GIMP Colored Pencil Tutorial

Written by michael carroll
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GIMP Colored Pencil Tutorial
Use GIMP to emulate the look of coloured-pencil drawings. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is a powerful open-source graphics program. It is popular as a no-cost alternative to the pricey industry standard, Adobe Photoshop. Like Photoshop, GIMP can do far more than just edit photos. GIMP's Pencil tool allows you to create line drawings from scratch. GIMP can also introduce variations in the tool's behaviour to emulate the look of real pencil strokes of various colours. Use GIMP's Pencil tool to make nuanced sketches on your computer for free.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Instructions

    Pencil Tool Basics

  1. 1

    Launch GIMP, then create a new document by pressing "Ctrl" and "N" simultaneously. Specify the size of your drawing with the "Width" and Height" fields, then press "OK."

  2. 2

    Press "N" to select the Pencil tool. The tool's icon is highlighted in the Toolbox, and its configuration options appear beneath the tool icons. Click the looping yellow arrow button in the lower right corner of the Toolbox to reset the tool to its default settings. Type "Circle (01)" into the "Brush" text field.

  3. 3

    Click the upper of the two rectangles just below the tool icons in the toolbox. The "Change Foreground Color" dialogue appears. Click a few of the tabs in the top of the dialogue to see different colour models you can use to select the Pencil tool's colour. The rightmost tab offers a simple palette of common colours. Use the sliders on the right side of the dialogue to tweak the colour to your liking. Click "OK" to choose the colour and dismiss the dialogue.

  4. 4

    Click and drag in the document window to draw a free-form line. Hold down "Shift" and click somewhere on the canvas to draw a straight line to that point from the previous one. Repeat Step 3 as often as you like while drawing to change the colour of the tool.

  5. 5

    Change the thickness of the lines you draw by typing a new number into the "Brush" text field in the bottom part of the Toolbox. For example, "Circle (10)" specifies a line width of 10 pixels. The "Scale" slider can also be used to change the thickness of the lines. Adjust the "Opacity" slider to control the softness of the stroke.

  6. 6

    Click the button to the left of the "Brush" text field to select from various other brush shapes available. The Pencil tool will not make "fuzzy" lines even if you select that type of brush; experiment with different brush shapes to see what the strokes look like.

  7. 7

    Experiment with different options in the "Mode" drop-down menu. Photoshop veterans will recognise the options here; they control what type of colour information the pencil modifies. This feature is suitable for advanced users only.

    Brush Dynamics

  1. 1

    Click "Brush Dynamics" beneath the "Scale" slider. The nine check boxes here, and other options below, can be used to emulate realistic pencil strokes. The "Pressure" check boxes can only be used with a graphics tablet; ignore them if you don't have one.

  2. 2

    Enable the "Opacity" and "Size" check boxes in the "Velocity" row, then draw a rapid stroke across the document. The line will shrink and fade out, as though you pulled your hand away from the page in a real drawing. The "Color" check box will cause the background colour (the lower rectangle in the Toolbox) to be introduced with increased velocity. Change the sensitivity of these effects by clicking the icon and the end of the row and adjusting the slider that appears.

  3. 3

    Enable a check box in the "Random" row. These check boxes will cause the respective parameters to vary randomly during the stroke. Experiment with different combinations of "Random" check boxes, and adjust the weight of the effect using the icon at the end of the row, just as with velocity.

  4. 4

    Enable the "Fade Out" check box beneath the "Brush Dynamics" section to make each of your strokes fade out. This is similar to the effect you used in Step 2, but doesn't vary with the speed of the stroke. Change the value in the "Length" field to specify how far each stroke will last before fading out.

  5. 5

    Enable the "Apply Jitter" check box, then make a stroke in the document. This effect can be used to emulate the effect of a rough drawing surface or an unstable hand. Use the "Amount" slider to change the breadth of the effect.

  6. 6

    Increase the brush size to 20 pixels, and move the "Opacity" slider to 10. Make a stroke in the document. Now, toggle the "Incremental" check box, make another stroke, and note the difference between the two. This check box, if enabled, causes the opacity of the current stroke to increase where it overlaps itself (overlapping previous strokes always darkens those lines). This can be used to emulate pencil shading techniques. Try dragging the tool back and forth over a small area with "Incremental" activated and deactivated.

  7. 7

    Experiment with the "Use colour from gradient" check box and settings. This option doesn't lend itself well to emulating realistic pencil strokes, but can be used to create unique digital effects.

  8. 8

    Click the "Brush" icon to reveal the brush shape selector, then click the button in the lower right corner of the dialogue. This reveals the brush selection dialogue. Adjust the "Spacing" slider to change how frequently the tool draws points during a stroke. This parameter can be used in conjunction with the brush dynamics features to modify their effect.

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