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Applying Effects to Photo Images using GIMP

Introduction to Photo Effects

Sometimes, a photographer wants to create something a little different. Today, studios routinely desaturate images, introduce high grain or create pop-art type images for their clients: all these (and more) are possible within GIMP. This section will cover a few techniques which will hopefully spur you on to experiment more with the GIMP "Tools" and "Filters" menus.

Creating an Oil Painting from a Photo

When shooting in low-light, a good effect is to hand hold a shot of a fairly static subject on a timed exposure: this results in a blurred, impressionist painting effect. However, this can be difficult one to pull off "in camera", as you cannot always control the environment or have time to devote to the necessary experimentation. The solution is to use the GIMP Oilify option, which will take any photo and attempt to turn it into an oil painting automatically!

Note: try this technique on any disappointingly soft-focused shot to rescue it from the crop bin!

All you need to do is to load the base image into GIMP then select the following option:

Filters → Artistic → Oilify...

GIMP Oilify Option

A dialogue box will display; there are really only two sliders here to play with:

  • Mask Size alters the brush size (-i.e. as you slide to the right, it will look as if a larger brush was being used and more detail in the picture will be lost):

  • Exponent alters the brush intensity (-i.e. as you slide to the right, the effect will be as if the painter was applying more pressure to the brush):

Use the "Preview" window to check the effect - when this looks good, click the "OK" button to apply the effect to the main window:

GIMP Oilify Dialogue

If your original photo is large (-and it normally is if you are using a decent camera), then it's likely to take several minutes to apply the effect; a progress bar will be displayed until the processing is complete:

Note: you can click the red button to the right of the progress bar to stop the processing and revert to the original if you decide not to apply the effect

GIMP Oilify in Progress

Your picture should now look like it was painted in oils! To complete the effect, it is best to apply a canvas effect (-unless you intend to actually print it on canvas of course: plenty of photo processing companies on the web are quite happy to do this for you - at a cost of about £20 upwards). You can do this by selecting the following option:

Filters → Artistic → Apply Canvas...

GIMP Canvas Option

Another dialogue box will display. This time there is only one slider: as you slide this to the right, the canvas depth will be increased. You can also change the effect so the light on the canvas grain looks like in it coming from any of the four corners:

GIMP Canvas Dialogue

Again, once the preview looks good, click "OK" to apply the canvas effect. You should now have something that looks like an oil painting of your original photo!

Creating a Pop-Art Effect

Pop-Art effects, as exemplified by the work of Andy Warhol et al, are currently popular. This works basically by taking a normal photo and reducing the colour palette to a minimum. GIMP allows you to do this easily using the Posterize function.

All you need to do is to load the base image into GIMP then select the following option:

Colors → Posterize...

GIMP Posterize Option

A dialogue box will display containing a single slider: slide this to the left to reduce the number of available colours and to the right to increase them:

GIMP Posterize Dialogue

Unlike the Oilify option, the preview is made in the main window; when this looks good, click "OK" to accept it (-or "Cancel" to revert to your original photo):

Posterized Result

That's all there is to creating a moody poster for for bedroom wall!

References and Further Reading:

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