Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Getting to know The Gimp

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on September 21, 2009

I’ve spent quite a lot of the last few weeks getting to grips with The Gimp, the free and open-source alternative to the not-free Adobe Photoshop.

Image manipulation is an important part of any multimedia journalists toolkit, whether its to generate graphics or artistic images, or just to touch up your photographs, and if you haven’t got the Gimp, you really should (unless you’re lucky enough to have Photoshop of course).

A more heavily manipulated image using layers & curves

A heavily manipulated image using layers & curves for Viking FM

Test image for an audio slideshow

A shot from an audio slideshow I'm making with minor contrast edits and a light vignette effect

Short for GNU Image Manipulation Program, it is as complicated as its Adobe counterpart, at least at first appearance. But half the trick is learning what the Gimp’s important tools are. I have personally found the most important bits to grasp – at least at first – are:

  • layering
  • controlling curves
  • creating, feathering and manipulating sections

But as the iPhone is hypervalued by its homemade apps, the Gimp’s real value lies in a vast library of tutorials and guides…produced by Joe Public. Working on both my audio slideshow and the Viking FM graphics, I’ve been able to instantly get help just by visiting Youtube.

Here are five top tutorials to help you get to know the Gimp.

01. Using curves for selective exposure correction

02. using curves to improve night shots

03. a very basic introduction to layers

04. creating vintage/vignette effects

05. and some Gimp basics


Open source for multimedia journalists

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on July 13, 2009

I love the concept of open sourcing. It has many forms, but open source software is the most common use, when software developers make their code publicly available for all to explore and change.

It’s led to the creation of some amazing software very useful for journalists on a low budget; and of course, it’s free! Here are some highlights:

Web browsing

Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome have both revolutionised internet use – don’t get bogged down with Internet Explorer!


Open Office – is ropey in places, but otherwise a faithful and very useful alternative to Microsoft Office


Audacity is a highly reliable (if not very flexible) audio editor. And try Songbird for a free audio player.


Miro is a very promising internet video player and video podcast player.


With Photoshop being too expensive for many users, Gimp provides a free (and equally complicated alternative). Google’s Picasa is great for simple image edits.

3D graphics

Blender is the free tool for creating 3D animations and even whole films