Fade Effects in GIMP

Written by michael logan
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Fade Effects in GIMP
This gradient-colour block fades from orange-tan to nearly cream. (Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

GIMP provides a number of colour effects using gradients and various painting tools. Fade effects are one way of using gradients to produce special effects. A fading effect uses a gradient that fades from the foreground to the background or possibly just the opposite. There are different ways to use gradients to create fade effects in GIMP.

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Fading With the Blend Tool

The blend tool in conjunction with a gradient allows you to select an area of any shape with one of the seven selection tools and apply a fade effect to it. You can choose to make the fade happen gradually across the entire selection or very suddenly. After selecting an area of an image and choosing a foreground to background or background to foreground gradient, draw a line using the blend tool across the selection. The fade effect is produced for the length of the line. If you draw from one side of the selection to the other, the fade happens gradually across the entire selection. If you draw a short line somewhere in the middle, the fade happens only for the length of the line, with the rest of the selection filled in with the foreground and background colours.

Fade Effects With Drawing Tools

Some drawing tools can also apply gradients for fade effects. The toolbox window provides a "Use gradient" check box. If you check the box and choose a gradient, the tool uses the gradient and anything you draw with the tool will have the fading or gradient applied. You can also set a repeat type, which determines how the fade effect is repeated as you draw. The length field determines the length of a brushstroke over which the effect is applied. The default is 100 pixels if you draw with the paintbrush; a stroke 100 pixels long will fade from one end to the other. The type of repeat determines how the fading effect is repeated for longer strokes.

Opacity Fading

A neat trick with GIMP is to fade an existing image using an opacity gradient. An opacity gradient fades from a foreground colour to a transparency. You apply this type of gradient using a selection tool on a layer above the image you wish to fade. A black and white profile photograph of someone is a good example. Create a new layer above the photograph and select a rectangular area using the freehand tool. Choose the "Foreground to transparency" gradient, set the foreground to black and draw a line across the selection from left to right with the blur tool. The effect is of the person's profile emerging from out of the darkness or fading into the darkness.

Multi-Color Fade Effects

Most of the gradients supplied with GIMP offer multiple colour fading. The colours used are set in the gradient and cannot be changed. If you use the blend tool, the effect is applied across the selection, just like a two-color fade, except that it fades from one colour into the next. Using the drawing or painting tools fades from one colour into the next. An interesting effect is gradient mapping. Instead of applying the gradient in a linear fashion, the individual pixels in the selection are mapped to the gradient by matching the colour intensity of the selection pixels to the intensity of the gradient colours. The selection pixels are then changed to match the gradient pixels. To use gradient mapping, select a gradient using "Ctrl G," then select the area to apply the gradient to and click on "Colors," "Map" and then "Gradient map."

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