First of all, welcome to the Guild! Well Photoshop certainly is a good investment, as I'm sure many here that use it will tell you. But for the price of "FREE" you really can't beet the GIMP. With a bit of scripting work and some plug-ins (much of which has already been provided by people here at the guild, such as RobA), it can be made to have much of the functionality of PS. In the short-run this is probably the best way to go. Once you become more experienced you may find that it is worth your while to upgrade to PS. Then again perhaps not. You can also find out more on this topic in this sticky.