In this article I’ll be going over the best new feature in every GIMP 2.10 release version. You can see all the new features that were released in every GIMP stable release version, including the original GIMP 2.10 release, and subsequent stable release versions GIMP 2.10.2 through GIMP 2.10.24, in my What’s New in Every GIMP Release Version article, which contains every video I’ve put out discussing all the details of each new release.
Plus, I’ve recently updated each video to include time stamps so you can quickly jump to a new feature you want to learn about in that GIMP version (using the YouTube video timeline). But in this article I’ll be focusing on what I think is the single BEST feature to come out of each stable release.
Search Integration Feature (Search Actions)
GIMP 2.10 was the first new major GIMP release version in 8 years – it took GIMP to a whole new level by introducing tons of new features and performance improvements. There were many game-changing additions made to this version – from RAW image integration to the introduction of GEGL filters and the MyPaint Brush Tool, new Transform Tools to Layer Group Masks, and much more.
However, the feature that really stands out to me that was released in this version is the “Full Integration Search Feature,” also known as the Search Actions feature.
If you’ve watched my tutorials, you know I use this feature all the time, and honestly it’s hard to remember what GIMP was like before this feature got introduced.
With this feature, you hit the forward slash key ( “/” ) on your keyboard and type a word or phrase in the search bar. GIMP then quickly performs a search of all filters, tools, layers, compositions, and any other features in GIMP – showing the relevant results below the search bar. You can then double click on the search result to open up that feature and use it as you normally would. It saves a ton of time, especially when you can’t remember where a certain filter is located in GIMP’s extensive filters menu, or if you can’t remember where a certain layer or image is when you have multiple compositions with multiple layers open.
This feature makes GIMP far more user friendly, while also drastically shaving time off your workflow and providing you with access to all of GIMP’s awesome features in a single location.
Recursive Transform Filter
GIMP 2.10.2 rolled out less than a month after the GIMP 2.10 stable release version – just 23 days later, in fact – but despite the short turnaround time, it did come loaded with some impressive new features. There were improvements made to several GIMP features, like improved in-program screenshots, zoom tool functionality, and tool histograms, and the introduction of new filters like the Spherize filter.
The stand out new feature in this stable GIMP 2.10 release version, in my opinion, was the introduction of the new Recursive Transform filter.
This filter, which I’ve used in a few recent tutorials, allows you to perform multiple or repeat transformations to a layer using the unified transform tool handles. I cover this filter extensively in a dedicated tutorial (above), and also demonstrate an application of it in my “Create the Droste Effect in GIMP” tutorial.
But the gist of this filter is that you can create photo manipulations where the image or layer repeats infinitely in any direction, or simply repeats in a set number of transformations, with additional transformations applied during the repeating process like rotations or scaling.
The next stable release version of GIMP, GIMP 2.10.4, was one of the “lighter” stable release versions in terms of new features, though this program did upgrade the back-end of GIMP through various performance improvements.
One great feature that did come from this release is the “Straighten” feature, which is located inside the Measure tool. As the name suggests, this filter allows you to straighten your images by tracing a horizon line with the measure tool, and then clicking the “Straighten” button in the tool options. GIMP then rotates your image based on the number of degrees off your horizon line is from being totally straight. I show this feature in action in a dedicated tutorial (above).
The result is a much more accurate method for straightening out crooked images. This was a simple yet effective addition to the GIMP photo editor!
Long Shadow Filter
GIMP followed up the fairly quiet GIMP 2.10.4 with a release version that includes one of my favorite new filters of all time – the Long Shadow filter. This filter makes it super easy to not only create flat artwork like you’d see in icon design, but to also make your text appear 3D with just a few slider adjustments. The filter even works with shapes, making rectangles look like cubes or circles look like cylinders.
Plus, as you may expect, the Long Shadow filter allows you to add realistic shadows of any length and in any direction from text or objects. The main downside to this tool, in my opinion, is that you currently cannot add 3D shading to the sides of the shadow effect to make the 3D effect look more realistic.
You can see this filter in action in my Top 5 Text Effects in GIMP tutorial, shown above.
Hard Edge Gradients
GIMP 2.10.8 saw tons of useful performance improvements and bug fixes for various tools, but it’s most useful contribution to the GIMP legacy was the introduction of the Hard-Edge gradient.
Before this feature, gradients could only change colors gradually, creating a fuzzy edge at the point where one color transitioned to another.
However, with the “hard edge” gradient feature, GIMP can now abruptly change from one gradient color to the next. In other words, the point at which the colors change occurs abruptly with a hard edge.
This new feature has opened new possibilities for the gradient tool, creating unique effects especially when used for painting backgrounds or overlaying hard-edge gradients on top of images with layer modes. I demonstrate this feature in my 7 GIMP Selection Tricks Every Beginner Should Know tutorial (towards the end).
Sample Merged (Heal & Clone Tools)
There were many great features released in GIMP 2.10.10 – from the ingenious to the innovative. This release version introduced the long-awaited Smart Colorization tool, as well as a clever “Layer Selection” tool that makes it easy to find a single layer when working with tons of layers in a composition. But the most useful feature that came out of this version is the “Sample Merged” option for the Heal and Clone tools.
What makes this seemingly insignificant feature so useful is that it essentially makes these tools non-destructive. The reason being that the “sample merged” option allows you to select pixels across your entire composition – not just your active layer – and heal or clone those pixels on a totally separate layer. In other words, you no longer need to perform your healing directly on your image. You can now paint these pixels on a separate, blank layer, and can subsequently make edits or delete that layer at any time during your workflow.
You can also add layer modes, adjust the opacity, or add a layer mask to the layer to help your heal or clone effects blend better. I show this feature in action in my GIMP Heal Tool Tutorial (above).
The GIMP team released GIMP 2.10.12 in June of 2019 with improvements and updates made to legacy tools like the Free Select tool and Curves tool. It also introduced a really awesome new feature for easily creating seamless patterns – the Offset Filter.
This filter, which I’ve covered in my How to Create Seamless Patterns in GIMP tutorial (above), allows you to quickly offset pixels in a layer by going to Layers>Transform>Offset. Here, you can manually offset your layers by typing in pixel values for x and y, or use any of the buttons below to quickly offset by half the width, half the height, or both.
This tool makes it super easy to place your objects at the borders or corners of your composition, which then results in seamless repeating patterns when saved as a .PAT file and used with the bucket fill tool.
The next GIMP release version, GIMP 2.10.14, arrived 141 days after its predecessor, the third longest period between GIMP 2.10 releases for all versions, but it was well worth the wait as it came with several new filters, the new “show all” feature for drawing and displaying pixels outside the canvas boundary, and the ability for GIMP filters to automatically extend beyond a layer boundary to avoid effects being cut off (as was always the case in previous versions of GIMP – trust me, it was really annoying and antiquated).
The standout feature with this version, though, is still to this day one of my top 3 favorite and most widely used filters – the Newsprint Filter. This filter, which can be accessed by going to Filters>Distorts>Newsprint, creates the popular halftone effect seen in comic books, pop art, and newspapers. It essentially converts all colors to circles, diamonds, or lines, depending on the pattern type you select, and is a great tool for making dynamic backgrounds in black and white or full color.
I’ve used this filter in many tutorials – including my “Create a Halftone Comic Speech Bubble” tutorial, as well as my “How to Create a Halftone Effect in GIMP” tutorial (shown above).
3D Transform Tool
After 2.10.16 was scrapped due to a critical bug that was deemed too cumbersome to overcome, GIMP 2.10.18 was released with notable UI updates like grouped and reordered tools, a new icon theme, updates to the tool sliders, and highlighted docking areas for repositioning dockable dialogues. There were many other new features and performance improvements added to this version, but my favorite was the introduction of the 3D Transform Tool.
This tool, which I referred to as “possibly the greatest GIMP tool of all time” in the original What’s New in GIMP 2.10.18 tutorial, is certainly one of the more sophisticated tools to ever hit the GIMP program.
Though I no longer believe this is one of the greatest tools ever for GIMP due to its niche use cases, it is still a nice addition to GIMP’s arsenal of transform tools with its ability to rotate a layer on a 3D axis. The tool has three tabs that allow you to make adjustments to the camera, position, and rotation of your layer, with sliders on each tab for making minute adjustments to the vanishing point, offset, or angle of the active layer using X, Y, and Z coordinates on a 3D plane.
The result is a 2D layer that’s realistically and precisely transformed in 3D space.
GIMP 2.10.20 expanded GIMP’s filter library with the introduction of 3 new blur filters, plus an intriguing Bloom Filter for creating the popular soft-glow effect on images. Filter previews and filter rendering was also sped up, which helps make GIMP faster overall, and an extremely useful drop shadow update added the ability to efficiently stroke text with this filter and produce a high-quality result (meaning the stroke doesn’t look pixelated or uneven).
But the marquee new feature rolled out with this version, in my opinion, was the introduction of the non-destructive cropping feature. This upgrade to the legacy crop tool adds a new checkbox to its tool options labeled “Delete cropped pixels.” When unchecked, the crop tool will still crop out all the pixels outside the crop area and shrink the composition size down to the new crop area, but it won’t totally delete those cropped pixels. As I covered in more detail in my “GIMP’s New Non-Destructive Crop Tool” tutorial (above), the original pixels in your composition can be restored by going to Image>Fit Canvas to Layers.
Before this tool was introduced, cropping your image meant all the pixels outside the crop area were permanently deleted. So, if you cropped your image, performed a few tasks, then decided you wanted to undo the crop, you’d have to undo all the other actions you performed AFTER the crop until the crop was undone.
With this new non-destructive cropping feature, you can undo the crop without having to undo all the other actions you performed on your composition.
Improved HEIF Support
GIMP 2.10.22 is known as the “File Formats” release because it saw a ton of new updates to existing file formats, as well as the introduction of support for new file formats. As a result, this new release version was certainly far less “flashy” than previous GIMP release versions. That being said, there were some very crucial file format updates made in this version that help pave the way for non-destructive and advanced editing features expected in GIMP 3.0.
The most important file format update in this version is the improved HEIF support. HEIF, which stands for High Efficiency Image Format, is a next-gen file format that combines the best properties of JPEGs and GIFs while also having the ability to store what’s called “image derivations.”
Image derivations appear to potentially be the main foundation for or first step towards non-destructive editing as this feature allows image files to store editing instructions within the file itself without significantly increasing the size of the image file. So, although making minor tweaks to HEIF files may seem obscure, such an update could be groundbreaking for GIMP and a major leap towards popularly requested features like adjustment layers.
Snapping to Guides and Paths Outside Canvas
The latest version of GIMP at the time of this article was release after a 175 day hiatus since the previous version – which currently stands as the longest drought between GIMP 2.10 stable release versions on record. The wait for this version was frustratingly long, and numerous GIMP users began speculating the reason for such a long gap between releases.
Perhaps this would be a mega-release – with tons of new features that just took a really long time to develop? Perhaps this wasn’t going to be a GIMP 2.10 stable release at all – maybe GIMP 3.0 was about to come out and so developers were working to get it ready? Or, more believably, perhaps GIMP was short on developers because of the pandemic and so they just weren’t getting that much work done?
The latter essentially proved to be true – with commits down 30% (according to Synopsys) and a very feature-light GIMP 2.10.24 finally released. A majority of the features that came from this release were minor bug-fixes and some tweaks to existing file formats and filters.
As a result, the most exciting, or at least practical, new feature from this version was the introduction of snapping your mouse to guides and paths outside the main canvas boundary. The prior behavior for this feature is that your mouse would not snap to a guide or path when the location of the snapping was outside the canvas boundary. This made it hard to draw straight lines that went outside the boundary, thus producing inaccurate lines.
If we are being totally honest, this type of feature should be a footnote in a major software release, but due to the circumstances (being shorthanded on developers while also putting more time/effort into working on GIMP 3.0), this ended up being the best feature to come out of GIMP 2.10.24.
Though this list of the best features to come out of every GIMP 2.10 stable release version ended on a sort of flat note, the good news is that GIMP has already previewed some of its incredible upcoming features for GIMP 3.0.
Some of the most notable features include the new Paint Select Tool, which might end up being like the Foreground Select Tool on steroids, multi-layer selection, placing guides outside the canvas area, the GIMP Plug-in Extensions Manager, an improved GIMP API for better plug-in integration (i.e. more plug-ins with better features will be more accessible in GIMP 3.0), directly integrated templates (i.e. choosing a template when resizing an image), and much more.
In other words, GIMP’s development is not screeching to a halt – it’s just more focused on GIMP 3.0’s development than anything else. I think this tells us that the GIMP developers see the huge implications of getting GIMP 3.0 out there to the world, and thus are focused on making this happen sooner rather than later.