Home Learn Linux Linux Tutorials Move Over GIMP, Here Comes Krita

Move Over GIMP, Here Comes Krita

 GIMP isn't the only graphics application for Linux, though you might think so since it gets all the attention. Today we turn our attention to the wonderful Krita drawing, painting, and illustration program for Linux. We've talked about Krita before: Demystifying Krita with Comics, Modern Art: A Look at Krita 2.3, and Calligra Suite, the Promising Not-An-Office Suite. Today we're going to learn about the important fundamental Krita tools, Tools, Brushes, and Colors. I'm not much of an artist, but I can show you how to use the excellent Krita features.

Krita is No Fun Without a Tablet

Krita has great support for Wacom drawing tablets, including pressure sensitivity, so I'm using my ancient Wacom Graphire 2 for this article. Tablets are super-easy to use in Linux: just plug them in and go. Use them like a real pencil, pen or paintbrush: Touch the tablet to draw, lift to not draw, tap, press harder for more "ink", press lighter for a fainter image. Use the duo-switch on the handle for right-click and left-click, and single- and double-tap for single- and double-click.krita-fig-1-cursiveFig. 1: Cursive writing! Not very good after years of typing.

You don't need a tablet and can follow along using your mouse. Open Krita and you will be greeted with a screen that gives you various options such as opening recent documents, creating a new one, which color space to use, and size. Click on RGB and select Transparent 640x480. Why? Why not? This puts us in the RGB color space with a transparent background. Now, without changing any settings, make some squiggles. I demonstrate my beautiful cursive writing in figure 1.

That's boring, so let's play with tools, brushes, and colors. A key concept to understand is that tools and brushes have different functions but work together. Tools are on the left dock of your Krita screen, and these control the shapes that you can draw. Brushes control textures and line thicknesses. The default brush is the pixel brush krita-fig-2-brushtool, and the default tool is the freehand tool krita-fig-3-freehand.

Let's pick a color from the color picker. There are two: the basic color picker in the top toolbar, and the advanced colkrita-fig-4-toolsor picker in the right dock. It doesn't matter which one you use; just pick a color, any color. I like purple. Now click on different tools and try them out (figure 2.) These are surprisingly flexible: try different pressures, turning them in different directions, and making them different sizes. The polygons are completed with a double-click or double-tap.

Fig. 2: shape-drawing tools

My shapes are empty, so let's use the fill tool, and practice using the very cool right-click color picker. krita-fig-6-colorpikcerRight-click color picker

This is a fast way to pick a new color without leaving your work. Click the fill tool buttonkrita-fig-7-fill, then right-click anywhere in your drawing to open the quick color picker. Notice that as you work and select different colors the color picker automatically saves them. In the right-click color picker your saved colors are in the outer ring. And voila, figure 3 emerges in all of its purple majesty.

krita-fig-5-toolshapesFig. 3: Purple shapes!

Playing With Brushes

Click the brush tool  on the top toolbar, and a giant screen full of rich choices spreads out before you. The quickest way to learn what the brushes and different controls do is to play with them. You're not wasting materials, after all. I like the Curves brush, so let's have a little fun with that. It's especially good with a tablet, but you can do cool stuff with a mouse too. Note how the textures and shapes vary with the stroke pressure, direction, and speed (figure 4).

krita-fig-8-cruvesFig. 4: Curves brush

The hairy brush, as figure 5 shows, is indeed hairy-looking.

krita-fig-9-hairyFig 5: Hairy brush

 Brush controls

The blue bars are sliders, and there are also arrow controls on the left. And for us keyboard fans, right-click to type in your values. The Predefined Brushes tab contains a hoard of wonderful special effects, and the Custom Brush lets you create your own brush pattern and save it (figure 6).

krita-fig-10-brushconfigFig. 6: Brush controls


Text Brush gives you two cool ways to brush on text: in a straight line with a click, or in Pipe Mode, which follows your stroke. (Figure 7.)

krita-fig-11-textbrushFig. 7: Text brush


You've doubtless noticed there are some Tools we have not tried out yet, the Select Area tools, so let's go try them out (figure 8).

krita-fig-12-shapeFig. 8: Select area tools

I'll use a simple diagram to illustrate how the area selection tools work. First I created a red rectangle with the draw rectangle tool and filled it with blue. Then I selected an oval area with the elliptical area selector, filled the ellipse with darker blue, and then moved it with the move a layer tool, resulting in figure 9.

krita-fig-13-moveshapeFig. 9: Select and move an oval area

There is a bit of trickiness introduced when you use the move layer tool: it creates a new layer. Layers are wonderful things that make it easy to edit complex images, and we'll talk about them more someday. The layers windows is on the lower right, and the active layer is always highlighted. So if you are trying to draw on the non-active layer and getting frustrated, just go click on it to make it active.


Krita supports ctrl+z to undo, ctrl+shift+z to redo, and also has Edit > Undo and Edit > Redo. You can also use the eraser, which is in the top toolbar. Click it to turn it on, erase with your cursor, and then click to turn it off. Nice and fast.

Saving Your Work

You'll probably want to save your work twice: first as a Krita document, and then as whatever final image format you want to use. When you save it as a Krita document then it saves all your layers, so you can easily go back and edit it. Once it's exported to a normal image format, such as PNG or JPG, you lose all that.





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  • Joeh Said:

    I hate articles written by those who don't use the software for production usage. Krita is nice but miles away from replacing GIMP. Carla, how many plugins are there for Krita when compared with GIMP? All you did with Krita was played like a KID can you talk about some serious image editing?

  • Libby Clark Said:

    This article was really just intended to introduce desktop users to an alternative drawing program. But I understand that you'd like to see some more advanced uses. I'll keep that in mind for a future tutorial here. Thanks.

  • Erinn Volkner Said:

    Joeh, you should not comment when you don't know what you're talking about. Krita is far more sophisticated than GIMP supporting CMYK, high-resolution color spaces, vector graphics, and masses of brushes. Whether it's a GIMP replacement depends on the user and what you want to do with it.

  • Alexandre Said:

    Erinn, Joeh specifically mentioned image editing which isn't Krita's forte. Krita is awesome as a digital painting application and has some tools that are useful in e.g. digital photography (like adjustment layers), but right now it's simply not as good as GIMP beyond painting. Whether you should or should not comment on comments that you misread is up to you :)

  • Josef J Said:

    Krita is not for image editing. So that point is moot

  • the dsc Said:

    It may not be yet, but it does have potential, as it already natively have some features that would be almost a standard minimal requirement in a more general-use image editing software (CMYK, LAB, vectors, adjustment layers), and it seems it does some other edit-ish things better than gimp. I recall testing a "move" or "tweak" brush that is miles away better than GIMP's awkward "iwarp" tool. And there are some "sub versions" of krita, "gemini" and "sketch" (which come along with the desktop version apparently), intended for non-desktop users or something. But I'd not be surprised if next comes a "photo editing" -- well, pleasantly surprised in a way. GIMP "unfortunately" seems still less prone to crashing, so far. Not that I'd prefer GIMP to be more crash-prone, of course, only that Krita were also more "stable".

  • Dave Said:

    Chill, bro... no need to get hostile. It's a good, brief overview. Just say "thanks". :)

  • Sigh Said:

    I hate articles written by those who don't use the software for production usage. GIMP is nice but miles away from replacing Photoshop. Joeh, how many plugins are there for GIMP when compared with Photoshop? All you did with GIMP was playing like a KID. Can you talk about some serious image editing?

  • Pierre Said:

    Joeh, although I agree that Gimp is a very good program, I believe you've ought to back down. Krita was created by Wacom, a professional art creator & game maker company. Gimp and Krita are both 2D art creator & image editors. I have in fact learned how to use gimp well for image editing. In addition, Krita has more settings, brushes, and is compatible with more advanced hardware, such as the Intuos tablet, a touch screen tablet with capabilities such as an external mouse, finger& pen touch, et cetera. Gimp and krita are not competitors, they're COMPATIBLE.

  • Bleakwise Said:

    2 and 8 bit RGBA channels only automatically makes GIMP useless for more than half of Photoshop's target audience.

  • felstrom Said:

    Joeh, for what I see, gimp is best in image editing, and Krita is best for digital art and painting. If you want to see a professional using krita, see the Dadiv Revoy web, He uses Krita, Gimp and Mypaint, he doesn't need to use only one tool. I'm glad we have such a great software in open source. :)

  • Libby Clark Said:

    Thanks for the resource Felstrom. He has some amazing graphics and great tutorials on his blog for using Krita professionally.

  • felstrom Said:

    You're welcome! If you want to know more about kirta, in their page they have also some good resources and tutorials:

  • Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér Said:

    Also, thank you for saying a sensible and positive thing about comparing two applications intended for different purposes.

  • Said:

    Thanks for that link, felstrom. First i was just looking for some basic functions in Krita, that i knew from IrfanView. Now i saw a small piece of the huge possibilities using Krita. Thanks for that.

  • toff Said:

    This is exactly what I want for my 5yr old to use with the old Wacom tablet I had lying in a box. I used it for 15mins and can see the difference right away from GIMP. . Thanks for the tip. Great link felstrom.... very nice to see what can be done with free software.

  • LEOXD Said:

    It's funny to see, that the GNU-Project is getting overtaken in so many aspects (like this one and other KDE-software), but at the end of the day it is still superior.

  • Anon Said:

    KRITA it's not a replacement for GIMP you idiots. Krita is for drawing & painting, GIMP is for other things.

  • Jammy Said:

    Everyone gets so pissy sometimes. Geez people. Give Carla a break.

  • Dave Said:

    After 5 minutes of trying Krita I will literally never download Gimp again. Finally a Photoshop++ for the open community. Gimp has the worst ui I've ever used in drawing program whereas Krita feels like they took an older version of Photoshop and made it a great paint program instead of adding random features that no one will use like on model 3d editing. Krita is awesome, I'm proudly using it in all my projects now along with Inkscape.

  • Camy Said:

    If you are using GIMP for drawing I have to say you are wrong. GIMP wasn't made for drawing, and wasn't made as a Photoshop replacement. It's just an IMAGE EDITOR. That's why most users think GIMP is a bad software, it's because they are giving GIMP a wrong use. In the other side, I think Krita is great for DRAWING and PAINTING, because it was the purpose of the software. And Krita doesn't have as much filtres and tools for editing images as GIMP or Photoshop, because is for DRAWING, not for IMAGE EDITING. So give the softwares a correct use, complementing both (and more free software, if you want!) in your works, then you'll sure have a good result ;)

  • qedqubit Said:

    well, despite all the arguing, at least this article & your comments gave me some clarity on which program to use for what. so thanx everybody ;-)

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