintosh and a one button mouse can use
Ctrl + mousebutton instead.