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How to export images as PDFs in GIMP

When you need to send someone a PDF from an image file, there's an open-source tool that can not only help you create the image but also export it.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Kemal Yildirim/Getty Images

GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Project. You may have never heard of this piece of software with the odd name but it's been around for a very long time. What is GIMP? As the acronym suggests, it's an image editing tool…and a very good one. In fact, I often describe GIMP as the open-source alternative to Photoshop.

Yes, it's that powerful.

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Sure, there are some things that Photoshop does better, but Photoshop isn't free and GIMP is. Even better, GIMP is cross-platform, whereas Photoshop is not. If you're a Linux user, you know that the open-source community has been begging Adobe for decades to port the software. Yes, it is rumored that Photoshop Online can be used with Linux (I've never tried it) but there's an associated monthly cost for that software. If you're not able to pony up $22.99/month, then Photoshop isn't an option.

That's where GIMP comes in. GIMP is powerful, flexible, and does almost everything Photoshop does (albeit with a bit less automation).

I've used GIMP for just about every photo editing need you can imagine. In fact, I use it every day. I've created book covers, memes, screenshots, banners...you name it.

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Just the other day, I had to export a paperback book cover to PDF, because that's the format Amazon requires. The way I used to do this was to import the JPG version of the book cover into yet another open-source software solution, called Scribus (which is a desktop publishing tool), and then export it as a PDF. Recently, however, I changed that workflow and decided to drop Scribus in favor of directly exporting from GIMP.

Fewer steps equal a more efficient process.

As well, when you export to PDF with GIMP, you can enable/disable things like:

  • Layers as pages
  • Reverse page order
  • Apply layer masks before saving
  • Convert bitmaps to vector graphics where possible
  • Omit hidden layers and layers with zero opacity
  • Fill transparent layers with background color

I also find that exporting directly from GIMP doesn't lead to even the slightest degradation (as I've found when adding yet another piece of software into the mix).

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So, how do you do this? It's very easy.

How to export images as PDFs in GIMP

What you'll need: The only things you'll need for this are GIMP installed on your operating system of choice and an image to export. That's it. Let's export.

1. Open the image to be exported

Open GIMP on your desktop and then open the image you want to export. Make sure the image is exactly as you want it. 

2. Export the image

With the image open, click the File menu at the top of the window and then select Export As.

The GIMP File menu.

Exporting a book cover to PDF format for Amazon Digital Publishing.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Change the filename extension

In the resulting pop-up, change the extension on the file name from whatever it is (.jpg, .png, etc) to .pdf and either click Export or hit Enter on your keyboard. You can change the file name and the save destination in this window as well.

The GIMP Export pop-up.

Make sure to change the file extension to .pdf before you continue with the export.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

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4. Configure the export

In the next window, you can configure the export to meet your needs. I have yet to change any of the default options and have never had any problems with the PDF export, but your mileage may vary. Once you've configured the export, click Export and your PDF will be generated in the folder you chose at the beginning of the export.

The PDF export pop-up.

Try exporting with the defaults to see if the resulting file meets your needs.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

And that's all there is to export images to PDFs in GIMP. I use this feature frequently and it has yet to let me down. Give this a try and see if it doesn't help make your workflow a bit more efficient.

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