The Kaleidoscope Effect in GIMP

Updated July 20, 2017

GIMP, or "GNU Image Manipulation Program," is a freeware graphics editing program for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X operating systems. GIMP is compatible with a wide array of filter plug-ins that allow artists to create complex graphics with only a few simple clicks. The Kaleidoscope plug-in is an effects filter that morphs images into symmetrical abstract designs.

Installing the Effect

New versions of GIMP as of June, 2011, do not feature the kaleidoscope effect as a native filter. Download the kaleidoscope effect plug-in archive from the official GIMP Plug-in Installer Registry (see Resources), and run the included "Kaleidoscope.exe" program. The executable file will install the plug-in into the appropriate directory. If the GIMP application is running while the plug-in is being installed, the effect will not be visible in the filters menu right away. Restart GIMP to automatically detect and register the kaleidoscope plug-in.

Setting Up the Canvas

The kaleidoscope filter alters a pre-existing image, so you will need to import an image file before applying the effect. The kaleidoscope effect mirrors a portion of the image a specified number of times around a chosen axis, so certain images work better than others. Choose an image with three to five distinct and vivid colours for the best result. To import an image into GIMP, select "Open" from the File drop-down menu and browse to your desired directory. Click on the image that you want to import and select "Open."

Using the Kaleidoscope Effect

Select "Filters" from the main GIMP tool bar and highlight "Distorts." Select "Kaleidoscope" from the Distorts drop-down menu to open the Kaleidoscope effect controls. Each individual setting is controlled by a slider that changes that setting's numerical value. Click on one of the white bars and slide it to the left or right to change the position of the slider. The box at the top of the kaleidoscope effect controls window shows a real-time preview of the effect as the user changes the settings.

Kaleidoscope Effect Controls

The Angle setting changes the rotation of the mirrored segments around the centre axis. Moving the slider to the right rotates the segments in a clockwise direction, while moving the slider to the left rotates the segments in a counter-clockwise direction. The Segments setting determines how many times the mirrored image is duplicated around the centre axis. The Center setting moves the position of the centre axis. The Offset setting alters the reflection source of the mirrored image.

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About the Author

Doug Vintage has been a writer since 2008 and holds a bachelor's degree in computer science. His professional writing experience includes the research and creation of internal technology articles for several law firms including WilmerHale, Crowell & Moring and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.