1. Activating pressure sensitivity in Gimp

At first, your system might recognize your tablet, but you would especially notice a total lack of pressure sensitivity while drawing. You might as well draw with the mouse pointer that Gimp won't tell the difference. You have to activate the properties of your device.

Go into "Input Devices" in the "Preferences" and click on the "Configure Extended Input Devices..." button. Remember to check the "Save input device settings on exit" if you don't want to repeat these steps each time you start Gimp.

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In the "Device" drop menu, select your device (e.g. Wacom BambooFun 2FG 6x8 Pen) and then set the "Mode" to Screen. Repeat this step for each Device that comes with you pen or tablet (e.g. Wacom BambooFun 2FG 6x8 Pen eraser set to Screen as well).

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2. Fine tuning of Gimp

You should now be able to draw efficiently with Gimp. But is it as simple as that? Well, yes, it might be, but when it comes to speeding up own's workflow, you would certainly like to dwell in the" Preferences" of the software are try to get the best of it with least effort.

2.1 Configuring the brush parameters

In the "Tool options" from the "Preferences", you will find the "Paint Options Shared Between Tools". Make sure the 3 following options are checked:

  • Brush
  • Pattern
  • Gradient

if you want that all tools share the same brushes, patterns or gradients, when you shift from one tool to another. In some workflows, you would like to totally deactivate that.

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2.2 Configuring the Toolbox

In the "Toolbox" from the "Preferences", in the "Appearance" area, check the 3 options:

  • Show foreground & background colour
  • Show active brush, pattern & gradient
  • Show active image

as this will especially enhance accessibility to some very common tools that may get lost in Gimp's floating panels.

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2.3 Configuring the Image Windows

In the "Image Windows" from the "Preferences", in the "Mouse Pointers" area, check the 2 options:

  • Show brush outline
  • Show pointer for brush tools

as they are very convenient for the artist who can instantly and visually check that the brush size and position match to the image and his own pen stroke properly. Some artists would rather not show the pointer for the brush, as it may occlude part of the image, but some other would appreciate to locate more easily the actual position of the brush as it may sometime be difficult to spot it.

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3. Customizing the Keyboard shortcuts

This customization has been gathered from my friend David Revoy as being part of his personal preferences. After trying it, it is quite time saving so it is now part of my own workflow. Obviously, these shortcuts may evolve according to personal feelings, software evolutions, and even simply mood.

Use the "Keyboard Shortcuts" in the "Edit" menu. This brings an expandable list of Actions, to which you can associate any shortcut. Default shortcuts are already assigned, but you can override them according to your own workflow.

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The following shortcuts are more especially interesting for digital artists, as they bring in accessibility to some very common function to use with brushes:

  • Opacity controls: in the "Context" action, in order to set how much transparent a brush stroke is:
    • I: 10% More Transparent
    • O: 10% More Opaque
    • Memory tip: O for Opaque
  • Value controls: also in the "Context" action, in order to control how much dark or light is the color applied to the painting:
    • K: Foreground Value Decrease 10%
    • L: Foreground Value Increase 10%)
    • Memory tip: K for darK and L for Light
  • Brush size controls: in the "Tools" action, in order to change very quickly the size of the brush:
    • ; for Decrease Brush Scale
    • : for Increase Brush Scale
    • Memory tip: none ; might change in order to fit a Qwerty layout for the keyboard.

The main advantage of this shortcut setup is that the 6 shortcuts are located in the very same area of the keyboard (Azerty layout), enabling the digital artist to work with a hand on the keyboard, and the other on the tablet. This actually speeds up the workflow a lot, and repeatitive movement across the GUI are less painful for him.