GIMP Painter project adjusts GIMP’s UI

GIMP Painter project adjusts GIMP’s UI

Today a person nicknamed sigtech of GIMP Painter project announced availability of several patches to user interface and painting functionality of GIMP. The news are going to hit websites anyway, so best it to get things right from the beginning.

Let's start with what GIMP Painter is. It's a fork of upstream GIMP that implements some painting related functionality that creators of the fork found missing in GIMP. Up till now two most significant changes were:

  • Mixbrush, a painting tool that allows natural paints blending;
  • G-Pen, a fork of GIMP's Ink tool that implements optional line smoothing.

If you want demonstration of Mixbrush, watch these two videos created by Yoshinori Yamakawa who is involved in the GIMP Painter project:

GIMP Painter was used in "Chaos and Evolutions" DVD course on digital painting by David Revoy (it was shipped with DVD too) and GIMP Paint Studio actually makes presets for GIMP Painter rather than for regular GIMP.

So, what's in the new bundle of patches?

  1. Horizontal tool options toolbar instead of of vertical.
  2. Vertical tabs in docks and therefore vertical docking (or vice versa).
  3. Tabs in painting dynamics editor.
  4. Folding of docks.
  5. Changes in brush palette interface.
  6. Blending modes and working painting dynamics for Smudge tool (dynamics are broken for Smudge currently in upstream GIMP);
  7. Line smoothing. The former G-Pen implementation worked for the forked Ink tool only. The new patch implements smoothing for both brush core and the Ink tool, so it should work for all brush based tools (including Smudge and Clone), Airbrush tool and Ink tool.

What does it look like? Here is a screenshot of today's Git created by GIMP Painter's developer:

GIMP Painter as of January 4, 2011

One cannot help but noticing the UI looks rather Photoshop-ish :)

OK, so what's the deal? Will these changes be merged to upstream GIMP? The answer is a bit more complicated than you probably expect.

First of all, the new changes can be roughly divided into controversial and non-controversial. The painting related changes are non-controversial and will be merged into upstream. The user interface changes are a different story.

One thing that has to be understood about the way GIMP is evolving for last few years is that it's been shaping up according to a big picture: what it aims to be, what the target user base is and so on. The UI patches implemented by sigtech are based on requests from GIMP UI brainstorm blog and thus, whether "good" or "bad" they are, haven't been considered as part of the big picture yet. So the UI changes will have to wait till they are taken through the usual usability routine by Peter Sikking, GIMP's usability architect.

The first good news is that sigtech expressed willingness to cooperate with upstream GIMP project. The second good news is that two paid internships that Peter Sikking proposed are currently rolling out, which presumably will help unlocking development of last missing bits in 2.8 (most notably, the optional single-window mode).

That still leaves us Mixbrush. The thing about Mixbrush is that it's a painting tool that is still based on the old GIMP core, whereas the current project's policy is to not  accept new tools based on the old core and request using GEGL instead. This is why the new Cage transform tool was designed and implemented as GEGL based. According to Alexia, who is currently in charge of painting features in GIMP, GEGL's painting core can have multiple external rendering engines, so the right way to implement Mixbrush is to do it using GEGL.

If you are keen to play with the new GIMP Painter, right now you can only clone Git repository and build source code. The Git repo of the fork is kept in sync with upstream GIMP's Git master repository.

Edit: as of October 2011 there is an Ubuntu PPA for GIMP Painter.

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4 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. So that means this one is going in and GIMP is going out for me. I am a long time Photoshop user and it seems pretty weird to me that GIMP still resists adding a “Photoshop switch” that would quickly set up things so that any Photoshop user would feel at home. This would flatten the learning curve a lot and help us that have to use Photoshop cope when using GIMP.

    GIMP is now trying to implement a single-window mode. But the way it is at the moment (I have tried it) is wrong.

    I love working on 2 monitors. And with Photoshop, I can open my canvas in full screen on one monitor while all the palettes etc. can be moved to the second monitor. There is only one WINDOW to close and only one button in the taskbar. The palettes are not separate windows.

    GIMP is now like Photoshop 10 years ago. The palettes has to stay inside the canvas area. This is actually worse than the multi-window mode of GIMP! The only thing we needed was a way to get rid of the multiple buttons on the taskbar, and when you close the canvas, the application closes.

    Another annoyance now is that I close the canvas, and a new, empty one comes up. So I have to close two canvases to close the app. And yes, there are probably a hundred different ways to close it, but this is the one I use, and this is not working like any other program I know.

    If someone else can update the interface of GIMP, I really welcome it. If they also can give me the option of modifying some of the ways to work with the app, I would be delighted! Here are my biggest wishes - all of them are ways I am working in Photoshop. It does not kill us to admit that Photoshop is by far the biggest in image manipulation software.

    moves the whole canvas on my monitor. very useful when zoomed in to work on details

    moves a single layer - perfect to quickly adjust a detail on a separate layer e.g. text in relation to the others.

    CTRL+SPACEBAR+mark a square with the mouse
    zoom so this area fills the work area.

    These three are so embedded in my brain that working on GIMP sometimes becomes a nightmare.

  2. Well, I don’t have a dualhead configuration, so I can’t comment on most of your reply, but I cannot help but noticing that Space + Mouse actually works here just fine. You can configure that in Preferences on Image Window tab.

  3. Actually, it does not. This is again one of thos hopeless implementations.

    Press the spacebar, and you can move the canvas. You do not have to press any mouse buttom. This is bad because you can not grab-move-release-grab-move-release to move around when you are very far zoomed in to a picture.

    Things like this - close, but not the same, is something that makes switching between the apps very difficult.

    I am pretty sure Adobe has spent a ton of money on usability testing. It would be foolish not to learn from it.

  4. From what I see in the discussions, particularly when sigtech demonstrates what he has done so far to the code… while I’m liking what he did very much, I think I can’t feel the same from the very people he has shown his work in the code to.

    I’d prefer this over stock GIMP anytime, and right now not being able to enjoy drawing in GIMP is becoming a personal pet peeve for me, and while GIMP 2.8 brings a lot of desirable improvements over the table, I find it still lacking. Sigtech’s revision made me think I’ve found what I’ve been looking for, even if it’s pretty much in alpha.

    So far my major usage has been in MyPaint, and (almost) MyPaint alone, with some minor edits like resizing, adjustment or compositing colors in using GIMP. And that’s pretty much what I use GIMP for. Probably my only use for GIMP, I should say. I’ve also started to depend less and less on GIMP for the after-edits, and with new features rolled inside MyPaint 1.1 I guess I can pretty much cast GIMP aside if I wanted to.

    Now with this in place, I think I can rest myself easy and stop my overdependence (haha yeah right) on MyPaint…