Choosing GIMP as a Photoshop Alternative

The GIMP logo.

Image manipulation is a handy skill, but sinking time and money into Adobe Photoshop may not be an option for some people. If you’re looking for an alternative to Photoshop, GIMP is a great bet. Available for almost every operating system, GIMP is open source and free with lots of customization and third party plugin options.

One of the major aspects you lose when moving from Photoshop to GIMP is the loss of a major community and widespread knowledge of the software. While GIMP has its dedicated loyalists and a staff, they lack the same kind of institutional power that Adobe has to answer questions, fix bugs, and provide support. While Lynda.com does provide tutorials on GIMP, there are fewer overall resources for tutorials and help than Photoshop.

That being said, GIMP can still be a more powerful tool than Photoshop, especially if you have a programming background (or can convince someone else to do some programming for you). Theoretically, you could add or subtract any features that you so choose by changing the GIMP source code, and you are free to distribute a version of GIMP with those changes to whomever you choose.

There are a number of pros/cons for choosing GIMP over Photoshop, so here’s a handy list.

GIMP Pros:

  • Free
  • Highly customizable and flexible (with coding expertise)
  • Motivated user community run by volunteers
  • High usability
  • Easier to contact leadership regarding issues

GIMP Cons:

  • Less recognized
  • Changes are more slowly implemented
  • No promise that the software will always be maintained in perpetuity

Of course, there are more pros and cons to using GIMP, but this will give you a basic idea of the pros and cons of switching over to this open-source software.

For more information on GIMP, you can check out the GIMP Wiki, which is maintained by GIMP developers, or The GTK+ Project, which is a toolkit for the creation of graphical user interfaces (GUI). GIMP also provides a series of Tutorials. If you’re still loyal to Adobe, you can look at the Adobe products available on the UIUC WebStore, as well as tutorials on Lynda.com.

Do you have opinions on GIMP vs. Photoshop? Let us know in the comments! And stop by the Scholarly Commons, where you can use either (or both!) software for free.

Using Microsoft Publisher for Easy and Attractive Documents

The ability to create quick and attractive layouts for posters, research presentations, and other published materials. While many will head to Photoshop, if you need something on-the-go, Microsoft Publisher is a great option for basic, yet impressive, layouts that will make you stand out. The best part is that you can make these with tools you probably already know from using other products in the Microsoft Suite.

In this post, I’ll walk you through how to make a professional-looking poster for “My Digital Humanities Project” in less than fifteen minutes.

The first thing I’ll do after opening Publisher is select a new blank document. While there are great choices for templates on Publisher, I want to design my poster by myself. From there, I’ll go to the “Page Design” tab on the top ribbon. From there, I’ll choose my color scheme and background color.

Tutorial 1

What the “Page Design” layout looks like.

The color scheme option on Publisher is great. It saves you the hassle of having to find complementary colors or and allows you to make more than boring black and white poster. Of course, you can create your own scheme, as well, but for now I’ll pick “Solstice” to use for my colors. You also have the option to choose a scheme for your fonts, but I stuck with the default.

The color scheme option saves time and energy by giving you eye-catching colors without having to find them yourself.

The color scheme option saves time and energy by giving you eye-catching colors without having to find them yourself.

Now, there are two ways to go about using Publisher. The first is to create your own layout and design using Publisher’s tools, which is what I’m doing in this tutorial. Creating your own layout and design allows you more control over what is and is not included in your final product. That being said, Publisher has a number of editable built-in templates that you can use for your project, if they fit your needs.

Tutorial 7

You can find the “Change Template” option on the left side of the the “Page Design” ribbon. From there you can choose from a number of editable designs, as well as color and font schemes.

After picking my scheme, I decide to do a plain fill for my background with the yellow from my color scheme. You also have choices to do a gradient background, a pattern background, or to upload your own image to use as your background.

The background button on the ribbon gives a drop-down menu with background options.

The background button on the ribbon gives a drop-down menu with background options.

My project's background.

My project’s background.

Following that I moved to the “Insert” tab on the top ribbon to create the content of my poster. Most of what I did came from the “Page Parts” or “Borders & Accents” options in the “Building Blocks” section of that top ribbon. I began by selecting the diamond pattern from borders and accents, and copy pasting it until it went across the page. Next, I chose the title from the “Headings” section of “Page Parts,” and the border around my title from “Borders and Accents.”

Tutorial 8

The layout of the “Insert” tab. Many of the best aspects of Publisher are found in the “Building Blocks” section of this ribbon, including “Page Parts” and “Borders & Accents.”

The bottom part of my poster came from the “Page Parts” tabs. There you can choose the shapes you want your text in. One nice option that my shape on the lower left has is the option to include three pictures within the shape. I also created the rectangle on the bottom right using the “Illustrations” tab on the top ribbon. I filled it with blue on the “Page Design” tab so that the date would really stand out.

My finished product!

My finished product!

One of the best parts of Publisher is that it takes the difficult aspects of design and simplifies them. While you may not have as much personal control over the final project as you may in Photoshop, Publisher saves time and energy while still giving you a noticeable and vivacious end product. Publisher is useful not only for posters, but to create presentations, booklets, cards, and even eye-catching resumes!

If you want to give Publisher a try, head to the Scholarly Commons!