GIMP 2.6 cookbook

4.5 (2 reviews total)
By Juan Manuel Ferreyra
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  1. Using Draw and Paint Tools

About this book

The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring, and is a viewed by many as a rival to commercial applications like Photoshop. The GIMP is one of Open Source's legendary applications – renowned for its power and flexibility, but daunting to new users and with a steep learning curve to mastery.

This book is packed with answers to get you preparing great images with the GMP immediately. Even if you are a relative novice to this powerhouse application, the straightforward instructions will guide you through the tasks to unleash your true creativity without being hindered by the system.

GIMP 2.6 Cookbook begins with simple tasks like drawing and painting and then moves into the deeper and more rewarding areas of filters, effects, text, and fonts. You will learn how to create fantastic logos, scintillating effects, and beautiful backgrounds. Experiment with color and sharpness and also create a web design layout for your website. Imagine how great you will feel when you are equipped to create wonderful images that can give your website a much-deserved makeover.

Straightforward instructions guide you through tasks with the GIMP to unleash your true creativity without being hindered by the complexity of the system


Practical recipes with real results:


Publication date:
March 2011


Chapter 1. Using Draw and Paint Tools

In this chapter, we will cover:

  • Creating an orb using different paint tools

  • Blending colors

  • How to paint a sky and clouds

  • From sketch to finished piece: creating a cartoon of yourself



This chapter is about drawing and painting with GIMP; two of the most basic and fun steps in illustration. (you should have fun if you want to work as an artist!)

We are going to start with the basic tools, and then increase the number of elements and their complexity to get to the final piece.


Creating an orb using different paint tools

So, what's an orb? Basically, it's a sphere that we're going to paint and make it look like a glossy surface. It's a good introduction to a series of GIMP tools, how to paint and draw, and also to the kind of images you're likely to use on a typical business web page.


Don't try to replicate what you see here, experiment while you learn from these examples. See how changing values, sizes, colors, and other attributes makes that piece you are creating your own. Create your style while learning how to do things.

How to do it...

An orb can be created by following these steps. We'll also give it a glossy surface and the shading that goes with it:

  1. Create a new file, select the Ellipse Select Tool (this can alternatively be done by pressing E), and create a perfect circle. Press Shift while dragging or use the tool options to make it perfectly round (enable the Fixed option to make it perfectly round):

  2. Select the Blend Tool, and in its tool options change the Gradient to FB to BG (RGB), pick a foreground and background color, and change it's shape to Radial:

    Make sure you have the lightest color as the foreground color and the darkest one as the background color. Use the little white arrow icon near the background and foreground colors to reverse them if you need.

  3. Create a new layer, name it orb1, and apply the gradient by clicking and dragging from the center of the circle to its lower right. Once applied it should look like the following screenshot (you don't need to position it exactly at the centre point of the circle):

  4. Duplicate the orb layer by right-clicking on the layer orb1 and selecting Duplicate Layer (Shift + Ctrl + D). Name it orb2, and set its mode to overlay:

  5. Create a new layer. As you can see, the circle created in step 1 with the Ellipse Select Tool is still there. Select the Blend Tool, change its Gradient to FG to Transparent, the Shape to Radial, and for the foreground color, pick a lighter tone based on the one at the center of the circle. Apply it from the center to its bottom:

There's more...

Let's create some reflections. In a new layer, create a small circle around the top centre part of the sphere, select the Bucket Fill Tool (Shift + B), and fill it with a white color. Change its opacity to something around 10:

Right-click the orb2 layer and from the dropbox select alpha to selection. Create a new layer, and drag it to the top of the layer list so we can create a reflection on top of the sphere. Now select the Ellipse Select Tool, and set it to subtract mode:

Draw a big ellipse around the sphere leaving only a small part at the bottom, as shown here:

Then, in a new layer fill, this selection with white, and change its opacity to something around 5:

Now, with the Ellipse Select Tool, in a new layer, draw another small circle around the top right side of the sphere, smaller than the previous one. Then set the tool options to subtract, and deselect the bottom part of the small ellipse you just created (just draw another ellipse near the bottom part with the subtract mode selected). Then, fill it with white color:

Then, move and rotate the selection, combining the Move Tool (M) and the Rotate Tool (Shift + R) until it looks as follows:

You can also use the Zoom Tool (Z) to zoom in and out of the file if you want to work with more accuracy.

Now, select the Paths Tool (B) and draw a small figure, as shown in the following screenshot, to give the impression of a reflection. Then, click on the Selection from Path button inside the tool options of the Paths Tool. You can also use the Enter key to complete a path selection:

Then, you can press Delete to erase the selection and change the layer's opacity to something around 7.

We're done now; your orb should look like the following:


Blending colors

There are many techniques on how to blend and mix colors, both on the digital and the analogue world of paper and pencil. Here, I present to you a quick way to blend any combination of colors; of course, you will need some practice to master it, but following it you'll also take command of a few more tools of GIMP.

How to do it...

To blend two distinct colors carry out the following steps:

  1. Create a new file, pick two colors you like and paint them one besides the other with a thick brush.

  2. Pick a thick brush, change its opacity to around 30, and start painting with short crossed strokes over the opposite color you have selected. This is a process so don't expect it to happen magically, just keep trying.

    This is how my picture looks after the first pass:

  3. Reduce the size of the brush, and pick the lightest color (use the Color Picker on the section you just painted over); in my case, I picked a red. Use the Color Picker Tool (or hold down Ctrl and left-click while using the brush). Using the same technique, paint over the other color. In my case, I painted over the green patch on the right:

    Now you just repeat the process, pick the lightest color, correct brush opacity and size, and paint it with short strokes over the opposite color. As I said, you need to practice; most of the time, you will not end with the kind of color blending you want or imagine, but after a while you'll master the tools and know what sizes and opacities work to get the best results.

  4. After repeating the process a couple of times, if you need to, you can smooth everything with the Smudge Tool:

    Vary the brush type (a fuzzy brush works best), size, and opacity, and smudge the colors until you are satisfied with the way colors intersect and blend. The result should look something like the following:


How to paint a sky and clouds

Painting the sky is a great way to apply several techniques and continue mastering GIMP tools. If you can paint while actually watching the sky, you will develop the speed and ability to create and not only copy, something that is essential to any artist looking for his/her own style.

How to do it...

Follow these simple steps to create a beautiful skyscape:

  1. For this recipe, always work on the same layer. First, fill the canvas with a sky-blue color of your choice using the Bucket Fill Tool:

  2. Now, use the Dodge Tool to create variations on the sky. This is the base of the clouds. If you look at the real sky, you'll notice that it tends to get brighter on the horizon.

  3. Quickly blend it with the Smudge Tool, and pay attention to the brush size, opacity, and rate. This gives different looks to each sky; makes it brighter, darker, rainy, snowy, and so on.

  4. Now again select the Dodge Tool with a smaller brush, and paint a rough form of the cloud you want:

    This needs to be done in a one-click motion, without lifting your finger off the mouse button. So, hold it while creating the entire cloud (outline and filling). If you let go of the mouse-button, the dodge tool will make your previous dodge look even lighter. This doesn't count as a mistake, but be aware that this can happen.

  5. Now, Smudge it to give it a more fluffy appearance, try first with a wider Scale:

    As you can see, this is starting to look like a real cloud! Now, repeat the operation a few more times until you are satisfied with your work:

  6. Use smaller brushes each time you use the Dodge tool

    Smudge only the area where you applied the last dodge:

  7. Now, you can start painting highlights. Just repeat the operation with smaller brushes, and paint only where you want the cloud to have more volume and brightness. Don't use thick brushes.

  8. As before, now apply Smudge again. See how using a fuzzy or a solid brush completely changes how the cloud looks:

    The cloud is starting to get some realistic volume now:

  9. Repeat the previous two steps a few more times until you are satisfied with the result.


From sketch to finished piece: creating a cartoon of yourself

The design of a person's cartoon is based on his/her physical characteristics. This doesn't mean you should draw exaggerated features, or at least, not always. From my point of view, to draw a cartoon of any real person, I consider not only his/her characteristics, but also knowing him as a person. Chat for at least a couple of minutes, know their tone of voice, their body language, and then, just then, put everything into consideration, and start sketching, even while talking. Also, you should be careful what you exaggerate, some people may get angry or sad if you make a nose bigger or smaller, a chest or a belly too big or too small.

As I have said previously, don't try to copy what you see here, my goal is to show you how to create a cartoon using a computer program—GIMP, in this case. So, experiment, and if you get frustrated, just get a cup of tea, come back in ten minutes and continue practising until you are happy with what you see.

How to do it...

Sometimes, inspiration or ideas don't come easy. Sometimes, you keep looking at your model or landscape and you can't start working on that white page that is starting to look bigger and bigger. Sketching, scribbling and doodling are the most natural ways for me to start working when I have a shortage of ideas. Just grab a pen, a pencil, anything, and a piece of paper, and start moving your hand. It won't be long (usually!) until you find shapes and textures that give you that wonderful idea. That's why most of the time I start my illustrations on a piece of paper. Of course you could also sketch, scribble, or doodle in a computer screen and GIMP!

  1. Firstly, create a new layer, and start with a nice brush. Use the Eraser Tool or change the layer's Opacity and paint in a new one while cleaning it until you get to the base of your cartoon. For this chapter, I've created the outlines of my cartoon on paper with a 2B pencil, and then scanned the cartoon into GIMP:

  2. As you can see, the outlines are not clean, many lines don't look good, other shouldn't be there, and sometimes you just want to redo them. This is an important step when creating any illustration. Here you clean the outlines to give the base of the image a professional look. However, remember, this is not a step-by-step process. You can always go back to clean (or rough it up!) at any point if you feel like it.

    Currently the image looks like this:

  3. Use the Eraser Tool and the Brush Tool with a brush the same color as your background to remove the lines you don't want. The resultant image will have a cleaner look, like the following:


    The Zoom Too l (+ and - on the Number Pad) is essential for this part. Use it to get a more detailed view of the outlines and to erase exactly what you want.

    Always have in mind the final media where your illustration is going to be shown. Sometimes, I find myself obsessively trying to change something that nobody is going to see. I mean, that's fine if you want to hide things or just create something perfect, even if you are the only one that will notice it, but if you are on a tight schedule and just need to finish a piece of work, don't get obsessed when you are working with the zoom.

  4. This is how my cleaned image looks:


To give your picture a more standard, professional look, you should trace the pencil outlines (or even your digital sketch) and give it a smoother look. Lines should flow, giving the impression the outlines are made in a single try, with no rough edges and unions.

As I said, what we have seen is just a standard. In my opinion, you should look for your own style, and try to use it with your clients. I mean, most of the time I draw my own outlines on paper, or just trace them with a modulated brush (you'll need a tablet for that) after cleaning the sketch. However, this is not the case many times, so here, I'm giving you the steps to create clean outlines:

  1. Select the Path Tool and start tracing your sketch. You can begin where you want. I usually start with the outer lines, and use the Zoom Tool to trace it more accurately. However, remember, don't get obsessed! You still are a long way off from the final piece!

  2. Continue tracing the outer lines, and don't get messed up if you don't know where to continue when you reach an intersection, just work on the outer lines. There's no need to close the path for what we are doing now, so if you get stuck, just stop and create the stroke for the selected path, and then continue tracing.

    In my case, I completed all the exterior outlines before creating the strokes. You may do this at any time.

  3. Continue tracing with the Path Tool, creating a stroke, and so on, until you cover all the sketch lines. To create the strokes, first create a new layer and name it outline, then click on the Stroke Path button inside the Path Tool options toolbox. A new window will pop up, where you can choose from several different ways of creating the stroke:

    Basically, it can be a Stroke line or a Stroke Line with a paint tool. Now you make a decision, or better, try different settings, until you find one that works best for you and how you want the final piece to look.

    Applying a stroke line with the Stroke line option produces lines with harder vertices. However, if you use the Stroke with a paint tool option, it gives you a little more control over the way lines behave. Select the paintbrush as the paint tool for the stroke and configure a brush with its own options to get your outline drew exactly as if you have done it yourself with a steady hand. You can even enable the brush dynamics option, which will create the stroke simulating pressure and any other options you have enabled in your brush tool settings.

    Applying strokes to a path with different settings gives different looks:

  4. Continue creating the remaining strokes. Sometimes, the inner details of your characters look better with thinner lines than the ones on the outside. Experiment with different values. In my image, I used different settings for the lines around the eyes, the mouth, and the background.

    This is how my outlines look after I have finished tracing everything:

Let's start painting:

  1. First, create a new layer, and name it background color. Place it below the outline layer:

    As you can see, I've also created a couple more layers to help me when cleaning and adjusting the sketch.

  2. Now, pick a color for the sky and a brush, and paint it. Fill it with some clouds using the technique we learned in the previous recipe. There's no need to avoid painting inside the character because we are going to create a layer to paint over the background:

  3. When you are done, create another layer, and name it background bottom. Place it below the background color layer, and paint it with a nice green. If you go over the lines just use the Eraser Tool to adjust the limits, use the Zoom Tool to work with greater accuracy.

  4. Now, go back to the background color layer, adjust your brush, and paint the little tree on the right. Using the Fuzzy Select Tool, left-click on the tree color to select it. This is a quick way to paint inside a specific part of the drawing without touching the surrounding colors. If what you need to paint is complex, you could also create a new layer and paint on it to avoid painting over an area that you think is already finished. This is not the case; you are just painting a small part of the tree with a lighter green. Use a small brush to paint it. If you want to practice, try to blend these two colors. This is the tree without blending it's colors:

    For this example, I choose to leave the two colors separated:

  5. Now, you just have to apply the same process we did for the background to the character. Create a few more new layers like hair, skin, clothes and go for it!

  6. You have enough information now to experiment with colors, brush sizes, dodge, and burn, so go paint your character, and come back when you are finished. Here is my painted illustration, just in case you need some inspiration:


    You could also add a few shadows, I added a small one for the tree in the background. For the skin and clothes use the same technique as with the tree.

  7. Use the Fuzzy Select Tool to select the color (if the color is not contiguous you can always add to the existing selection, pressing Shift or changing the tool mode in it's options box). Then, pick a lighter or darker tone for the color you want to add to the shadow or the highlight, and paint it in the same layer (or create a new one if you really want to keep things ordered).

Be careful with shadows. Try to make them consistent with the light source, or if you don't want to do that, make them very inconsistent, so as to not give a chance to the observer to think that you made a mistake while drawing. In my case, light should come from the back of the character, but I always prefer to introduce a little confusion and paint shadows that give the character a stranger appearance.

You can consider your picture finished, but you can always experiment a little more! In my case, I like to play with textures, I'm always putting strange things in my scanner to create weird textures that give any illustration the strange, worn out, vintage, retro, grunge style that I like!

  1. So to really finish my illustration I picked a royalty-free texture from the Internet and pasted it into the image:

  2. I know, that doesn't look good, but wait. Use any of the transform tools (Move, Rotate, Scale, and so on) to change the texture shape and cover everything: Basically, select the Scale tool and click on the texture. Then, drag the corners of the texture image until it completely covers the canvas. Use the Ctrl key if you want to keep the texture's proportions). Then right-click the texture's layer and choose New Layer to convert it to a normal layer:

  3. Now, change its mode to Multiply, and change its opacity to a value that works for you, and there. The cartoon is complete!

Here is my final piece:

About the Author

  • Juan Manuel Ferreyra

    Juan Manuel Ferreyra is an illustrator and animator from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is 34 and lives with his cat. Although he started drawing at a young age, computers caught all his attention, and he worked in the IT world for many years. He dropped out from Computer Engineering and started studying filmmaking, working on his own projects and as a freelance illustrator in his free time. After a few years, he decided to leave the IT world and started working as a full time freelance illustrator and animator; his website is The cat is happy.

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Latest Reviews

(2 reviews total)
Very informative and relevant.
Bought to get help to understand Gimp