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DIYday Lesson 11: GIMP 104: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

GIMPNow that I have given you a few basics for GIMP, I want to put them to use and show you how to create a fancy graphic step by step. This will have a lot of pictures so you can follow along. If you have followed my posts until now, you probably have a few brushes, patterns and fonts to play around with. If not, I strongly suggest you read up on those and check them out. It will make using GIMP a lot more fun if you don’t have to go browse the internet for what you need last minute. Okay! Are you ready? Here we go!

Step 1: Open GIMP and create a new canvas using File–> New. You will get a dialogue box. Enter the dimensions below:


This creates a blank white canvas. It is the basis for your image.

Step 2: Fill the canvas with clouds. You do this with Filters–>Render–>Clouds–>Difference Clouds.


You can play around with the settings in the dialogue box. It will give you a small window preview right there. When you find one you like, click OK. You should end up with something like this:


Step 3: Duplicate the layer. You will need to do this the long way, because you will need it to be on transparency. So go to Layer–>New Layer. The default should be set to transparency, which is what we want so click OK. Then go to Edit–>Copy Visible. Then Edit–>Paste. This will paste the copy onto your new layer.


Step 4: Now that you have the image there twice, flip the top one. This will add complexity and contrast later on. Go to Layer–>Transform–>Flip Horizontally, and then again Layer–>Transform–>Flip Vertically. Once you have that done, duplicate the layer. You will need it later. Layer–>Duplicate Layer.

Step 5: You should now have 3 layers. Using the little eye symbol next to the layers, make all but the bottom layer invisible. Select the bottom layer and add a little color by using Colors–>Colorize.  You will get this dialogue box:


Move the scales left and right to find a shade you like. You will notice in the main window that your image changes with the scales so you can see what you are doing. Do this for each of the three layers, a different color for each. You should end up with something like this:


Step 6: Select the eraser tool and choose the round brush which has the most blurring around the edges. The size should be really big so that you get a little gradient around the edges of what you are erasing. Select the topmost layer and erase at each corner so you are left with only a patch in the middle. Then select the layer below and erase two corners, top left and bottom right, so the bottom most layer shows through. It should look something like this:


Step 7: Add contrast. Using the brush tool, select a brush you like. I used a swirl tool which I have downloaded here. And I colored it a neon aqua color so that it will stand out. Do this on a new, transparent layer. Once you have the brush the way you want it, duplicate this layer. Then select the lower one and blur it to add a glow. To do this, go to Filters–>Blur–>Gaussian Blur. In the dialogue box enter 25 as the value for each window. This will blur the image outward evenly.


When you click OK you should get something like this (by the way, this reminds me of something out of Babylon 5 hyper space! The Shadows are here!!!!):


Step 8: Add text. The text tool automatically adds a new layer to your project so that you can manipulate it individually. Select an area of the image and type in some text. You can choose a special font and alter the size as you wish until you have it just right.


Step 9: Now here comes the tricky part. We are going to make this text look metallic. There are filters you can use for this, but they don’t work in a way I can practically use. I use a special trick with gradients which is kind of simple, but creates a nice effect every time. So, you will notice that this text is black. You can use any color and then use a different color gradient to match. This one will end up looking silvery. First, duplicate your text layer so that you do not lose it. Then select the top text layer and use the Select by Color tool and click on the text itself to select it.

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

Now with the text selected, click on the Gradient tool and choose a gradient. For this, use the one that says FG to Transparent. This means it will add shading to the color you already have rather than replace your color with two different ones.

Click somewhere above your text and drag down to just below the middle, then release the mouse button. Now click below the text and drag up to just above the middle. You should now have text that has a different color stripe across the middle. Something like this:


Step 10: Add a bevel to your text. First, deselect everything by going to Select–>None. When the blinky dotted outline disappears, go to Filters–>Decor–>Add Bevel. You will again get a dialogue box.


Choose a thickness that will work for your font. If your font is very heavy, you are okay to use a larger thickness for the bevel. If it’s a very thin font, stick to 1-2 pixels for the bevel. Don’t forget to uncheck the box next to Work on Copy. Otherwise this will create a brand new project, which we don’t want. Click OK and you will get something like this:


You should still have your original text layer unchanged. Using the Gaussian Blur filter, blur it and duplicate the layer. This will make your silvery text pop off the image and it will be easier to read. You can repeat this text process for as many different text layers as you want. I will have two in my image.

Step 11: Looking at my image, I see that the background is too light. Remember our layers of clouds? I want to make them darker, richer in color. To do this, I will first merge the three layers together. Select the top one of the three and right-click it. From the menu that pops up, select Merge Down. You now should have only two cloud layers. Repeat this until you only have one layer left. Now I only have one layer to work with. Click on the layer to select it and then go to Colors–>Brightness-Contrast.


In the dialogue box move the scales left and right and watch how the image changes. I want less brightness, but that alone leeches color out, so I will add more contrast to make up for it. And voila! My new image now looks like this:

You will notice that the loop of my d in Graduate looks like it’s going through GIMP. I created this effect by duplicating my text layer. One copy stayed on the bottom and the other moved up above the GIMP layer. I then erased parts of the top layer so the lines of GIMP showed through.

Step 12: It’s time to save the graphic. If you like the image as is and you are sure you are done with it, you can go directly to File–>Export. If not, first go to Edit–>Copy Visible. Then create a new canvas with the same dimensions (see step 1) and paste the graphic onto the blank canvas. You can now export and save in any format you need. I chose to save in .PNG format, which then gives me a dialogue box of choices These are the presets I usually use:

When I click Export, GIMP will save a copy of the graphic in my chosen folder. I can now close this separate project without saving because I have the original with individual layers. That one I can save. File–>Save, which will create a .XCF version of the file, which I can later open in GIMP and edit again.

Okay so that was not a BASIC basic graphic, but it did illustrate a lot of the tricks and capabilities GIMP is capable of. I hope you enjoyed it and that you found it useful. This concludes the GIMP part of my DIYday tutorials. Next week will be something new and hopefully just as exciting. See you later!

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