[LONG Imageless Tut]

I'm going to make an effort to talk about the basic tools.
I'm going to start with colors.

Have you fell in love with a kit but the colors just don't work for you? Don't skip over a download or a purchase simply because the colors won't fit your needs.

There are several ways to recolor something and depending on what needs to be recolored, there are ways that are better than others so knowing what the tools do will allow you to choose correctly.


I use this often. If I'm just wanting to offer a bunch of elements and am not working with a specific palette, this is the best choice. It's also what you want to use if there are many colors in the item to be changed.

Hue - changes the actual color (red to orange to yellow)
Lightness - makes it lighter or darker but doesn't change the color (dark red to pink)
Saturation - adds color or removes color from the image (takes the red and makes it fire engine red or a grayish red, even gray and no red at all)

Used with the magic wand or selection tools, you can isolate parts of your image to recolor.

Saturation can make a bright color more earthy and an earthy color brighter. You can manually change the saturation of an image to give it that watercolor effect you see in many professional photos. You will use selection tools, don't forget about Select>Invert too. Let's say you want a black and white photo but leave some items in color. You can select the area that is to stay in color, and then invert, then use saturation tool, or you can choose what changes to black and white and desaturate. It all depends and what's easiest for you to select.

Get confused about saturate and desaturate? De is a negative prefix and if you can remember saturate in relation to water means get wetter, think of the water as paint and paint as color. To saturate is to get wetter, more paint, more water. To desaturate is to take away the water, the paint, the color.


You have to be careful with color balance. This tool comes with sliders where you can change the amount of each color that is within the image or selection. An area of color can contain shadows, midtones and highlights. If you have a circle of color, changing the color is simple, but if that circle is actually an orb, things get a little complicated. You'll notice that the color balance tool might change those shadows, midtones and highlights to an undesired effect. This tool needs a lot of experimentation and you have to eyeball your image in different zoom levels. It might look fine at 25% but at 100% you might notice the edges between a midtone and highlight has morphed into something more sci-fi than you intended.

Color balance is a great tool for playing with those images from the 70's that have aged. I will save several versions. After a few days, I'll go back and look at the results. Sometimes staring at the image for so long, they all look good or awful. Later you'll find the one that looks right.

I will repair blemishes on the photo after fixing the color balance. Sometimes CB will actually make those repairs pop. You don't want that.

Dirt spots? Color balance can help here. Use your selection tools to pick the dirt spot and play with the blemish. You might need to use the smudge or clone tools to deal with the edges. I'll talk more about those later.


This is a quick recoloring tool and comes with a hue-sat slider. It's a fun tool. I use it if I am not using a dedicated palette.


This is under filters. It's just like the colorize tool, however this one you can add a color code to use a specific color. If you don't know the color code, you can get it from your foreground color picker. Double click on the foreground, pick your color and grab the code from the HTML notation box. You can copy and paste this.


Use this if you have a color you want to remove and you can use the copy and paste method from above. You have to remember that this color you are removing might be hidden throughout your image and will create vellum qualities in areas. Lets say you want to remove a blue color but have reds and purples. You know that it'll take the blue hue from the purple, but did you know that it might also alter the red? Experimentation and selection tools are recommended. I most commonly use this for black and white images, however turning your image to grayscale will allow the program to remove the white anyway when creating a brush.


Under the selection tools menu, this will allow you to select all parts of the image that are of that color, thus being able to use the hue-sat or color bal tools. This is a really fickle tool like color balance. You have to pay a lot of attention to detail to get the correct results you desire. Make sure you Select>None to check boundaries. The marching ants will hide those borders.


This is found under Image>Mode and it'll pull apart an image into layers and results are grayscale. I haven't needed this so I can't comment on it.


This can do a lot for an image for color correction. Those faded photographs sometimes have the correct color and color balance isn't fixing the problem. Also, it's neat to use this to make some things just pop. The photo might be fine, you just want to emphasize or 'trick-out' your image. This can be a very powerful tool in layout creation. It gets neglected, as do many tools, thinking they are just for repairs. B/C is similar to saturation, but remember this deals with the whole image, background, flaws and all. Use with the selection tool to isolate areas.


This can recolor a pic from normal to a photocopy like image. I don't know what it's intended for but I like playing with the pics, using this and layers. I leave one layer in color and then use this layer on top or bottom. I play with the opacity and layer modes for each of the layers. Threshold can be a whole lot of fun.


Take Threshold, Saturation and Color Balance and put them in an all-in-one tool. I've used this a few times to fix photos. It's one best left to playing instead of explaining. I still don't know enough about this tool to be even an 'almost' expert.


Another tool I don't know too much about but have used before. Some tutorials use curves and will walk you thru it. It also alters color, brightness and blackness. I used this once to create a metal frame (remember my square buttons with the semi-opaque glass?).


Changing your layer mode can change the color of that layer or the one beneath it. I use bucket fill and layer modes to color items like ribbons. I have the ribbon as the bottom layer and the color layer is above it. I usually use overlay mode. I might use a combination of overlay and burn using multiple copies of the color layer. Sometimes one layer of color isn't enough, but two is too much. That's when I change the opacity of one of the layers. Keep in mind that your color layer doesn't have to be color. It can be an overlay of texture or a pattern. If the color layer has many colors, this will affect the layer below and the final color. If your bottom layer has blue and the upper layer has red, you will end up with purples.

If you are designing, this can be a way to find new kits. If you don't have a color palette, start by playing with grunge layers of different colors and experiment with tucking in some of your old papers and see what happens. Add some brush work on one of the layers or it's own layer.


If I missed something, please share it in the comments for all to see. Have a favorite method? Share that too.


Anonymous said...

Nice explanation of Gimp's tools

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