Sunday, April 29th, 2018 Posted by Jim Thacker

GIMP team ships GIMP 2.10

The output of GIMP 2.10’s new Warp Transform tool. The tool – you can see it in action here – is one of a range of major features added in this landmark stable build of the open-source image-editing tool.

The GIMP team has released GIMP 2.10, a major update to the open-source image-editing software, adding support for HiDPI monitors, 32-bit and linear workflow, and GPU-accelerated image processing.

The release also introduces two complete new transform tools, on-canvas filter previews and gradient editing, new layer blending modes and improved foreground selection.

Most of the functionality was previously avaiable in the experimental GIMP 2.9 series of releases, but this is the first time it has been available in a stable build.

Major structural changes: 32-bit workflow, multithreading, GPU acceleration
GIMP 2.10 is a pretty major overhaul of the software’s core architecture, representing the result of six years of development work to port the software to GEGL, its new image-processing engine.

Created in 2000 by developers at Rhythm & Hues, GEGL (GIMP E Graphical Library) was originally used in the studio’s VFX-focused Film GIMP image-editing software, since renamed CinePaint.

Initially used in GIMP to handle colour correction and flattened representations of layers, the GEGL library is now used for all tile management and to build the underlying graph for a project.

Practical benefits include support for higher bit depths: GIMP can now open, process and export images at up to 32-bits per colour channel, including 32-bit PSD, TIFF, PNG and EXR files.

The work should also improve performance when working with large images: many features now support multithreading, and you can also use your GPU for processing if you have access to “stable OpenCL drivers”.

In addition, the effect of any filter that uses GEGL – around 80, in the current build – can now be previewed directly on the image canvas, rather than in a floating window.

Interface design: new dark UI theme and HiDPI monitor support
The release also overhauls GIMP’s interface, introducing a new, industry-standard dark theme by default.

But while the new UI design – shown in the screenshot above – goes some way to making GIMP feel more like a ‘professional’ image-editing tool, it’s still very much a work in progress.

Although there are new monochrome icon designs, they’re offputtingly chunky, and hard to read at a glance.

The online roadmap candidly admits that there are no guidelines for icon design and that the new symbolic icons “fail to have discernible shapes, defeating the purpose of a symbolic theme”.

However, it is still possible to re-enable the legacy icon designs – and all the icon sets come in four sizes, so they should at least scale better to HiDPI displays.

Colour management: support for linear workflow, new layer blending modes
Colour management has also been greatly improved. For starters, it’s now a core part of the software, rather than being handled by a plugin, so tools and image previews should now show colours accurately.

It’s also possible to work in linear, rather than gamma-corrected, RGB colour space, making it possible to use proper linear workflows when editing images or exchanging them with other software.

The update also introduces a number of new features that make use of the Lab and Lch colour spaces, including four new blending modes for layers: Hue, Chroma, Color and Lightness.

There are also a number of new non-Lab blending modes, most of which will be familiar to Photoshop users, including Linear Burn, Vivid Light, Linear Light, Pin Light, Hard Mix, Exclusion, Merge, and Split.

Image transformation and warping: new Unified Transform and Warp Transform tools
For manipulating images, the update introduces a new Unified Transform tool, which enables users to scale, rotate and skew images as a single operation, rather than having to use multiple tools in sequence.

GIMP’s answer to Photoshop’s Liquify filter has also been updated: the ageing – and, in practice, impossibly fiddly – iWarp filter has been ditched in favour of a new Warp Transform tool.

Like iWarp, it provides a brush-based workflow for image warping, but unlike iWarp, it works directly on the image, not in a tiny preview window, and has a proper undo system, including a selective Eraser mode.

Sadly, the N-Point Deformation tool – which looked promising in early tech previews – hasn’t made it past the experimental stage: you can enable it, but you run the risk of GIMP crashing.

Other new features: on-canvas gradient editing, better foreground selection
Other important new features include the new Gradient tool, which enables colour gradients to be designed – and, crucially, edited after creation – directly in the image canvas, not via the old Gradient Editor dialog.

The Foreground Select tool, used for isolating objects from their surroundings, has also been improved, with support for subpixel selections, and two new methods for masking out the background of an image.

According to the GIMP team’s blog post, this should finally make it possible to preserve individual strands of hair when isolating characters from backgrounds, in the same way as Photoshop’s Refine Edge option.

There are also a number of smaller changes, particularly updates to the brush tools and general usability improvements, which you can read about in the lengthy online changelog.

System requirements and availability
Installers for GIMP 2.10 are available for Windows and Linux. At the time of posting, there is no installer for Mac OS X, so Mac users will need to compile the software directly from the source code.

Read more about the new features in GIMP 2.10 in the online changelog

Download GIMP 2.10