High-end graphics editing in the commercial world has been defined by Adobe's Photoshop. It is so dominant and so prevalent that the name is frequently used as a verb, as in the line from the movie Cheaper by the Dozen "We'll photoshop her in later." In the free and open source world the standard of comparison is GIMP. GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and was first released in January of 1996. The latest stable release is version 2.6. Many people add "The" in front of GIMP when referring to the program since they think it reads better, but officially it is just GIMP. (You don't say "The Photoshop", do you?)
Both Photoshop and GIMP are categorized as raster graphics editors. A raster graphics image is essentially an n by m array of pixels where n and m are the dimensions of the image. Each pixel represents a color and typically consists of three or four components. Traditional display systems use the three base colors of red, green and blue (RGB) to create a specific color. The print industry has traditionally used the four colors cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) for their purposes.
Understanding the image and color basics and the end product helps when evaluating software. GIMP really shines when it comes to enhancing or retouching digital photos. While it can be used for other tasks, it has come to be the open source tool of choice for professional photography enhancement. Vector graphics are a whole different story. Images based on vector graphics use geometric primitives such as curves, lines, points and polygons as the basic building blocks. In the rest of this article we'll look at the state of GIMP along with other tools for working with vector graphics-based images.
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