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January 25, 2004

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Mike Angelo's Digital Darkroom

How to Use GIMP for Photo and Image Editing #2: Introduction to Layers

Use GIMP rather than Photoshop and save money

Mike Angelo -- 25 January 2004 (C) -- Page 2


Article Index
Figures Note: Due to page layout constraints, the figures will not always be adjacent to the text referring to them.

If you have a tab-capable browser such as Konqueror, Mozilla, or Netcaptor, then you can open separate tabs for each figure in addition to the tab in which you are reading this tutorial. That way, you can simply flip tabs to view a figure to which the tutorial text refers.

Another way to do this is to have two browser windows open and tiled vertically. In one browser window have the tutorial text. In the other browser window have the figure to which the text refers. If your monitor has a large enough resolution setting, you will be able to view the text and the figure to which it refers at the same time.

  • Into the Digital Darkroom

Let's enter the digital darkroom and start this lesson by opening the GIMP. That should bring up the GIMP Toolbox and the default combination dialog box.

(In pre-1.3 GIMP versions there are no combo dialog boxes they each are individual, rather than combo, boxes. If you are a Photoshop user, please note that palettes in Photoshop are called dialogs (as in dialog boxes) in GIMP.)

The Toolbox is the upper left box in Figure 1, on page 1, and the combination dialog box is the lower left box in Figure 1. Click on the leftmost icon in the combination dialog box to display the Tool Options.

Next, open an image that you want to use for this tutorial. To do that, go to the Menu Bar of the GIMP Tool Box, click on File > Open to bring up the Open Image dialog box. Then navigate to the image file that you wish to open and open it.

If you do not have an image to use for this tutorial, simply use the GIMP to take a screen shot and use that screen shot for working through this tutorial. To take a screen shot simply go to the Menu Bar of the GIMP Tool Box and click on File > Acquire > Screen Shot to bring up the Screen Shot dialog box.

In the Screen Shot dialog box, click on the Whole Screen radio button to set it active. Next, please click on OK.

That should bring up a GIMP canvass or workspace window with an image of the entire monitor screen at the time you made the screen shot. Then, crop that screen shot so that it is the same size as the geese photo in our Figure 1, on page 1, (345x192 pixels). If you do not know how to use the GIMP's crop tool, please see The first cropping in Part 1 of this tutorial series.

Whether you have opened an image from your files or have made a screen shot to use for this tutorial, it should resemble the canvass window in the upper right of Figure 1, on page 1, except your image or screen shot will be in the canvass window rather than our geese.

If you like you can take that screen shot so that Figure 1 is included in the shot. Then crop out everything but the geese photo. That way you can more easily follow right along with what we are doing here.

In Figure 1, on page 1, all the boxes and the canvass window were packed together in order to make a compact screen shot for the figure. However, as you have been opening the dialog panels and image canvass, you might have noticed they are not packed together (docked). Rather they are floating separately.

The floating dialog panels and canvass are nice as they let you arrange your entire screen to let you work the way you like to work. You also can dock them together if you like. However, arranging your workspace and docking are not part of today's tutorial.

Before you start any actual editing of a photo or other image, it is a good practice to make a backup copy of it. That way if you mess up while making your edits, you still have a copy of the original.

  • Adding a text layer

Figure 2, below, shows the GIMP Layers Dialog before adding the text layer shown in Figure 3. If you already have not done so, please toggle the combo dialog box (lower left in Figure 3, below) to the Layers Dialog.

To do that, please click on the stack of papers icon, the icon to the right of the paint-bucket icon on the combo dialog-box Menu-Bar.

Figure 2. The GIMP Layer Dialog with only one layer entry. (Screen shot of GIMP version 1.3 running on SUSE Linux 9.0 and the KDE desktop for Linux. Please see text for an explanation.)


In Figure 3, below, a text layer has been added. The copyright notice and artist/photographer credit have been placed on the text layer. You can place any text you like there -- it does not have to be an artist/photographer credit.

Here is how to add the text (of your choice). First, click on the Text Tool icon in the Toolbox. It's the T.

Now, please place the mouse-pointer at the spot in the photo or image where you want the text string to start, and then click the mouse. That opens the GIMP Text Editor and also creates a text layer.

Next, please type your text string into the GIMP Text Editor. In our example the text string typed is (C) Mike Angelo 2003. Please feel free to type whatever you like.

As you type the text string into the Text Editor, you should notice the text appearing in a text-box in the photo/image canvas window. You also should notice a new layer, the text layer being added in the Layer Dialog. Please see Figure 3, below.

Figure 3. Screen shot showing the addition of a text layer. Please see text for an explanation. (GIMP version 1.3 running on SUSE Linux 9.0 and the KDE desktop for Linux. Geese photo by Mike Angelo)

  • Playing with the text layer

Have you been wondering why the text was placed on its own layer? The reason is that by placing text on its own layer, it can be manipulated without affecting the image/photo.

For the purpose of this exercise, the text was not placed where it will end up. That's so that you could see how the text can be moved anyplace on the canvas without affecting the underlying photo.

In Figure 4, below, the text string ((C) Mike Angelo 2003) has been moved to the lower-right of the canvas. Also, the bottom-right dialog in Figure 4 is the Navigator Dialog. For more information about using the Navigator Dialog, please see the Sizing your photograph section in Part 1 of this tutorial series.

Figure 4. Screen shot showing the text box in the text layer moved to a different location. Here the text layer is the active layer. Please see text for an explanation. (GIMP version 1.3 running on SUSE Linux 9.0 and the KDE desktop for Linux. Geese photo by Mike Angelo)

To move the text string around, click on the text-layer entry in the Layer Dialog to highlight it. The text-layer entry is just above the Background-layer entry in the Layer Dialog, which is the bottom-left Dialog in Figure 4.

Now, the text layer is the active layer. The active layer is the layer that is affected by any editing actions applied. Generally, only the active layer will be affected by any editing actions.

Most problems that people have with using layers are that they forgot to make the layer upon which they want to make manipulations the active layer. So, please make sure before you try to do something that the layer upon which you want to play is selected-highlighted as the active layer.

Next, please click on the Move layers and selection icon in the GIMP Toolbox. That's the third icon from the left in the second row of tool icons in the Toolbox in Figure 4. It is a four-pointed arrow.

Then move the mouse-pointer over the text box in the image canvas. Wiggle it around over the text box until the mouse-pointer turns into a four-pointed arrow, just like the Move layers and selection icon. Now, simply depress the mouse-button and drag the text box to wherever you like in the photo-canvas screen.


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How to Use GIMP for Photo and Image Editing


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