GIMP Tutorial: Just in time for Valentines!

by . February 15th, 2011

Well, almost.

Welcome to another GIMP Tutorial. Last week, we have created a shiny button and have seen how easy it is to make the appealing effect from scratch. Clickhere to see the previous tutorial.

This time, while Valentines is just around the corner, let us create a cool heart design. You can even make your own wallpaper with just a little tweaking.

So let’s go!

  • GIMP 2.6 (download here)

NOTE: Like in the previous GIMP tutorial we had, we will be showing the initial steps in setting up our project. Feel free to skip the steps that you already know and just head straight to the important ones.

At the end of this tutorial, we should have something like the image below:


Step 1: Getting Up the Canvas

Before anything else, we must decide how big our initial canvas would be. It would be more like choosing the type and size of a sheet pf paper when drawing. For this project, we will create an 800 x 600 white field image. But the choice is yours, really. But remember that the larger your image is, the more memory you will use.


Immediately after creating the new image, it is a good idea that we save our image accordingly. However, we simply wouldn’t save this image as one of the common image formats like JPG, PNG, etc. But instead, we’ll save it in a native GIMP format, so that we could later preserve all the data that we add which would include layers, selections, paths, channels, etc. If you’re a Photoshop artist, it’s comparable to saving it in the PSD format. In GIMP world, we recognize the format as XCF.

Let’s go ahead and save this image. Go to File > Save, then on the dialog that appears, type in the name of your project and explicitly add the .xcf file extension or simply type the name and GIMP will automatically append the .xcf extension.


Aftweward, you’ll now notice our Image Window’s header is labeled with what we have named our project together with other corresponding image information (image mode, layer number, dimension, etc.).


Step 2: Renaming the Layers

As with any project, it is really vital to organize your sets, assets, layers, and whatnot. After image creation, our Layers Window is immediately added with a new layer named Background; this, by itself, is much descriptive of its purpose already, but if you want to further recognize this layer, you can rename it by double clicking the layer name and adding in yours. Press Enter to confirm layer renaming. In our case, we named it “bg”, short for background.


Step 3: Creating A New Layer

It is always a good practice to always use new layers whenever you add new elements to your scene, regardless of how small. This new layer will serve as our container for our basic shape. Let’s name it “shape”.


Step 4: Creating the Shape

Let’s create the heart shape! Unfortunately, as of this writing, the current version of GIMP doesn’t support shapes like this one. But it is nothing to get worried about. Paths Tool is here to our rescue (known in Photoshop as Pen Tool.

Go ahead and select the Paths Tool from your Toolbox Window or press B to activate it. Under the Paths Option, enable Design (if it wasn’t by default).


Proceed to your Image Window and begin adding your first point by left clicking on your image (as seen in the screenshot). Most of the time, you will also see tool hints on the status area of your Image Window. This can often guide you with the tool you are using.


By default, the last point added to your path will be the active one, indicated by a circle filled with white; otherwise, when inactive, it will be a black circle. To select points (or commonly called anchors), simply enable the Paths Tool and left click on any point you wish to activate, shift left clicking points will select multiple points accordingly.

With the first point added, we’ll follow it up with the second point which will serve as the tip of our heart (you’ll see how in a while). To add the second point, simply left click on a part of the image you wish to place the anchor. But there is one handy technique in adding anchor points: while left clicking (adding), hold the left mouse button and drag around to see control points being created alongside, to save some time in the process. However, if you don’t wish to do this, you can left click and simply add the point, then to add control points, hold the CTRL key while left click dragging. There are a maximum of two control points that can be added to a curve, thus defining the bezier path.


Then finally, we’ll close the path by connecting the 2nd point back to the first point, creating a closed loop. To do that, with the Paths Tool still active, hover your mouse to the first anchor, hold the CTRL key, then finally left click. As you hold down the CTRL key, you’ll notice a hint below on the status area telling you what it does.

After you’ve done so, you’ll now see a closed loop, but not as heart-shaped as we thought it would be. We’ll fix that in a moment.


Now that we have managed to close the loop, it’s time to create the heart shape once and for all. Still with the Paths Tool active, select the lower anchor. Now move the control points (square shapes) by left click dragging one of them. Alternatively, you could also hold down the SHIFT button while doing this to constraint both of the control points in the adjustment. Continue moving the points until you create a shape similar to the image below:


Do the same to the anchor point at the top and keep adjusting all points until you create something like the shape below:


With the shape created, proceed to the Tool Options of the Paths Tool under the Toolbox Window and click Selection from Path; or simply press the ENTER button while on the Image Window to create a selection out of the shape we created via paths. Then to deselect the paths visualization on the image window, simply select other tools – this will automatically hide the paths from the view.


Step 5: Coloring the Shape

While the selection is active, it’s a good time to add color to our heart. From the Toolbox Window, select a foreground color with a lighter shade of red and a background color with a darker shade of red. Then activate the Blend Tool, then under the Options menu, select Radial as the shape.


Next, proceed to the Image Window, where the selection is still active then perform the coloring process by left click dragging the mouse from the center of the heart to the outside part (as seen in the screenshot).


Creating something like this:


Step 6: Creating Edge Shadows

With the selection still active, proceed to the Image Window, right click the selection and choose Select > Shrink. Then on the dialog that appears, type in a value for the shrinking. We had ours set at 15 pixels.


Next step is to invert the selection. Do this by right clicking on the selection, then choosing Select > Invert. This will now select the outer part of the heart together with the background. But since we have a transparent background in our layer “shape”, only the heart element will be affected by our alterations.


Again, under the same menu, right click the selection then choose Select > Feather. On the dialog window that appears, type in some value. This will make our selection fuzzy, therefore creating a smoother transition when we’ll be adding color later on.


Then finally, to create the darkening effect, right click on the selection and choose Color > Brightness/Contrast. Then adjust the values accordingly depending on how dark you wish the edges of your heart will be.


Step 7: Creating the Shine

To create the shine, similar steps will be taken just like in the previous ones, only in different order.

Proceed to the Layers Window and add a new layer with the name “shine”.


This new layer will serve as our container for the shine effect that we’ll be adding later on. To get a nice starting shape for our shine, the easiest way to do it would be to derive it from the heart shape itself. To do so, right click the layer shape and select Alpha to Selection. This will select everything but transparent, therefore, the heart we created a while ago.


Once the selection has been made, make sure to activate the “shine” layer again, so that whatever we create on our canvas will be placed here and not on the previously selected “shape” layer.


Next, shrink the selection:


Activate the Paths Tool and create a shape similar to the image below. This will enable us to select part of the selection later on.


With the Paths Tool still active, press and hold CTRL SHIFT, then press ENTER. What this will do is it will create a selection based from the previous selection we have made, BUT using a Boolean effect with the Intersect option.


Let’s go back and enable the Blend Tool. Choose a foreground color of white or something close to that. The background color doesn’t matter since we’ll use a Foreground to Transparent Option in our blending (as you can see in the screenshot below).


Then applying the color blending, we achieve something like this:


Then with further tweaking, we can achieve something like this:


” /> #37

Step 8: Creating Duplicates

Head over to the Layers Window and duplicate the layers: “shine” and “shape”.


Then, move both of these layers below the “shape” layer but above “bg” layer.


Then, finally, merge these two duplicate layers to create one single layer. Right click on layer “shine copy” and select Merge Down. This will merge the layers “shine copy” and “shape copy,” creating one single layer.


Now, you can freely move and transform the layer to your liking. Use the Move Tool, Scale Tool, Rotate Tool, and Perspective Tool at your disposal to create something like this:


Exporting the Image

That’s about it! With further tweaking and additions here and there, we can achieve stunning results. And finally, to output the file to a readable format, go to File > Save As and remove the .xcf extension and replace it with either .jpg or .png. Or you can use other file formats that you wish. Additionally, you can also select from the list on the dialog window.


Final Image After Further Tweaking


In line with the love season, we at have presented to you one lovely tutorial for you to munch on. We took you to the process of creating shapes with the paths tool, colorizing selections with the blend tool, and some selection techniques that will further add more edge to your designs. We hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial as much as we did making it for you. Please feel free to leave your comments below. We love to hear what you have to say. See you next time!