GIMP is such a great image editor that you’ve probably wondered just how many different projects you can use it for. You might have even wondered if you can use GIMP to design logos, but before we go any further it’s time for a bit of unconventional – though honest – advice.
My name is Thomas Boldt, and in addition to projects like TGT (The GIMP Tutorials), I work as a graphic designer. I graduated with honors from the York University/Sheridan College design program in 2008 and I’ve been working in the field ever since, so this guide is backed by professional experience.
The Quick Guide to Making a Logo in GIMP
Step 1: Don’t.
Step 2: Close GIMP and use a different program from the list below.
Step 3: If you are absolutely keen to make a logo in GIMP, check out the 4 tips below.
That might seem a bit harsh, but GIMP really, really, should not be used for this type of design work. GIMP is a raster graphics editor, which means it edits pixel images, and some of the key steps of logo design will drive you nuts if you try to do them in pixels – but there is another option.
Professional layout design workflows use vector graphics instead of raster graphics. Vector graphics are actually mathematical expressions that describe the shape and color of an image, which means you can easily swap, scale, tweak and iterate lots of different logo options quickly.
Another major benefit to using vector graphics for logos is they can be scaled to any size without losing quality. If you create your logo in GIMP using pixels and then try to scale it up to a larger size, it will get pixelated, distorted, and just downright unprofessional, as you can see above.
Vector graphics can scale infinitely because they’re just mathematical descriptions. You have to save them to a pixel format like JPEG to use them in other programs, but you can save that image at any size you need in perfectly crisp resolution.
Also, don’t worry – you don’t actually have to understand the math behind vector graphics to use them. Just know that the program understands it all for you 😉
Logo Design Programs
GIMP isn’t the right program for logo design, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to leave you without a better solution. There are several other graphics programs that are intended for logo and vector graphics designs, and I have listed four below.
If GIMP is the free software world’s answer to Adobe Photoshop, then Inkscape is their answer to Adobe Illustrator. It’s a free vector graphics program that can handle everything from page layout to logo design to vector illustration, and it’s an infinitely better choice for making your logo.
Inkscape was stuck at version 0.92 for years, and only managed to reach version 1.0 after nearly 17 years of development – I clearly need to update my copy! – but it’s finally out of beta. Don’t let that put you off, though, as it’s an impressive piece of free software.
Available free (as in speech and beer) on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
2. Adobe Illustrator
If you’re going to be doing a lot of logo design, you may as well go with the industry-standard vector graphics program. I know, it’s from Adobe and it’s not free, but it IS the best option available in terms of capabilities and support.
Available for PC and macOS, $19.99 monthly subscription.
3. Affinity Designer
If you’re not interested in the Adobe ecosystem but you don’t mind paying for a high-quality vector graphics program, Affinity Designer might be more your speed. The Affinity series offers professional-level competitors to Adobe programs at a much more affordable price.
Available for PC and macOS, $49.99 one-time purchase fee.
4. Gravit Designer
If you’re not interested in Inkscape but you still want a free option, Gravit Designer offers both a free and paid plan for its vector graphics software. The most appealing part of it – aside from its high-quality layout tools and low price – is that it works entirely within your web browser.
Compatible with all major browsers. Free plan available, or Pro plan for $50 annually.
Tips for Logo Design in GIMP
If you’re absolutely dead-set on making a logo in GIMP, then I’ve put together a few logo design tips that you should keep in mind while designing to make sure you get the most out of your project.
But really, you’re better off with Inkscape or one of the other programs listed above. They’ll save you the hassle of worrying about these first two points, so you can stay focused on your creative vision and not on the technical details.
1. Start Big
Since you’re going to be stuck with a pixel-format version of your logo, making the image very large from the start will give you the most flexibility later on. Print resolution is over three times higher than screen resolution – 300 PPI (pixels per inch) for print, compared to 72 PPI for most screens.
So if you make your new logo canvas 500 x 500, it will fill half of a 1080p screen – but it will only print as a 1.75-inch square. If you’ve ever seen a great picture online, tried to print it out, and then wondered why it looks like blurry junk on the printed page, you’ve already run into this problem.
You don’t have to worry about this as much if you only want to use your logo once for a single quick on-screen appearance. But if you’re serious about making a logo in GIMP, this is the most important thing to remember at the beginning. It’s all pixels, so you won’t be able to adjust later!
2. Use Layers and Layer Groups
One of the most tedious parts of logo design is the refinement stage. Once you’ve got a general idea of the design you like, you’ll probably wind up spending a long time on different adjustments and options. This is where vector graphics programs shine, but we can fake it in GIMP. Sort of.
If you’re ready to start tweaking but only using a single layer for all your logo components, you’ll be stuck. It’s better to separate each image element of your logo onto a different layer, and you’ll be able to adjust their positioning any time you want without having to re-draw them.
To create a new layer, open the Layer menu and choose New Layer, or click the New Layer button in the Layers palette. Do this for each component of your logo, and make sure that you name each new layer as you create it. It may not seem important now but after 20 more layers…
You can also use groups to help organize your layers, which may become necessary if you really take this advice to heart (as you should). Select the layers you want to group, and click the small folder icon at the bottom of the Layers palette to create a new group.
3. Choose Fonts Carefully
This is good advice for any design project but it’s doubly true for logos, where so much focus is placed on the individual letters that make up your company name or brand. Take the time to choose a good font that’s clear and easy to read, while still capturing the feel of your brand.
If you don’t like any of the fonts that come with GIMP, I’ve written up a quick guide on how you can add new fonts to GIMP, and where to find them online.
But when you’re working in a vector graphics program, you get a lot more flexibility working with letters. Since each letter you type on screen is just a vector shape, vector programs let you actually edit each letterform to create unique fonts and styles that just aren’t possible in GIMP.
4. Keep It Simple
Think about the most popular logos in the world: the Nike ‘swoosh’, the Apple ‘apple’, the Tesla ‘T’. They’re all very simple, which is why they’re so memorable and iconic. Compare that to the local plumbing company logo with a full cartoon and too much text to read, and you get the idea.
Keep your imagery simple, and it will stay more memorable. Keep your text usage to a minimum, and make sure that you don’t choose 600 different fonts and colors. More than two or three and you’re starting to get out of logo territory, so be cautious, and when in doubt:
A Final Word About Logos
I hope I have convinced you that GIMP isn’t the best choice for designing logos and that you’ll choose to use one of the other great programs that I recommended earlier. But even if you still went ahead and made a logo in GIMP, I hope my tips made the process a bit smoother and more successful than it would have been otherwise.About Thomas Boldt