Are your GIMP tool options not working? Or do you simply not know how to get them to show up in GIMP? In this GIMP Help Article, I’ll show you how to open up your GIMP tool options so you can access all of the amazing features that come with GIMP’s built-in tools.
The Tool Options Dialogue is Called a Dockable Dialogue
Dockable dialogues are basically featured-packed containers or sections in GIMP that can be moved around, closed, and re-opened inside of the GIMP window. These dockable dialogues allow you to organize your workspace to your preference. For example, the GIMP layout by default SHOULD come with 5 main areas (pictured above). On the left side should be your Toolbox, which contains all of your tools (outlined in red above). Below that should be your Tool Options, which will appear when you click on a tool and will vary based on the tool you have selected (we will get into what to do if your Tool Options doesn’t show up when you click on a tool in a second – it’s outlined in green in the photo above). In the center of the GIMP window you have the Image Window, which is where your composition will be located (i.e. the photo you are editing or the design you are creating). To the right side, you typically have the 4th and 5th main areas. The 4th being the Layers, Channels, Paths, Undo dialogues (outlined in blue), and the 5th being the Brushes, Gradients, and Patterns (outlined in yellow).
Each of these areas can be hidden or closed. For example, if I hit the “tab” key on my keyboard, it will hide all of the main areas besides the image window (pictured above). If I hit the tab key again, all of the main areas will reappear as they were in the first photo in this article (so long as I am clicked on the GIMP image window).
GIMP 2.10 or newer also comes in Single Window mode by default – meaning that all 5 main areas are attached to one another. This is as opposed to GIMP being in Multi-window mode, which you can view by going to Windows>Single Window Mode (essentially un-checking the Single Window Mode option – you can see the option is unchecked in the image above, denoted by the red arrow).
When in multi-window mode, you can close ANY of the 5 main areas in GIMP by clicking the red “X” in the corner (much like you would close a browser window). If you close them all, GIMP will simply be completely closed down and you’ll have to reopen it. So, for example, I can close down my Toolbox when in multi-window mode (the “X” to close it down is denoted by the red arrow in the photo above), which will also close down my Tool Options dockable dialogue as well.
Now there are only 3 main areas open in GIMP (as you can see in the photo above). The Toolbox and Tool Options are missing.
If I put GIMP back in Single Window Mode after closing down the Toolbox and Tool Options dialogues, you will see a message on the left side stating “You can drop dockable dialogue here” (circled in red in the photo above). That whole left side is still blank with both the Toolbox and Tool Options missing.
How to Open the Tool Options Dialogue
There is one key distinction between bringing back the GIMP Toolbox and bringing back the Tool Options. For the Toolbox, you go to Windows>New Toolbox (assuming you don’t have the Tool Options attached to the Toolbox by default). This will open your Toolbox back up – but only your Toolbox.
If you did have the Tool Options attached when you closed out the Toolbox, you would go to Windows>Recently Closed Docs>Toolbox – Tool Options. This will bring back both the Toolbox and the Tool Options.
To bring up just the Tool Options, on the other hand, you would go to Windows>Dockable Dialogues>Tool Options.
This will usually open your Tool Options as a new tab in the Layers, Channels, Paths, Undo History section (the 4th main area described earlier – pointed out with the red arrow in the image above). Or, it may open the Tool Options dialogue box in another random location.
Since it is a “dockable” dialogue, that means we can move it to any new location by simply clicking on the tab of the dialogue box with our mouse and dragging it to the new location where we want it placed (I recommend dragging it to its original position just under the Toolbox – though you can place it wherever you like it best. The blue arrows in the photo above show me dragging the Tool Options tab to this area). Release your mouse to drop the Tool Options in the highlighted area.
Make Sure the Tool Options Dialogue Never Disappears Again
If you want to ensure you don’t accidentally move or delete the tool options box in the future, you can click on the little arrow located at the top right of the Tool Options dialogue box (red arrow).
This will bring up a menu with several options (one of which is Close Tab, which will exit out of the Tool Options box and bring you back to where you started. I don’t recommend clicking this unless you want to start over). To lock the dialogue box in place and make sure you don’t accidentally move it, click on the “Lock Tab to Dock” option (red arrow – you can see this option is checked here). Now, if you try to click and drag the Tool Options somewhere else, nothing will happen. It will remain under the Toolbox.
Once your Tool Options box is open and in the location you want, you’ll have to open a new composition in GIMP or import a photo in order to use any of the tools. You can do this by going to File>New for a blank document/image, or you can go to File>Open to open an image or existing composition.
That’s it for this tutorial! If you liked it, feel free to check out my other GIMP How-to Articles, or check out any of my GIMP Video Tutorials. You can also enroll in any of my premium GIMP classes and courses.