Many of my regular readers over at the Freebie Vault know that I use various programs while designing. I started using Adobe Photoshop Deluxe but I couldn't do png files or drop shadows, a must in the business. So I surfed for some free trial when I found both Jasc Animation Shop (the bestest blinkie maker ever) and Gimp.
I've been using Gimp since July 2006. I bought a small (too small) wacom tablet November 2007 and it came with Photoshop Elements 5. I eventually bought PSE 6 for $100 in March 2008. In May, I was given (sweet) a copy of Adobe CS3 Extended.
Wacom Tablet: for those that don't know, it's a pen mouse and a special tablet. I have the one called Bamboo Fun and it was around $100. Good price but I really should have held out for the larger tablet. I plan on getting one of those during tax return season. If you are on a budget, it's nice to have. It has software but I found that it's plug and play compatible. It comes with a USB plug, extra 'normal' cordless mouse and extra tips for the pen. Once you get really good with this tablet you can handwrite on your layouts (no more fonts for journaling) and you can create custom doodles.
Did you know that most Windows based computers now have a built in program that you can teach it to type as you speak? It's called Windows Speech Recongnition and its under Start>Programs>Accessories>Ease Of Access Tools. There's also a narrator which will read things for you - great for reading blogs while you dust! Yeah, I use it. And it's great for the little ones learning to read. You can download pdf children's books from the internet and have the computer read it. It's not the same as Mom, but if you simply don't have the time, its a fun alternative. I love it when the computer occasionally says something wrong (its rare on my version) and they correct it! I give them treats for finding those errors. Makes them pay attention.
Believe it or not, I'm having fits learning the CS3 program, which is something I absolutely want to learn because that's the program running the actions. I find myself running the actions, saving and opening the results up in Gimp or PSE for finishing touches. I use Gimp 90% of the time, PSE6 the bulk of the balance, with some of that being the occasional CS3, Ultimate Paint or another program.
For those that know Adobe products and are new to Gimp, Script Fu is just Gimp's version of actions. Actions are scripts that tell the program a series of steps to do to create something that has several steps. Many S'Fus have settings you can alter before it begins and most leave the project in layers so you can alter further. Even the drop shadows you can tweek in the end by using the move tool to move the layer or opacity to reset the darkness. Have you thought of using a different color for your shadow instead of black? Sometimes I use a really deep brown, it creates a warmer shadow.
Here's my preferences:
Grow Tool - Gimp (has a menu to change settings)
Cropping Tool - Gimp (Guillotine)
Drop Shadows - Gimp
Bevel - PSE
Styles - PSE (none in Gimp yet)
Creating Brushes - Gimp (I have brush batch script fu)
Text Tool - Gimp (regular)
Text on Path - PSE
Filter Work - PSE (because of Filter Gallery)
Saving - Gimp (because you can type in your extension, no PSD defaults and renaming to .png or copy.png in the title, I wish PSE had a way to check your file extension default in a check box during the save process so the next image will automatically choose that same type unless you use the menu to reselect a different one)
Open In Layers - Gimp (I still haven't found an easy way to open in layers in PSE, any tips for me?)
Extraction - PSE (magic eraser)
Scaling Brushes - PSE
Patterns - Gimp (love the dialog boxes)
Bump Map - Gimp (haven't found one in PSE, though I installed an 8bf file for it)
Start Up - PSE about 1 min 30 seconds (Gimp about 3-4 minutes)
Overall running - PSE (uses less ram, Gimp takes a lot of ram)
PSD - Gimp and PSE both open these files, no preference
Misc. PSE issues: I had to put styles in 2 locations to get styles to work and I can't delete one set. The problem is that I have several megs of styles that are taking up space not once but twice on my hard drive. Then most of these are loaded twice. If I delete a set, they all disappear. Anyone that has a solution, I'd love to know.
Misc. Gimp issues: The main reason why Gimp crashes on someone's computer is because of the ram it takes. It really taxes a machine. I combat that by not multitasking while I have Gimp going. I shut off unused programs that are running, like the Vista Sidebar (widgets). I dedicate the resources to just Gimp and ACDSee. Sometimes I can have PSE running at the same time without failure. I also work with an 'insurance plan', meaning saving often. I used the word Edit in the name of all my files that are not finished so I know simply by looking at the filename that it's not a finished product. And I save it in layers as an xcf file, Gimp's layered format. My version of Gimp (2.2) and higher you can save as psd and open in another program.
As a designer, I find myself favoring Gimp.
As a scrapper, I also favor Gimp.
I'll toss an image or layer back and forth between the programs to handle the tasks that are easily done on that program, but they all end up back at Gimp in the end. I can't see not having either one since each has it's role in everything I do digi.
If you have any questions, tips for me, comments to add, tuts to request - post a comment and I'll take care of it.