Originally Published: Tuesday, 1 August 2000 Author: Alex Pearsall
Published to: learn_articles_firststep/General Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Gimp for Newbies, Part 2

By now, you've familiarized yourself with some of the more basic functions of this wonderful graphics program, The GIMP. You've used basic paint brushes, and experimented with some of the tools that you see in the toolbar. Maybe you've even dabbled briefly in the art of Script-FU. Either way, this informational piece should help you unearth some of the more interesting and funky dialogs of The GIMP.

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By now, you've familiarized yourself with some of the more basic functions of this wonderful graphics program, The GIMP. You've used basic paint brushes, and experimented with some of the tools that you see in the toolbar. Maybe you've even dabbled briefly in the art of Script-FU. Either way, this informational piece should help you unearth some of the more interesting and funky dialogs of The GIMP - things such as variable Blurs, Distorts, Light effects, and other additions to your image which may make it look more professional or interesting. We will also cover basic layers, and how to convert your Layered GIMP drawing into a JPEG, PNG or GIF.

Lets start out by making a basic image with some colored text to show some of these above mentioned dialogs. First off, create a new image from the File menu. Make it the default size of 256x256. You will start off with a white background and a blue foreground (indicated by the two color boxes at the bottom of your tool-box). Let's first fill the image with a black background by doing the following. Double click the black (this is the foreground color by the way) color box and drag your mouse until you see the color that changes in the right upper corner changes to black. Let's now select the Color Fill tool, and click the image (changing the background to black). Let's add some simple text with the text tool, so our Blurs and Distorts will show up. First change the color. Use the foreground color for this (the white color box is for the background color, for when you are doing things like cutting regions of the image and pasting them elsewhere, but that will come later). Change the color in the foreground box to a light or dark blue. Be aware that a lighter blue will show up better on the black, as will your changes. Use the text tool, and select a font of your choice. Enter your text in the lower dialog box. The text can be whatever you wish - your name, a phrase, etc., but make it big enough so that you wont need to use a magnifying glass to see it.

Now you should have a unsaved image with a plain black background and some bluish lettering on it. Looks pretty lame, eh? Well, hold onto your mouse and your coffee mug, for the GIMP is about to make your image look like a car in one of those miracle wipe wax commercials. Here we go!

Right click on the image, anywhere, as long as it is inside the black background of the image. Select the "Filters" sub-menu. Then select the "Blur" sub-menu. Then click on "Motion Blur". A dialog will pop-up with a number of fields and options. Let's change the "Length" option to 11 (for emphasis). Leave the "Angle" option alone, but do select the "Zoom" button from the list of blur types (don't worry, you can experiment with these later). Go ahead, take a sip of your drink of choice and click the "Ok" button. Watch what happens to your image. WOW! Isn't that weird? Has sort of a 3-d'ish effect to it, no? Well, let's add a additional layer on top of it to confuse (and enhance) the image a bit. (*For the adventurous types, if you wish to try to other blur options, type "Control-V" to undo the blur changes, and go down and select some other blur types from the motion blur dialog. Trust me, they're cool.) For the rest of you, let me explain to you what a layer is.

When you start off drawing on paper, you could make, say, some lettering, or a drawing. This is what we call our "Background" layer. It's the actual base of the image. When you add a layer to a image (specifically a transparent one), it is like adding a see-through piece of plastic film (that you can draw on) over the image. Then, you might draw on top of the plastic film, but you can still see the underlying image that you drew on the paper. If you want a more specific definition, here is the definition from The Official GIMP Handbook: "Using layers is really as simple and straight forward as wearing layers of clothes on your body. Once you have started to use layers, you won't understand how you could ever do without them." Hopefully, that helps you to understand a little better.

Back to business. Let's add a new layer by right-clicking on the image and selecting the "Layers" sub-menu, then going to the "Layers & Channels" option. A dialog will pop up showing your current layer configuration for the Image you're working on. The various options shown all affect your image. The top is the image name (useful if you are working with multiple images at once), and the next option stands for diffent modes of dealing with the layers of your image. The "keep trans" radio button stands for "Keep Transparency", but you need not worry about that right now. The next option down is the Opacity. This allows you to adjust how strong the graphics on your layer are (works best with transparent layers). The next option down shows the actual layers of the image that you are currently working on. It shows that you have only one layer. Your background layer is the "core" of your image. There are several options below that that allow you to modify whichever layer is highlighted (shown by the blue surrounding the background layer you see). Most of them are self-explanatory. But for those who still want to know, hover your mouse over each of the available buttons. Click on "New Layer". At the dialog box that pops up, change the name to "my first layer!" Keep the same height and width as your image. For the layer fill type select "transparent". Click "Ok". BAMF! You now have a multi-layered image. You'll see that you are working on the new layer you just created by the fact that it is highlighted in blue. This means any changes you draw on the image are on THIS layer, and NOT on the background (which is not selected).

Lets add some more spice to this by adding some more text. Same size, same font, same lettering as before, but lets make the color yellow (just for some fun). Using the mouse to move the text around, position it so that it is as close as you can get to where the old blurred text is. It doesn't matter if you're dead on, the end result will still look cool. After you have positioned the new text over the old text as best as you can, move back to the "Layers & Channels" selection. If you've already closed it, don't fret, just open it up again. Now make sure that the "my first layer!" layer is highlighted in blue, and adjust the "Opacity" option to about 40-45 (indicated by the number you'll see changing as you slide the bar). Cool beans, eh? Kinda blends into the background! Lets put the final touch on this image by throwing a quick distort into it.

To add this distort, you will use yet another option from the "Filter" sub-menu. But first, from the "Layers & Channels" dialog, MAKE SURE that you select the "Background" layer. Once you have done this, then right-click on the image again and select the "Filter" sub-menu. Go down to the "Distorts" option and then select the "Whirl and Pinch" option from the list presented. Yet another pop-up dialog will show up, but this one will have a small thumbnailish picture of your image. You'll notice if you slide the bars back and forth you will get different effects, but mostly swirl effects. Once you have found a setting that you like, click "Ok" and your image will change to what you saw on the preview window. Except, since you highlighted the background layer, your yellow text still remains the same! Woohoo! Sit back and admire the work you have done. You are beginning to understand the powers of the GIMP! To save this file to a accepted file format so your Windows 98 buddies (who think that the only good graphics program available is Photoshop) can be wowed by your powers, you'll need to learn to use the GIMP save dialog.

To save files in the GIMP under a format like JPEG or PNG, you need to convert it back to a one layer image. You do this by right clicking on the image, selecting the "Layers" sub-menu, and then from the next menu, the "Merge Layers" option. This pretty much sandwiches the layers together so that they are now all one big background layer. It will come up with a dialog box that gives you a number of options. All we need now is "Expanded As Necessary". Click ok, and resume your business. After you have successfully merged the two layers into one, you are ready to save as a JPEG or PNG. Right click the image and from the "File" sub-menu, select "Save As". Yet another dialog will come up and show you various options for saving (name of file, where it is to be saved, and file type). For our purposes, you can either save as a JPEG or a PNG. Both are compressed picture file formats (although PNG looks a lot better). The options that come up you need not worry about now, just click "OK" and your image will save. You can then open this image in the GIMP again, or anything that displays picture files. Let your mind roam... Explore different features in Distorts, Blur and other things. (Hint: Try some of the options in "Light Effects" from the "Dialogs" sub-menu.) Until next time...





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