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b&w nature photo with white concatlab 3x3 grid logo

high contrast nature photo with white concatlab 3x3 grid logo

narrow threshold b&w nature photo with small concatlab logo

high contrast nature photo with white concatlab logo

b&w nature photo with black concatlab 3x3 grid logo

nature photo with concatlab logo clamped to ground

nature photo with concatlab 3x3 grid logo and crumpled paper texture

This past weekend I finally got a chance to do something I've wanted to do for a long time --- experiment with photo editing in GIMP. As excited I was, I'll admit I got overwhelmed quickly, and almost gave up on the whole thing several times. These are some of my initial thoughts and, of course, some raw concatentations that I came up with.

What is GIMP?

GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, and to oversimplify and generalize greatly, is a free, open-source version of Adobe Photoshop. These programs are used for anything from touching up models on the cover of Cosmo to generating fake pictures of Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster. 

Photoshop is clearly the de facto standard in the industry. It is a very capable program and, as a result of its prevalence, "photoshopped" is practically a figure of speech for any edited image. Without going into a long manifesto on why I don't have Photoshop and why I'm a big fan of open-source software, GIMP has made the economic barrier of entry into this field of work very low.

A Steep Learning Curve

I was not at all surprised to find that GIMP has a relatively steep learning curve. The first time I opened it I had no clue where to even begin. There seems to be at least a million filters and effects and another million settings for each one. Needless to say I was immediately overwhelmed.

Luckily, I have been in this situation before. I recall getting started in Inkscape and having the same feelings. Fast forward several months, a few projects, and many YouTube videos later and I feel very at home in the program. I have even caught myself trying to use Inkscape keystrokes in AutoCAD at my job...both a good and bad sign, I suppose.

So, I used the same strategy with GIMP. Read some tutorials for doing a couple basic things, make something basic, push every button on the command bar, try every effect, hit undo a bunch of times, and just get to know one another.

As a secondary strategy I loaded up on coffee and overcame the many mental blocks by shredding on electric guitar at high volumes. This proved to be highly effective. 

Breaking Things

I had some rough ideas from things I have seen elsewhere, so I just kind of riffed on those. I built all of the logos in Inkscape (read above: my comfort zone, happy place) and exported them as PNG images. Why PNG? Two reasons; 1) Inkscape has a command to do it, and 2) PNG images are allowed to contain alpha channels. More on that...

The alpha channels are key in most of these images because they allow parts of the logo to be completely transparent, which I think looks way cooler than a big, flat stamp. You can really see this in the letters of the 3x3 grid square.

In somewhat related news, I paid special attention to opacity in each of these images. I have really come to enjoy fine-tuning opacity on layered images. It is such a simple setting, but it makes a huge difference. What's great in these nature photos is that it allows me to sneak in a logo without completely hiding the scenery behind it. 

Finally, I channeled my inner Instagram filter bank and tested every single color effect option available. It took a long time and I ended up with some absolutely atrocious results, but I finally found a few effects that I really liked and got comfortable using them. I really like the high contrast and threshold effects, although they are probably a little loud for most people.

Test Results

Clearly I am not going to win any design awards anytime soon. I have a long way to go, but overall I'm pretty impressed at what I was able to accomplish in just a short weekend. GIMP is a real bear to try and learn, but I'm already feeling more comfortable and dreaming up more project ideas.

As far as the six photos above, I think they have some real potential for a background image on my Twitter or Tumblr page. And who knows, maybe one day I'll put out something in print where they could be of service. Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and hate them. Whatever. I had fun. Mission accomplished.