Funding GIMP developers for sustainable development

GIMP has been developed as a community effort since very early on, after its original authors left the project. This begs the question of sustainability when contributors wish to stay longer while not being able to afford being penniless volunteers forever.

We have seen skilled developers come and go for years, the latter becoming a growing concern. Contributing takes a crazy amount of time and people have family, work and other responsibilities to take care of. Thus when core team contributors are willing to be paid for making Free Software, we have decided that GIMP as a project should encourage such endeavours by putting more emphasis on their funding.

There are currently 2 such crowdfunding projects. You can consider these crowdfundings as “official” as can be and completely endorsed by the GIMP project:

For more information, please read below.

Øyvind Kolås: GEGL maintainer

Øyvind has been contributing to GIMP since 2004. He soon became GEGL maintainer, for what was meant to become one day GIMP’s image engine. GEGL and babl (its companion pixel format encoding library) already support color management, higher bit depths and CMYK; some of the non-destructive capabilities are already exposed as part of GIMP’s on-canvas preview of image filters. The integration of GEGL started in GIMP 2.8 with a wider port towards color management happening in 2.10. It is still a work in progress, with plans for deeper integration of existing and future capabilities of GEGL in future versions of GIMP as they continue to get refined and tested.

Øyvind is known not only for his work on GEGL itself, but also for his various experiments around images and colors. One of his visual experiments with color grids on grayscale images even got viral back in 2019 and spread all over the web on too many news outlets to name them all.

Color assimilation grid illusion, by Øyvind Kolås
Color assimilation grid illusion, by Øyvind Kolås

One of his later endeavours is ctx, a vector graphics stack, which is probably hard to describe as some parts of this project are a bit mind blowing, so let’s give you the official description:

ctx is a media-rich terminal and a vector graphics stack, built around a textual serialization protocol. The textual serialization has a corresponding binary representation that is used by the core rasterizer as well as sharing data among threads. The ctx protocol is available as an extension to ANSI escape sequences in the ctx terminal - the terminal launched when running the ctx binary with no arguments. This extension allows scripts in any language to output vector graphics in addition to or instead of monospace text in each tab/window, and also provides network transparent rendering.

All of this development background is most likely why Øyvind describes himself as:

I am a digital media toolsmith, creating tools and infrastructure to aid creation of my own and others artistic and visual digital media experiments.

GIMP wouldn’t be here without sharp minds like his. Can you imagine, 17 years or more of dedication to free software and researching images? So yes, GIMP project fully endorses Øyvind’s Patreon campaign and we encourage everyone to donate!

Note: Øyvind is also present on Liberapay.

ZeMarmot: GIMP maintainer and Libre Art

ZeMarmot is a Libre Art project born as an idea in 2014, launched in 2015 with production starting in 2016. In particular, it is an Open Animation short film (Creative Commons BY-SA license promoting sharing and reuse) led by the film director, Aryeom, and GIMP co-maintainer, Jehan.

ZeMarmot project logo
ZeMarmot project logo

Now you might wonder why an animation film would help GIMP, yet this is the whole reason why Jehan has been heavily developing the software, to the point that he became the biggest contributor since 2020 and is now co-maintainer. Working on other fun projects with Aryeom is even the whole reason why Jehan started contributing to GIMP at all, ever since 2012.

ZeMarmot is a traditional (yet digital) 2D animation film, meaning a lot of illustration work (each frame hand-drawn), hence requiring heavy usage of brush tools, selections, filters, transformation tools, scripting for automatization and all sort of raster edit needs.

This is why the ensuing development is not only about illustration and animation, as some might believe. They are not aiming at changing the scope of the software. GIMP is a generic graphics manipulation tool and what we have realized over the years is that most features are so cross-disciplined that it makes total sense to have a generic tool. Moreover Aryeom and Jehan also work from time to time on printing jobs, logos, photos, pin buttons, board games… they do all kinds of things with GIMP!

A lot of care is taken to fix bugs, improve stability, efficiency, packaging and add generic tools and features useful to photographers, designers, illustrators, scientists, animators… Trying to list all the improvements brought by their work would be a challenge because there are too many.

Nowadays, ZeMarmot is as much an artisanal animation film project (Aryeom single-handedly working on nearly every production role) as it is a software development project (both with Jehan on development and Aryeom on testing and designing features). Aryeom and Jehan believe that taking ownership of your working tool matters and this why their collaboration works so well, by bringing together artist and developer.

The nice final touch is that their big dream is to be able one day to hire more Free Software developers and artists. This project is under LILA‘s (Libre comme L’ArtFree as Art in French) umbrella, a France-registered non-profit dedicated to Libre Art and creative media Free Software. Imagine in a not-so distant future if we had a non-profit studio producing artworks in Libre Art licenses, for everyone to view, share and even modify (source files are provided, e.g. the ones for this video they made for Framasoft about Peertube) with many artists (hence producing films at much better pace than they are able right now) and developers fixing production issues. We can truly consider LILA as GIMP’s sister non-profit Open Animation studio! And yes, an Open Animation studio producing Libre Art will help get better tools for photography editing or design as well.

This is why GIMP project also fully endorses LILA and ZeMarmot project and encourages the whole community to give to this project in order to improve GIMP. You can consider it a fostered project of GIMP.

Note: ZeMarmot is also present on Liberapay and Tipeee platforms.

What about donations to the GNOME Foundation?

For years, we have received donations through the umbrella of the GNOME Foundation. It is still possible to do so of course. Yet these donations are so far only usable for community needs. In particular, it helps us when we need hardware (not so often), and to gather contributors for conferences (regularly we also help funding the conferences itself, because we believe that a sane free software graphics ecosystem should not be only about GIMP so we love to support other graphics software too) and contributor meetings.

Note that it is also possible to fund several contributors through GIMP Liberapay account as an interesting alternative.

What these donations through GNOME still cannot do is funding paid development, so if that’s what you want, please fund the developers directly as explained above. GIMP project obviously welcomes the 2 types of donation, for community needs through GNOME and for paid development through the 2 crowdfundings listed.

Thanks to everyone for supporting GIMP in whatever way suits you best! 🤗