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How to Enlarge and Resize Photos Using GIMP

written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 11/12/2010

GIMP, the free image editing software, is an open source and feature-laden image editing program that can be very useful in working with your photos. In this brief tutorial I will instruct you in how to enlarge and resize your pictures, particularly old scanned photos, using GIMP.

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    If You Don't Have GIMP Yet, You'll Need It

    GIMP is basically a photo editing software which can be downloaded free of charge at http://www.gimp.org/ quickly so that within minutes you can be tweaking your photos with this dynamic program. You can use this free program to retouch your photos, for image composition (tone, sharpness, scale, and arrangement), and for image authoring. GIMP was originally written on a UNIX platform but it now works well on Mac OS X. The instructions I am about to give you apply specifically to working with Windows, however.

    Someone once wrote “Youth is full of pleasure, age is full of care; Youth like summer morn, age like winter weather; Youth like summer brave, age like winter bare." So get those old photos of you and your friends in the summer sunshine out, scan them, manipulate them with the GIMP, and then slap them onto your FaceBook home page. Then learn to get out there and enjoy the solace and sagacity that winter offers because it’s coming for you, no matter who you are.

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    Steps for Enlarging Images in Gimp

    Armed with little or no knowledge of how an image editor works, I downloaded GIMP for the purpose of enlarging old photos that I had scanned so that someone wouldn’t need binoculars to view them on a webpage. The user interface tends to be a little bit complicated and overwhelming for the novice user and at the time I downloaded the program the help files were “temporarily unavailable." Plan to spend some time getting acclimated the onion-layered GIMP. It was frustrating because I accomplished my goal of enlarging a photo to fit a full canvas but didn’t remember exactly how I did it. Rediscovering the exact sequence which is necessary to follow took some time. Here is what you need to do.

    Once you’ve downloaded GIMP, bring up the desired scanned photo you want to work with using Windows Photo Gallery. On the far right of your menu bar click Open and then GIMP from the drop down menu. Your photo will open up ensconced with all the GIMP menus, features, rulers, etc. There will be another long, rectangular tool box that pops up too. Drag that box off to the side and leave it alone because we don’t need it for this task and I don’t know what the hell it’s for anyway.

    Your old photo was scanned but it now has a white border around three sides because that is the way the scanner scanned it; tucked away in a corner. Now you want that white border gone and that photo (or whatever portion of it you desire) to fill up the canvas and leave no border.

    Image 1 - Click on the Image drop down menu and choose Canvas Size option because you’ll have to reposition the photo on the canvas before you can make the image large enough to fill the canvas. A dialog box appears.

    Image 2 – Manipulate the numbers of Width and Height so that they decrease until the black box is in the middle of the canvas in a shape that is the same as the picture. Then drag the picture from the corner so it fits in the box. Play around with this back and forth until it is just right. When the picture and the black box line up, click resize and the box will go away – don’t get scared.

    Image 3 – You’re back to basically the same screen as Image 1. Now click on the Image Menu again and this time, click on Scale Image. I increased the height and width several times until the desired image filled the canvas. Change the numbers and then click Scale to apply the changes which will take a number of seconds to occur. I had to increase the maximum size allowed by clicking on the Edit Menu; drilling down to Preferences and adjusting the Maximum New Image Size. I found 548 Megabytes suited my purposes. Work with a copy first until you have figured out the right number for Pixel Width and Height that suits your purposes. Once you’ve enlarged one or two with this process is a breeze.

    By the way after I figured all this out I realized my scanner had a built in feature to make all the work unnecessary so you might want to check out your scanner’s features first. But in any event all the instructions above will enable you to shrink or enlarge your photos however you desire so this information is still worth knowing about, especially since GIMP is free.