Essential GIMP for Web Professionals: A Book Review

by Clifford Anderson

The GIMP has evolved along with the needs
of its users. One ever-evolving need has been graphics for web
documents. The web-specific features of The GIMP, and the resulting
need to have someone unpack them for us to use more effectively, is
the reason for Michael J. Hammel's work, Essential GIMP
for Web Professionals
.Although the book promotes The GIMP for web designers, all
can glean something from its contents for the author covers many
aspects of The GIMP that satisfy both the web designer and the
digital media artist.Seven chapters are devoted exclusively to the Web, whereas
the remaining chapters are geared to those features that are useful
for graphic designers of all media types. This is appreciated
because there is not a wonderful array of GIMP-related books
available to us. Therefore, if a user were to see this book on a
shelf and be glad to find a book on The GIMP, then the title
pointing to web design needn't cause dismay. The non-web
professional likewise can acquire a good deal of knowledge from
this book. For example, in the chapter regarding color adjustment
(Chapter 6, "Color Management"), Hammel introduces the topic from
the perspective of designing for the Web, but the content and
exercises easily fit the needs of home/office printing as
well.The book itself plays well into the layout of the "Web
Professional" series of web design books in that it breaks down
both the program and topic categorically. Raster imaging features
as well as web-imaging-specific features are charted separately but
brought together nicely with discussions and exercises geared to
promote growth in using the program. The end of each chapter is
especially helpful for promoting such growth. After a brief recap,
Hammel gives the user an exercise (or a short series of exercises)
designed to capture the content of the entire chapter but written
to get the user to fly solo. He gives a sufficient amount of detail
to get users up and running but relies on them to make it work.
This is a very useful instructional feature because it gives users
the opportunity to explore options that are not covered
specifically in the book but are suggested from going through the
content; and, because the chapters are not overly long, users
easily can revisit key areas of the chapter to fulfill the
exercises themselves.For example, in Chapter 5 ("Site Design I: Logos"), Hammel
does a good job of laying down the goals, as well as the
limitations of the chapter content. In other words, the chapter is
devoted to some quick and dirty exercises for creating logos in The
GIMP, rather than making users aficionados in logo design.
Methodically, he gets the reader up and running with a couple of
script-generated designs and provides examples on modifying the
existing content. What can be appreciated most about Hammel's style
is that he not only details what will or should happen, but also
what might be the case if something doesn't happen. He writes as an
experienced user of The GIMP. He anticipates the potential movement
of the user and seeks to narrate it accordingly. What is more, his
style gives users freedom while going through the exercises in
that, while explaining what to do, he also gives other options that
free users from having only one way of doing a project.If considering purchasing this book, be aware of one thing:
there is more discussion than exercises. If the user is slightly
overwhelmed by the features of The GIMP and would like to hear from
a design professional how certain features operate and can be
implemented, the book is good. If the user wants to streamline his
or her workflow from imaging to HTML/scripting, it is also good.
If, on the other hand, the user wants a guide on how to use The
GIMP, with complete tutorials to promote methods for creating
images, this may not be it. The same can be said for learning web
design. Learning the characteristics of a web professional are not
what the book is designed for.The book is designed for web design professionals who need an
intelligent resource for using The GIMP as an image editing
software program. Herein lies the rub: web professionals know that
web design is more than graphics. Hammel likewise knows this. But,
although he gives adequate examples of page design and
Perl-scripting, they have little do with The GIMP, and therefore,
need not be a part of this book. It's not as though these topics
take up a dominant amount of space in the work. Rather, only small
chapters are devoted to the topic of HTML-specific issues (most of
Chapter 13) and Perl scripting (Chapter 17). It is not a question
of their being useful. They are. The issue is, are they necessary
for understanding The GIMP? In a word, no. The book makes certain
assumptions about its audience--that it already knows web design
and needs a steady, web-centered knowledge of The GIMP, and the
book is here to fill that need. Issues of designing with HTML,
DHTML and/or Perl are superfluous to a book like this. Again, this
shouldn't deter the anyone from investing in this book, but it is
somewhat extraneous.Users of The GIMP will glean much from Essential
GIMP for Web Professionals
by Michael J. Hammel. Keep in
mind that it is a work that will require users to bring their own
knowledge of The GIMP and web design to the table. But, the result
will be the multiplying of their repository of design
skills--nothing wrong with that, to be sure.Product
Information
Clifford Anderson is a
freelance graphic and web designer, as well as an instructor in
imaging software. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

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