Photoshop Tutorials Done Using GIMP

the photoshop logothe gimp logo

To Photoshop or GIMP? That is the Question. . .

I recently completed these five tutorials as part of a class project for COM 210 at WSU Vancouver. I am posting these here as evidence of completing the projects (mostly for the instructor), but also to share some of the lessons I learned in the process, especially concerning GIMP and how I used it to complete the tasks involved. Click to check out the Photoshop tutorials for yourself: One, two, three, four, and five.

Note: these were originally tutorials meant to be completed on Photoshop, in which I used GIMP. It was a good learning experience for me to see how to do some basic stuff in GIMP that is normally done in Photoshop. Through this tutorial, I had to do some research to find out how to install plug-ins for GIMP, which is fairly easy. Click the link for a GIMP plug-ins installation tutorial.

I also found a neat page that tells you how to make GIMP work a lot more like Photoshop.

Below are the images I used for each tutorial along with the finished result. Enjoy!

Tutorial One: Layers

The first tutorial wasn’t anything too involved or hard to translate over to GIMP from Photoshop skills and techniques. By adding a GIMP plug-in, I was able to more easily create layer borders for each individual photo that I created from the original images. The border effect can be achieved by using a filter, but I think it’s more cumbersome than needed, so I’m not going to go into it here. Drop shadows are easier and I think turn out better with the original filter, but they can also be done with the Layer Effects plug-in from the GIMP repository linked to below.


Tutorial Two: Adjustment Layers

This one was a doozie! As it turns out, GIMP has no Adjustment Layers functionality. My guess is that the developers have not thought it would be worth putting that in so far because if people want to adjust the photo with color settings (which were the major part of this tutorial), they would just copy the image to a new layer and edit that one. Well, even though I heard from some remote parts of the web that GIMP is getting this feature sometime in the future, I decided to just go with what they have intended so far. This way, I was able to create a new version of the image each time I wanted to make adjustments by using Layer > New from visible to get the same basic effect as a Photoshop Adjustment Layer.

When the tutor asked for affecting only one part of the image with the color adjustment, I made the adjustment to the new layer via the Color drop down menu and then erased the portions that I didn’t need to be affected. This seemed to work out great for my purposes and the image has all the needed layers to be able to quickly toggle on and off various color affects. I found this trick in a discussion on the photography forum Cambridge in Colour about GIMP. Just go there and search the page for visible and you’ll see where I got it from.

an unedited image of two cougar cubs
The unedited cougar cubs image that came with the tutorial
an edited final version of the cougar cubs
The edited final version of the cougar cubs


Tutorial Three: Layer Masks

This one wasn’t quite as bad. This time, it was actually easier on GIMP I believe than it looked like for the tutor on Photoshop. All I had to do was place the image as a layer, add a masking layer, then duplicate that layer three times and move the copies to the four separate quadrants. Then, I repeated the same steps I did for the previous tutorial in order to simulate Photoshop’s Adjustment Layers functionality.

a picture of a broken piggy bank
The unedited piggy bank image
an image of four color adjusted broken piggy banks
The edited result of the tutorial–four colorful broken piggy banks


Tutorial Four: Text and Effects

This one seemed like it was going to be difficult as well. The reason is that it called for another feature that GIMP doesn’t have. However, I found that other people had apparently gone through something like this before and left a trail online for me to follow. I found the answer in form of a workaround involving two steps, both of which I heard about in a forum made by GIMP users on Flickr.

If you read all the comments, you find that there are two parts to this solution: 1) decompose the image into its RGB elements, which makes the three different color channels into separate layers (see this official GIMP page for a tutorial); 2) then use the multiply blending mode to make the saved image appear slightly transparent later on in the process, after the text has been made (the blending mode drop-down menu is located in the Layers pane right above the opacity sliding bar, or conversely right below the tabs for Layers, Channels, etc.).

One other thing I had to learn was how to do the text effects manually. Here is a page that describes how to warp text in GIMP in detail. Overall, I think it turned out well 🙂

an image of a crumpled piece of paper with design is iterative written on it
Since this one was created from a blank piece of paper and some text, I’m omitting the original


Tutorial Five: Cutouts and Blending Modes

After completing this last tutorial, I feel pretty comfortable with using GIMP to do pretty much most of what I might need to do professionally with Photoshop. It’s not exactly the same program and wasn’t intended to replace Ps. Nonetheless, it can make a quite good substitute for the student, professional, or hobbyist on a budget. Plus, by doing things in GIMP, it’s not like I would have a really steep learning curve going back to Adobe’s darling, but it certainly is pretty hard to go the other way if you don’t have any experience with GIMP.

The challenge with this particular project was trying to simulate Photoshop’s Layer Effects, which can be done through installing a GIMP plug-in found at this page. The page has instructions for installing the plug-in in your GIMP files, and I happened to use the Python version.

a collage of three cut out images including a building on the WSU Pullman campus, a cougar, and a topographical map of the pullman, wa area
The final result of this tutorial required image cut-outs and blending modes in GIMP



I hope these results are helpful for you to see what you could learn to do from the above tutorials. Please feel free to chime in via the comments section if you have questions about the tutorials, how I did any of these steps via GIMP, or if you went ahead and changed your GIMP via the link provided above. Also, you can see future posts like this if you follow my blog or subscribe via email. Thanks and have a great day!


Benjamin Woodruff