How To: Give Your Blog Layers! (Part 2 of GIMP tutorials)
You asked for it? You get it! Sorry it’s taken so long to get this post out. (Pretty much any post at all… Happy April!)
First… re-open GIMP. Are you lost? My first post is here. Make sure you know what’s going on in that post and know how it works, because this one is quite a bit more advanced. Also, feel free to play around with GIMP.
This time instead of giving step by step details of how to make a specific picture, this post is about how to use layering techniques and different styles.
This time instead of adding extra effects, while there’s plenty of that, I’m going to teach a little bit of how to make everything stack and fit together. This is called layers. In the last post, I skipped right past it even though we did a little bit.
On the sidebar, there should be a Layers tab. (Picture) If there’s not, go over to the gray arrow pointing left that is across horizontally from the layers button that is moused over in that picture. Click the gray arrow, mouse over add tab, and the third choice is Layers. Add that tab. (Picture) This will allow you to use more layering techniques rather than just painting or pasting things on the same level.
When you create a new image, you’ll see a new layer has appeared on your Layers menu. It is called Background. Right click this layer and click “Add Alpha Channel.” Think of a layer like a sheet of paper. If you add the Alpha Channel, it changes into a plastic sheet. This sheet can be colored or parts or all of it can be clear. Without this, when you delete something it switches the color to white or your selected background color. This completely erases it and shows the layer under.
If you click on a layer and drag it, it’s like putting the sheet of paper (or clear plastic or whatever) under however many pieces you drag it under. You’re changing the order you see them, basically. If one layer is on the top, it will appear on the top. Layers can be used to lift parts of an image up, sometimes so that you can apply built-in GIMP effects to that layer or use brushes, erasers, etc on that layer only.
These rules also apply to text layers. Text layers are clear except for the physical text.
If you have a layer selected and you use an effect (I’ll get to this next) or a paintbrush/eraser, it only effects that layer.
Effects and Filters
Effects or Filters are built-in to GIMP and add things to your image that you wouldn’t be able to do easily without it. The one that I use most is in the Blur section. (Filters > Blur) It’s called Gaussian Blur, and it is the simplest blur. I used in the last post, and it evenly spreads, or blurs, the picture as far as you set the “blur radius.” The higher the radius, the more blurry and the farther the colors move outward. I used this in the last post for the glow effect because if you use this on solid colors (on their own layer) it gives the edges a fuzzy look.
Vignette and Gaussian Blur
You can use Gaussian Blur to do many effects, and combined with layering, the possibilities are endless. One idea is framing pictures around with black fuzzy edges to give a vignette feel. To do this, make a new transparent layer, and use a sizable paintbrush to draw black evenly around the edges. Then use the Gaussian Blur effect to make it less dense and to spread the color (or, really, absence of color) farther inward. Change the width of the paintbrush for the width and density of the edges, and change the blur radius to adjust how far the color goes inward. Also, if the blur radius is high enough, the blur starts getting thinner, so be sure to keep these two (paintbrush and blur radius) in check.
Layers and Gaussian Blur can also be used to create a better foreground-background effect than layers do by themselves. It’s very simple. Select something in the foreground by using either the free select tool (lasso) where you have to mouse around where you select, the scissors select tool (scissors) where you click points and it finds the most reasonable (usually) connection between them, or the paths select tool (dotted line next to fountain pen) where you leave points and it connects straight lines between them. After you have selected the item in the foreground you want to stand out, go to Select > Float. Then in the layers tab on the side of your screen, right click the floating layer and click To New Layer. Make sure to move this layer to the top or wherever you want it to be. Go back to the background with the original image and use Gaussian Blur. You don’t have to use this with images in the foreground and background, you can also use text.
Above the listed layers on the layers tab on the right side, there is a bar that says “Opacity.” This means how easily you can see through this. 0% means completely see-through, you can’t see through 100%. You can adjust opacity for a layer at a time, and sometimes this makes a good picture to cover up part of an image, but you can still see through. I’ve used this technique for some of the pictures to show you exactly what to click in these tutorials. (Example Picture)
I learned most of these techniques by playing around with filters and looking a couple things up (one of those being glow!) GIMP is really easy and fun to work with and layering really opens up your opportunities with it. If you want more help, or want something explained better, please, please comment!