All the advice posted so far in response to your post is good.  And, if you
browse this forum, you will see a post from me similar to yours in just the
last week (or two).

Someone mentioned Rolf Steinort's podcast series "Meet The Gimp".  I would
recommend you download episode #15.  The first half (roughly) doesn't deal
with layers, but the balance of that episode offers a good example of layer
use where he uses the RAW version of a photo to spice up just one small area
in the identical jpeg version (his camera can shoot and save RAW files and
jpegs simultaneously - mine does too, but I rarely shoot in anything but

His task in this episode is not dissimilar to what you are attempting to
accomplish, and the episode will, I believe, give you an excellent grounding
in the practical use of layers.  Peck's book is excellent as an introduction
to GIMP (I've been through it cover to cover several times), but she doesn't
go into as much detail on layers as what I needed in order to get the hang of
it.  BTW, if you do decide to switch to PS, expect a similar challenge in
learning to use layers.  The principles are quite similar.  The theory of
layers wasn't hard for me to grasp, but I had difficulty with the mechanics
(in Gimp and in PS).  The simple stuff is, indeed, simple.  You can easily
drop some text on a layer and see easily enough how it behaves as a separate
layer - not unlike the sort of things I do in Adobe InDesign (I'm still
getting my feet wet with Scribus - not difficult, but definitely a little
different than InDesign).  But, when you start working with a couple of
photos, it's easy to allow yourself to get confused mechanically.  I'd copy a
layer, then wonder why my attempts to work with it wouldn't work.  Rolf
Stenort's series, especially #15 really opened my eyes.

Example:  I had two (actually a whole series of) photos that I wanted to
layout for printing at 5 x 7 using 8 1/2 x 11 inch glossy stock.  In InDesign,
I would import (Place as Adobe calls it) the two photos on a page (background
layer), use guides lines to size them to 5 x 7, align them, and send them to
the printer.

In Gimp, it's so similar, but, IMO, even easier.  You open both images, open
a third blank image to use as the background layer.  I used Edit copy to send
each image (one at a time) to the clipboard, then I touch the blank image with
my mouse pointer to make it the active document, edit, paste as new layer, and
the image in the clipboard is pasted into the blank document.  My pasted image
was huge compared to the blank document, so I used the zoom tool (magnifying
glass) to zoom out really far so that I could see tiny representations of the
background (blank) image and the pasted image.  Select the move tool (blue
cross with arrowheads), click to switch to 'move active layer', drag the
imported image to the blank image, right click on that image, select Layers
from the drop down menu, click scale image, switch the units to Inches, type 7
x 5 or 5 x 7 in the boxes, hit the scale button, and that image is finished. 
Follow the above procedure to bring the second image onto the blank document,
and you are ready to print.

The result of all the above would give you three layers in the image that you
will print, the blank background, the 5 x 7 of photo image #1, and a 5 x 7 of
photo image #2.

You could merge or flatten that image if you want, or you can just print it,
and Gimp will complain that it doesn't want to export these layers (or
something to that effect) and offer to export for you.  Hit that export button
and (I'm guessing) Gimp sends a flattened version of the file to the printer.

Either way, (with or without flattening) it works just fine, and you have
just worked with three layers.

Using layer masks or using multiple layers to control such variables as
contrast, exposure, selective dodging or burning, etc. are not that much more
involved.  Work through that tutorial #15 a couple of times, and I guarantee
you'll start to get the hang of it.

I regret that you let your frustration get to you as you posted this
question.  I'm certain you didn't mean to resort to knocking the GIMP - but
doing so tends to blunt the enthusiasm of those who might offer helpful
responses - and, what's more significant (to me, at least) is that you will
meet an almost identical learning curve with respect to layers no matter what
image editor you use (if you use one that includes the layers feature).

I assure you that I'm nearly as novice at all this as you - I might have a
week's jump start on you, that's all.

Hang in there.  Once you start to get it, the layer thing is very satisfying,
and you will feel a thrill (well, I do) whenever you complete a task using
Gimp that you thought previously could only be completed using those expensive
proprietary programs (PS, InDesign, Pagemaker (ok, I'm dating myself), etc.

Good luck.  Post back and let us know how it works out for you.  We'll all be
rooting (well, I'll be rooting, and I bet many others will, too).


>I've read the documentation several times and every tutorial I could get my
>hands on, but I still can't make any sense out of how to properly use
>For example, I want to merge two pictures, by taking some regions from one
>picture and some from another. I though I could do this by making unwanted
>regions transparent - this seems obvious. I also tried some other
>basd on a few tutorials, but none seemed to work well.
>But I simply don't get results that make any sense. The vagueness of the
>docuemntation and being unable to find any other guide is not helping.
>Is this a case where GIMP simply makes it so difficult compared to
>that I'd be better off buying a Windows machine and using Photoshop?
>I wanted to use GIMP for my photo manipulation. I had assumed after all
>years that it was usable. I hope I'm not forced to go to Photoshop over
>something simple like this.
>If there's no chance that GIMP can be used as efficiently as photoshop,
>perhaps it would be sensible to give up sooner rather than later. But this
>a big expense for me, at the least I'll need to buy a second machine, or
>up on Linux on the desktop altogether.
>It's so tragic that after all these years, GIMP's user interface has seen
>improvement. I had hoped that at least the documentation would be useful.

Carusoswi (via
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