How to do basic photo tweaking using GIMP Part 2

This tutorial will show you how to use Gimp to do some basic, and practical edits to a photo.

Hover over the image to alternate between before and after

Pre Requisites

Files to Download

Stretch the backdrop

First, we’re going to fix the backdrop by extending it to the edges of our photo. This will be done by collecting a sample of the backdrop, and copying it over.

  • Using the rectangle select tool, select the available backdrop area, like I have selected here.
  • Click edit>>>copy to copy the selection
  • Click edit>>>paste to paste the selection
  • Right-click on the floating layer in the layers dockable dialog, and click “to new layer”
  • Rename this layer “backdrop
  • Using the flip tool (Shift+F), flip the backdrop layer horizontally
  • Move the layer in the top-right corner. You should end up with what you see int he second image here.


Duplicate the backdrop

Next up, we’re going to use the same sample, and duplicate it down the right side to create the rest of the backdrop

  • duplicate the backdrop layer, and move the duplicated layer down 1 fill distance.
  • Continue to duplicate the backdrop layer until the right-side of your backdrop is covered. Your photo should look something like what you see here.
  • Right-click on the topmost backdrop layer, and click “merge down.” Repeat this step until all of the backdrop layers are on a single layer.

Blend the backdrop

Now that we have the backdrop placed, we need to blend the edge so it doesn’t look fake.

  • right-click on the newly merged backdrop layer, and add a layer mask. Fill the layer mask with white
  • hit the D key on your keyboard to reset your colors to black and white.
  • using the blend tool (L) create a gradient to blend the left side. The photo should look like what you see here.

Bring the kids to the foreground

Now that we have the backdrop blended and placed, let’s bring the kids back to the foreground.

  • using the brush tool and making sure that you’re on the layer mask of the backdrop layer. carefully brush the backdrop off of the boy.
  • Your image should look like what you see in the second image here.
  • Repeat these steps for the opposite side. I ended up with the third image here.



Add a shadow to the bottom of the backdrop

Although optional, I felt that adding a small shadow on the bottom of the backdrop helped make this backdropp look real.

  • Create a new layer, name the new layer “backdropshadow”
  • Using the blend tool (Shortcut Key “L”) change the settings to a black to transparent gradient, and the shape setting to bi-linear.
  • Create a thin gradient, and make it horizontal.
  • using the move tool, drag your gradient to a position like you see here
  • rotate the gradient. Click on the rotate tool (Shift+R)
  • Click on the gradient to put it into rotate mode. Notice the circle with cross hairs in the center of the rotation box? That marks the center of your rotation. Click on that circle, and drag it to the far-left side of the screen, right on top of your gradient
  • Rotate the gradient down so the photo now looks like the second image you see here.


Make the shadow look real

Now that we have the shadow in-place, we just need to make it look real and make it appear to be behind the kids.

  • Set the layer mode to overlay. Now it looks more shadow-like.
  • Right-click on the layer, and click “Add Layer Mask.”
  • Brushing on the layer mask, brush off the areas of the shadow that should not be there
  • I ended up with what you see here.

Create a shadow guide

Now, we want to make the shadows a little more dramatic on the face. To make this easier, we’re going to pull the shadows out and create a “guide”

  • Duplicate the background layer. Name this new layer “Shadereference”
  • Click Colors>>>curves>>>adjust the curves as shown here

You just created a reference for your facial shading. Notice the different colors in the face? Those are exaggerated versions of ever-so slight changes in the brightness of the person’s face. Using this layer as a reference, we can add the shadow we want on our “normal” photo.

Shade the photo using the guide

Now that we have a guide to help show us where the shadows are, we are going to add some dramatic shadows to the photo.

  • Create a new layer, fill it with black, and name it “Faceshade1″
  • Add a layer mask to Faceshade1, and fill the layer mask with black.
  • Ensuring that you’re brushing on the layer mask, and using the shadereference layer to help determine where the shadows are (hint, they’re usually blue in this photo.) brush extra shadow into the proper parts of the boy with glasses’s face.
  • Set FaceShade1 to Overlay, and adjust it’s opacity to something you’re happy with. I set mine to 45
  • Hover over the image shown here to see what the faceshade reference looks like with my black painting on it

Repeat these steps on the other boy face

Now that we have done one of the boys’ faces, let’s repeat these steps on the other.

  • Create a new layer, fill it with black, and name it “Faceshade2″
  • Add a layer mask to Faceshade1, and fill the layer mask with black.
  • Ensuring that you’re brushing on the layer mask, and using the shadereference layer to help determine where the shadows are (hint, they’re usually blue in this photo.) brush extra shadow into the proper parts of the boy with glasses’s face.
  • Set FaceShade1 to Overlay, and adjust it’s opacity to something you’re happy with. I set mine to 45
  • Hover over the image shown here to see what the faceshade reference looks like with my black painting on it

Whiten the eyes

Let’s whiten their eyes a bit to make them pop.

  • Zoom in on the kid with the glasses. Create a new layer, called “EyeWhiten1.” Fill the layer white, and set the layer mode to Saturation.
  • Add a layer mask to EyeWhiten1, fill it with black.
  • Make sure you’re editing the EyeWhiten1 layer mask, and brush the whites of the eyes with white.
  • Adjust the opacity down to something you like. I set mine to 50, and it looks like what you see here.

Brighten the eyes

Let’s brighten their eyes a bit to make them pop.

  • Create a new layer, name the layer “EyeHighlight1″ Fill this layer with white, and set the layer mode to Overlay.
  • Create a layer mask for EyeHighlight1, fill the layer mask with black.
  • Make sure you’re editing the EyeWhiten1 layer mask, and brush the whites of the eyes with white.
  • Adjust the opacity down to something you like. I set mine to 50, and it looks like what you see here.
  • and that you’re Using a soft brush, brush each iris white.
  • Repeat these steps for the both boys’ eyes. I ended up with what you see here.

Fix Underexposed portions of the photos

Let’s enhance some underexposed parts of the jeans, where our flash didn’t quite do the trick.

  • Create a new layer, name it “LightenJeans” fill the layer with white, and set the layer mode to overlay.
  • Add a layer mask to LightenJeans, filling the layer mask with black.
  • Ensuring that you’re editing the LightenJeans layer mask, brush the older boy’s jeans with white. If you make a mistake, remember that brushing with black will serve as an eraser.

Highlight The Center

Let’s add a highlight around the center of the photo to help draw attention to the subjects

  • Create a new layer, name it “Highlight.” Set the layer mode to Overlay, and fill the layer with black.
  • Create a layer mask for the highlight layer. Fill the layer mask with white.
  • Select the blend tool (Shortcut Key L) and change it settings to to a white-to-black gradient. Change the shape to radial.
  • Click and drag from the center of the boys, and drag out to the end of the older boy’s foot.

Crop the photo

For the final step, let’s crop the photo down.

  • Select the Crop Tool (Shift+C)
  • In the crop tool options, make sure the “fixed aspect ratio” box is checked. That will ensure that the photo will still print at the same ratio as the original size.
  • Click, and drag a box. Move the box, and adjust the handles until your photo is set to something that you like, and press enter.
  • My final photo looks like what you see here.

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