How to Make One Light Shine on Your Face on GIMP

Written by rochelle leggett
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How to Make One Light Shine on Your Face on GIMP
Filters make it easy to create a single light source in a photograph. (Adam Taylor/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The free photo editing and digital painting program "GIMP" is capable of adding many different looks and effects to photographs. It is not possible to completely change the lighting direction in a photograph, but you can easily create the appearance of a strong light (like a spotlight) in a particular direction on a photo of your face using GIMP's filters. This process takes a little time to achieve the desired look, but it is not particularly difficult.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Load your photograph into GIMP.

  2. 2

    Select "colours" in the toolbar, then "brightness/contrast." Move the brightness bar to the left to turn down the brightness slightly, then move the contrast bar to the right to increase the contrast slightly. This makes it easier to make it seem as though the lighting comes from a single source, especially if you want to change the direction of the light.

  3. 3

    Select the eyedropper tool from your toolbox, then select a light colour from your face. Click on the foreground colour box to open the "change foreground colour" dialogue box. Select a colour that is the same shade but slightly lighter.

  4. 4

    Choose a large, soft, transparent brush and gently lighten any areas that the light would hit strongly on your face, such as the tops of your cheeks, browbone and nose. Take a flashlight and go into a dim room that has a mirror if you're not sure which areas to lighten. Shine the light on your face in the same direction that you want on your photograph. Take note of the areas that are brightest on your face and imitate them on your photograph.

  5. 5

    Select "filters" then "lighting effects" in the toolbar. This opens the "lighting effects" dialogue box. Click and drag the ends of the blue bar in your preview picture to change the direction of the light.

  6. 6

    Change the quality of the light in the "lighting effects" dialogue box. The "options" and "light" tabs are the most important for general use. "Colour" changes the colour of the light and "distance" changes the distance the "light" is from the person in the photo. The "type" will change whether the light is general, a single streak of light or an area of light. Every photo is different, so you will need to experiment to determine what will look best on your photograph.

Tips and warnings

  • Try creating a new layer and drawing a small arrow that goes in the direction of the light. This will help remind you which direction to paint. You can delete this layer when you are finished.
  • Try using different colours to suggest different colours of light. For instance, pale yellow would make the light look very sunny.

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