4. A Python plug-in writing Tutorial

This tutorial will teach you the basics about writing a Python plug-in for GIMP 3.0. You are expected to already have some basic knowledge about writing Python in general. If not, there are enough Python courses online, we are not going to duplicate that here.

GIMP plug-ins Python (and other languages too) are called from within GIMP to perform certain actions. To be able to know how to communicate with, and call the plug-in, GIMP needs to know by what name to call it and what functions it supports.

There are certain requirements regarding a plug-in's filename and directory name, which have to be the same. For more details see Installing New Plug-Ins.

4.1. The basic elements of a plug-in for GIMP

We will discuss the basic parts of a plug-in that are required, or at least very common for working with GIMP.

  • Not required, but common practice, is to start with a hashbang, an encoding, and copyright notice. The first line is usually a hashbang, which specifies how this script can be executed. The next line specifies the encoding of the Python file. We recommend utf-8. Usually this is followed by several lines specifying the license under which you publish the script and a short description of what the script does. We will not go deeper into this, since this is common to Python in general.

  • Importing required modules to get access to GIMP and optionally GEGL functions.

  • Declare a class with several pre-defined functions that you need to adjust, so that GIMP knows what functions are available in your plug-in, and what functionality they support. We will go into more detail about this below.

  • A call that starts your plug-in, or queries its capabilities, depending on the arguments sent to it by GIMP.

4.1.1. Required modules

To be able to access GIMP functions, we start with import gi. This module can figure out what functions are available in each module defined through «object introspection». What this means for us, is that we import all GIMP related modules that we may need through calls to gi.repository.

For basic functionality, only the Gimp and GimpUi modules may be enough. If you want to run your plug-in from the command line, you don't even need GimpUi. Let's start with an example.

#!/usr/bin/env python3
# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
#
#   GIMP - The GNU Image Manipulation Program
#   Copyright (C) 1995 Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis
#
#   gimp-tutorial-plug-in.py
#   sample plug-in to illustrate the Python plug-in writing tutorial
#   Copyright (C) 2023 Jacob Boerema
#
#   This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
#   it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
#   the Free Software Foundation; either version 3 of the License, or
#   (at your option) any later version.
#
#   This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
#   but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
#   MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  See the
#   GNU General Public License for more details.
#
#   You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
#   along with this program.  If not, see <https://www.gnu.org/licenses/>.

import sys

import gi
gi.require_version('Gimp', '3.0')
from gi.repository import Gimp
gi.require_version('GimpUi', '3.0')
from gi.repository import GimpUi
from gi.repository import GLib
      

We start with importing sys, which we need at the end for access to sys.argv, following that import gi tells Python that it needs to load the gi module. This module is used to enable access to GIMP specific funtions through «object introspection».

In the next line we tell gi that we require GIMP's API version to be version 3.0. (This plug-in won't work with older versions of GIMP.) The following line requests to import all functions, classes, etc. from the Gimp module.

The next two lines, do the same thing for GimpUi. GimpUi contains all the interface related elements for GIMP. If you plan to make a plug-in that is only going to be called from the command line, then you won't need this. We finish with importing GLib, which we need later for access to GLib.Error.

There are other optional modules that you can use too, like Gegl and Glib among many others, but we won't go into that here.

4.1.2. Define your plug-in class

GIMP needs to knows what functions are available, what functionality they support, and what menu location to use. For that we define a class that is derived from the Gimp.PlugIn class.

A minimal plug-in need at least the following functions defined in this class:

  • A do_query_procedure method, that GIMP calls to find out the names of the procedures that can be called in this plug-in.

  • A do_set_i18n method, that GIMP calls to find out if your plug-in supports translations.

  • A do_create_procedure method, which GIMP calls to start one of your plug-ins functions. When this is called you should initialize certain information for GIMP. You start by creating a procedure that tells GIMP the name of the Python function to call to start your plug-in. Then you supply additional information, like what types of image does your plug-in support, where in the menu should your plug-in be found, and other optional settings.

  • The actual function (called procedure by GIMP) that you specified above. We often call this run, but it can have any name allowed by Python. This function is where you will add your own code to apply your desired effects.

We will go into a little more detail now. Not included below is the first part of the Python code that was shown above. This only shows the basic layout of your class.

class MyFirstPlugin (Gimp.PlugIn):
    def do_query_procedures(self):
        return [ "jb-plug-in-first-try" ]

    def do_set_i18n (self, name):
        return False

    def do_create_procedure(self, name):
        procedure = Gimp.ImageProcedure.new(self, name,
                                            Gimp.PDBProcType.PLUGIN,
                                            self.run, None)

        procedure.set_image_types("*")

        procedure.set_menu_label("My first Python plug-in")
        procedure.add_menu_path('<Image>/Filters/Tutorial/')

        procedure.set_documentation("My first Python plug-in tryout",
                                    "My first Python 3 plug-in for GIMP 3",
                                    name)
        procedure.set_attribution("Your name", "Your name", "2023")

        return procedure

    def run(self, procedure, run_mode, image, n_drawables, drawables, config, run_data):
        Gimp.message("Hello world!")
        # do what you want to do, then, in case of success, return:
        return procedure.new_return_values(Gimp.PDBStatusType.SUCCESS, GLib.Error())
      

Let's take a closer look at do_create_procedures. In the line return [ "jb-plug-in-first-try" ] we tell GIMP what the name of our procedure is: we call it "jb-plug-in-first-try". This is the name that will be shown in GIMP's Procedure Browser.

You can have more than one procedure defined in a plug-in. In that case, you would list all names, separated by a comma.

It is good practice to start all your procedures with your initials or some other recognizable and unique tag. This way, it is less likely that your name will be the same as someone elses plug-in, which may confuse GIMP. Besides that, you are free to name it the way you like.

Next we tell GIMP that we don't support translations by returning False in the call to do_set_i18n. What to do when you want your plug-in to be translated is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

The do_create_procedure method is where most of the initializing for GIMP is done.

Prosedyre 13.1. Setting up do_create_procedure

  1. If you define more than one procedure in your plug-in, you first need to check the "name" parameter to see which procedure is being called by GIMP. We won't go into that here.

    To initialize your plug-in procedure, we first need to create it and fill in the name of our Python function that will do the actual work. We do that by calling Gimp.ImageProcedure.new.

        procedure = Gimp.ImageProcedure.new(self, name,
                                            Gimp.PDBProcType.PLUGIN,
                                            self.run, None)
              

    In this case we define the name of our plug-in as self.run. When we qualify our function with "self.", it means that it is a method inside our class. If you prefer, you can also define it as a regular function outside your class, in that case you would omit "self.". Naming it "run" is not required, you can give it any name that Python accepts.

  2. Next we will tell GIMP what types of images this plug-in can work with by calling procedure.set_image_types. In case the type of image doesn't matter, we use "*", which means all types supported by GIMP. Other examples:

    1. "RGB*,GRAY*", where the "*" here means we support both the versions with and without A(lpha) channel.

    2. "INDEXED", plug-in only works on indexed images, without alpha channel.

    3. "RGBA", plug-in only works on RGB image with alpha channel.

  3. Being able to start your plug-in from GIMP's menu is usually a good idea. We start by defining a descriptive label for the menu entry: procedure.set_menu_label.

  4. Followed by specifying where in the menu it should appear: procedure.add_menu_path. In this case we tell it to add our plug-in in the Filters menu, under the Tutorial category (submenu).

  5. If you like you can also add an extra help tip, by using procedure.set_documentation, and you can set your name as author of the plug-in by using procedure.set_attribution.

  6. The last line in create procedure is return procedure, which sends the information added above back to GIMP. Following this, GIMP will call your run procedure.

4.1.3. Adding the main entry point to your plug-in

Every plug-in gets started by a call to Gimp.main.

        Gimp.main(MyFirstPlugin.__gtype__, sys.argv)
      

The only thing you need to change in this line for your plug-in, is the name of your plug-in class, here called «MyFirstPlugin».

4.1.4. The complete Python plug-in

Below we present the entire python script, which should run, provided it is given the correct name in a directory with the same name in a location that GIMP knows of. It will show the message «Hello world!» in the error console or in a popup dialog.

#!/usr/bin/env python3
# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
#
#   GIMP - The GNU Image Manipulation Program
#   Copyright (C) 1995 Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis
#
#   gimp-tutorial-plug-in.py
#   sample plug-in to illustrate the Python plug-in writing tutorial
#   Copyright (C) 2023 Jacob Boerema
#
#   This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
#   it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
#   the Free Software Foundation; either version 3 of the License, or
#   (at your option) any later version.
#
#   This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
#   but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
#   MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  See the
#   GNU General Public License for more details.
#
#   You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
#   along with this program.  If not, see <https://www.gnu.org/licenses/>.

import sys

import gi
gi.require_version('Gimp', '3.0')
from gi.repository import Gimp
gi.require_version('GimpUi', '3.0')
from gi.repository import GimpUi

from gi.repository import GLib

class MyFirstPlugin (Gimp.PlugIn):
    def do_query_procedures(self):
        return [ "jb-plug-in-first-try" ]

    def do_set_i18n (self, name):
        return False

    def do_create_procedure(self, name):
        procedure = Gimp.ImageProcedure.new(self, name,
                                            Gimp.PDBProcType.PLUGIN,
                                            self.run, None)

        procedure.set_image_types("*")

        procedure.set_menu_label("My first Python plug-in")
        procedure.add_menu_path('<Image>/Filters/Tutorial/')

        procedure.set_documentation("My first Python plug-in tryout",
                                    "My first Python 3 plug-in for GIMP 3.0",
                                    name)
        procedure.set_attribution("Your name", "Your name", "2023")

        return procedure

    def run(self, procedure, run_mode, image, n_drawables, drawables, config, run_data):
        Gimp.message("Hello world!")
        # do what you want to do, then, in case of success, return:
        return procedure.new_return_values(Gimp.PDBStatusType.SUCCESS, GLib.Error())

Gimp.main(MyFirstPlugin.__gtype__, sys.argv)