I don't remember when i turned to Linux Ubuntu, but i remember the panic when i discovered the graphic program installed: Gimp. What are those damn levels? Why the selection just doesn't anchor on this damn image? And why the rubber makes all these terrible gray squares???
These were only some questions i asked to my dumb pc, and never had the chance to find answers (and the online guide scared me like the program itself). So, i used to use Gimp only for little projects, orrible avatar&banners that i pretend to be beautiful and charming, and stop. I don't even remember when i decided to search "gimp tutorial" on deviantART... :O the world changed! I learned how to use Gimp! Starting from the basics (levels, effects, brushes), i learned how to make something more charming than my first banner. I want to give some advices to other crafters like me.
First, save the image in the .xcf format, it will mantain all the levels of the image. Then, when you'll finish your work, save in .png: this format will mantain the trasparency of the levels, and will avoid orrible blurry effects on letters.
Create a level for everything you add on the image, so you can edit one thing without touching the others, you can apply effects only on one level, adjust the color balance, or just avoid to see it if you want to make another try. The great thing about levels is that you can move them up and down ;) Play a lot with the opacity of levels: i somethimes duplicate levels, add some effects and then decrease the opacity, to have soft shades of each effect.
The selection tool is your friend: you can stroke the selection, round its corners, select only one area, invert it, move it. You can make an automatic selection from the letters you wrote, or from a certain color of the image to modify it. The possibility are unlimited.
Alpha channel is our best friend: all the work on the levels is about their transparency, and the alpha channel is just this, transparency. The firts level you have when you create a new image is not transparent, but just right-click and "Add alpha channel", and you're done!
Brushes...i love brushes! On deviantART lots of big-hearts offer for free their beautiful brushes! Give them a try, all my badges&banners have now a flower or swirl brush on ;)
I think a newbe won't comprehend what i'm saying (i'm sorry, on deviantART there are lots of free tutorials, just start from there, i have an italian gimp, will be problematic to show all the designing process ^^), but this is what i found to be interesting for who like me likes to design their own brand, and manage it from the blank image to the printed shining business card ^^
Some other advices from not-so-newbe like me?