Saturday, September 21, 2013

GIMP: Using Transform Tools Properly

One of the major problems people face when using GIMP is their poorly designed Transform Tools. Compared to Photoshop, the tools seemed slow and not at all user-friendly. I've seen people quit GIMP just because those tools are too hard to manipulate. Nevertheless, there are ways to use the tools more effectively and quickly. Let's look at Photoshop first to see what's good about their setup.

If you select a shape in Photoshop using the Move Tool, handles on the sides of the bounding box make it easy to resize, stretch, or move the object. Meanwhile, additional tools are found in Edit → Transform, such as Perspective and Warp.

Now, GIMP has a completely different altitude to things, which might be better or worse depending on how you work. All its tools are located in the toolbox, so you don't need to navigate into the menus to get a specific tool like Perspective. However, you don't get the nice handles or the "Free Transform" capability in GIMP. A quick guide to the functionality of each tool and the corresponding keyboard shortcut is below (Figure 1).

Basically, what you should do is put your left hand on the keyboard and your right hand on the mouse. Your pinkie should be placed on the Shift key for easy access, while your other fingers will be responsible for pressing the keys. It takes practice, but what you need to do is instinctively press the correct shortcut when you need a tool.

Figures 1 and 2

Now, some of you are probably wondering if there's an easier way. Even programs like Microsoft Word have a bounding box around the selected item, right?

Well, the Scale Tool (Shift-T) can also move objects around. For example, I just used it to select a rectangle as shown in Figure 2. Dragging the circle in the middle will translate the object as if you were using the actual Move Tool. The other boxes are for resizing and reshaping the layer. If you want to enlarge the shape without affecting the aspect ratio, hold Control while dragging (In Photoshop it’s Shift).

Therefore, the Move Tool’s alternative in GIMP is the Scale tool. Remember it well.

Like GIMP? Visit my next post, where I mention how to change a picture's exposure electronically.
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