10 Essential GIMP Plugins and Scripts

ducks and lake

The GIMP is a powerful open source (free) graphics editing software program. I use it frequently, since I can’t afford Photoshop and like the idea of open-source software. I have collected quite a few plugins and scripts over the years which make GIMP even more powerful. While the GIMP is not quite as powerful as Photoshop, plugins and scripts help take the GIMP closer to the professional level of Photoshop. Below I have listed 10 plug-ins and scripts, and collections of plugins and scripts, that make GIMP very powerful. These are the ones I use a lot and hope you enjoy. Obviously I have left out some, and may post on these later. I have linked to Windows versions if separate Windows versions exist, because I figure Linux users already know how to get the scripts and don’t need their hands held.

To install plugins on Windows, simply place the file or files (usually .exe) into the following folder:

c:Program FilesGimp-2.0libgimp2.0plug-ins

To install scripts on Windows, place the file or files (.scm) into the following folder:

c:Program FilesGimp-2.0sharegimp2.0scripts

Below are my favorites in no particular order:

1. Darla Purple Fringe – This script fixes purple fringing, an aberration in which some parts of  images have a purple outline. This is common on images shot on many digital cameras. This script helps fix the problem. I usually have to de-saturate blue to -80 to get the best result. Play around with the settings until you find what works.

2. GMIC for Gimp (Windows) – This plugin is a powerful collection of artistic, color, and other tools, which supercharges GIMP. Tools include soft focus, old photo, CMYK color mixer, fish-eye lens, additive noise, and many more!

3. Shadows and Highlights – This is a helpful script that allows you to lighten the areas that are too dark, and darken the areas that are too light. This is very useful in bringing out the details in regions of images that are too dark. However, it won’t “find” details that weren’t there to begin with; make sure you are taking photos that are properly exposed. The image above was enhanced using this script. The stumps on the far left of the image were practically black before I used the script.

4. Re-Focus – This is a nice plugin that sharpens an image in a smart way. I find that sometimes “Unsharp mask” (which comes with GIMP) gives good results, and other times, re-focus does a better job. Both, when used properly, sharpen an image without giving that over-sharpened look.

5. UFRaw – This is a program that runs separately from GIMP, but that is also integrated into GIMP. It allows processing of RAW files, before they are sent to the 8-bit GIMP editing environment. It is a nice program that allows for white balance correction, noise reduction, editing with curves, among other things. I wish it had a sharpening feature, but otherwise, I really like it.

6. FX-Foundry – This is a nice collection of scripts, which includes a lot of helpful tools. There are over 15 color tools alone, and many more in other categories. The one I use the most is “Contrast Overlay” which adjusts the contrast so that dark areas are brightened, and very bright areas are normalized. It also allows for the blurring of a layer, creating a nice “glow” to the image.

7. Technicolor 2 – I like the way this script turns a normal image into a more exciting one.  It makes an image look older and mysterious.

8. Eg Black and White – This script allows you to turn an image into black and white, and filter this based on color. UF Raw and GMIC also have tools for this, but this is a nice, easy-to-use, tool to do the job.

9. EXIF Viewer (Windows) – EXIF data is that information from the camera that tells you shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and a bunch of other information. GIMP doesn’t allow you to view this information without this plug-in.

10. Darla Blue-Sky Gradient – Sometimes the sky in a scenic image can be overexposed (losing detail because the area is too bright), which ruins an otherwise nice image. This script does a good job of fixing that, and making the sky blue (or whatever color you like) again. It does a nice job of knowing where the sky stops and the scenery begins.

Open Source Alternative to Photomatix: QTPFSGUI

Below I provide examples of photos processed using the program QTPFSGUI.

I am always looking for open-source alternatives to high-priced proprietary software. People who know me understand that I am not opposed to closed-source software like Windows, but that I prefer open-source software because of the quality and price.  I have posted about saving money using open source software, and saving more money using open source software.

I have been interesting in creating HDR (High-Dynamic Range) photos for some time, but wasn’t aware of how to create them. I figured that my camera wasn’t capable. An HDR image is one in which the contrast is closer to reality than is possible with a Low-Dynamic Range image. Although it is preferable to use a camera that is capable of saving in a 16-bit RAW format (or TIFF), it is possible to create HDR photos using a jpg. At any rate, this brings me to the product qtpfsgui, which is an open-source way to create HDR images. And, yes, the name is confusing, but there is a reason for it.

Basically, the way qtpfsgui works is like this. First, you create a new HDR image. This can be done either with one image, or preferably, with a series of bracketed images. After you do this, qtpfsgui will walk you through the steps for creating an HDR image. The default settings tend to work well, but if you want more control, the program offers this. Then, after you have your image, you can adjust the gamma to lighten it or darken it.  Finally, you tone-map the image. This can be done using a variety of methods, based on academic papers relating to creating high-contrast images. The results (and type of image) vary depending on the method used. I find that for more realistic photos Reinhard ’02 and Reinhard ’05 produce the best results, while Mantiuk and Fattal produce rather fascinating images (but they look unrealistic, if default settings are used). Below are some photos I have taken that were processed through qtpfsgui. Often, after processing with qtpfsgui, I also do some work on them in GIMP, but here I just kept the images directly from qtpfsgui. However, the first image is the original brightest photo I took, which was not processed (note that because I bracketed the photos, there were two other darker photos).  The processed photos are far closer to what I actually saw that evening. Click on the photo for larger detail.

original scene

Below is the Reinhard ’02 Processing:

reinhard 02

Below is the Reinhard ’05 processing

reinhard 05

Below is the Mantiuk processing

mantiuk

Below is Fattal (Current)

fatta lnew

Fattal (Old…still available in current release)

fattal old

Note that within each type of processing, there are many ways to manipulate the photos. For example, in the Fattal setting, you can control alpha, beta, color saturation, and noise, and you can control the gamma as well. This means that you can do a whole lot within each processing method. Unfortunately, my camera only exports to jpegs (8-bit, processed, images). If it could export RAW, 16-bit images, I would be happier, but you can still see the impact qtpfsgui has.

Spring Break: The Good, The Bad, and the Pretty

spring night

Yesterday, Jonathan posted on how his Easter went, so I thought I would tell you how my spring break is going. I have a longer break than Jonathan, so I am visiting my parents a little longer, and getting a few more days of needed R and R.

The Good:

I just got back from a trip to New York City, which was really enjoyable.  I had a great time, and walked about 10 miles a day, which was some nice exercise. I got a chance to see my cousin who lives there, and I visited some really cool sites. I went to the Y on Saturday morning after I got back from NY, but I haven’t been since. I had hoped for some nice weather, but so far it has been pretty cold. Thursday and Friday look VERY nice, and I plan on running outside both of those days. Thursday is April 16th, which means that I should be able to make some Vitamin D! And, I have to say that I am glad it is Easter, which is the high point of the Christian Church Year, so I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter season (Easter is a 50 day season that starts on Easter day). It is nice to see family too.

The Bad:

I ate pretty poorly in NYC (it seems as if all of our meals set up by the touring company involved a hamburger), so my calories were pretty high. I also didn’t get as much sleep as I normally do, so I am sure my metabolism is a little off right now. My fiber was pitiful. As for right now, there is way too much candy around here, and because the weather is rainy and fairly cold, I don’t feel like leaving (I will probably get my butt to the YMCA a little later). While it is nice to sleep in and relax, I feel like I lose a lot of my day when I am on break. I feel lazy and bloated.

The Pretty:

The weather may be a little dreary, but spring has broken out here (see the photo above). The winter went pretty quickly, but it seems as if the coldness will never end! We had a break in the rain and had a nice walk last night (see photo below). I have also discovered some cool GIMP techniques that help me enhance photos the way I have wanted to enhance them for months.

walking in alley