JPEG files are the most popular digital image format by a large margin. They’re small, high-quality, and compatible – the perfect choice for using and sharing online. But it might surprise you to learn that they’re not all created equal, even when you’re saving a GIMP file as a JPEG.
The biggest – ok, the only – trick to saving GIMP files as JPEG is that you need to use the Export command instead of any of the Save commands. The developers implemented this change as a part of GIMP’s 2.10 update, and it’s confused a lot of people since then.
The Quick Guide to Saving GIMP Files as JPEG
The process is actually quite easy, once you know that you should be using the Export As command instead of the Save command:
Step 1: If you don’t already have your image open, open your XCF file (XCF is GIMP’s native file format)
Step 2: Choose Export As from the File menu.
Step 3: Select JPEG as the file type and configure your compression settings.
You’re done! You’ve saved your GIMP file as a JPEG image.
Don’t feel bad if you’re surprised by how easy it is. I’m not sure why the developers designed things this way, but the Save and Save As commands now force you to use the XCF format. If you want to save as any other popular file type like JPG, PNG, or TIFF, you have to use the Export As command.
My guess is that they really want you to start using their (relatively) new XCF format instead of saving everything as PSD, which is Photoshop’s native format. While it’s nice to be able to use your competitor’s file formats, you don’t want them to totally dominate the market share, either.
If you want to learn more about JPEG compression and how you can get your images looking their very best at the smallest possible file size, I’ll break down the steps for you in a bit more detail – although there isn’t actually too much to discuss, aside from Step 3 in the quick guide above.
The Slightly In-Depth Guide to Saving GIMP Files As JPEG
If you want your JPEG images to look their very best, let’s power through the simple and easy steps and get right to the good stuff.
With your image open in GIMP, open the File menu and choose Export As.
Navigate to the save location you want to use, and name your file.
At the bottom of the Export Image window, click the + icon beside Select file type (By extension) and choose JPEG image. Click Export one last time to start the JPEG save process.
Now you’ve finally got a choice when it comes to the quality of your end result: the Quality slider. You wouldn’t think that saving an image efficiently could be considered an art form, but finding the right setting for your JPEG compression level comes close.
If you’re saving photographs, you probably care most about image quality regardless of file size, so you should just leave it up at 100 and call it a day.
If you’re saving images for the web or social media and you care about page load times (Google does, so you should too), then you’ll need to take some extra time to find the right balance between file size and image quality.
Check the box Show preview in image window to see the effects of the slider. The changes can be subtle, so move the slider slowly downwards and compare the effects. Sometimes it helps to unfocus your eyes just a tiny bit, so you can spot the compression patterns more easily as they spread across similar color areas.
As I said, there’s a bit of an art to it – but if you don’t want to take the time, just slide it down to 60 and call it a day. Unless your image has a very wide range of colors, it should strike a good balance. If you’re batch processing images with the GIMP plugin, it’s a good ‘all-purpose’ setting to use.
The Seriously Precise Guide to Saving GIMP Files as JPEGs
Only joking about this last guide 😉 The Advanced Options section of the JPEG dialog is so advanced that if you actually have a reason to use any of them, you’ll already know what the settings are for, and how best to use them.
The only exceptions are that you may need to disable the Optimize setting or the Progressive setting, but leaving them on by default shouldn’t affect your image negatively in any noticeable way, so it’s simpler to just ignore them.
Optimize applies an additional compression algorithm for bit-depth in the hope of reducing file size, and the Progressive setting only matters for online downloads. Progressive JPEGs can start displaying before the whole image is downloaded, but the technology is intended for outdated connection speeds.
That’s all there is to know about saving GIMP files as JPEGs! If you get really curious about the advanced options, I’d be willing to try learning about the math behind them and writing up a post – or at least telling the story of how it makes no sense to me.
Now get back to it and
save export something cool!