[Courses][gimp] Lesson 8: Text Effects (How to get really cool looking text)

Akkana Peck akkana at shallowsky.com
Sat Mar 19 11:55:07 EST 2005

Up to now, we've created text using the text tool.
But GIMP can create much more interesting text than that.


Let's start by exploring some of the pre-defined text styles GIMP
offers.  Start GIMP, and in the Toolbox window, look at the menu:
Xtns->Script-Fu->Logos.  For purposes of this lesson, You'll probably
want to use the tear-off (the dotted line at the top of the menu) to
make this menu stand on its own, while you explore some of what it offers.

Depending on your gimp version, you'll probably see about 30
different logo scripts.  Any one of these will bring up a dialog
allowing you to set your text and choose options such as font face,
size, color, and perhaps various options specific to that particular
text style.  Selecting OK will create a new image containing the
new logo text.

Unfortunately, there's no preview.  So your best bet is to browse
through the list, trying anything that looks like it might be useful.

There are lots of logo styles, and most of them have quite a few
options, so this will probably keep you busy for a while.  It's a
lot of fun seeing what's available.  Unfortunately, I don't know of
anywhere where all the available logos are shown together on one page,
so you can quickly decide which logo script is the one you want for
any particular project.  If you decide to make one, please share it!


These logo images are fun to look at, but how would you paste one
into an image, like a poster or greeting card?

Choose a logo you like, and look at the Layers dialog.  (If you still
have it set to the Paths tab after last week's lesson, go back to
Layers now.)  Notice that the scripts preserve all the layers they
used to make the effect.  (I'll talk in a moment about how some of
these layer tricks work.)

The first thing to notice is the first (bottom) layer, which is
usually a solid background color, usually white.  If you're making a
logo that you want to paste into another image, you probably want a
transparent background (unless the background is an important part of
the image, such as the "Carved" script).  So click on the eyeball icon
in the layers dialog next to the background layer, to make that layer
invisible.  Now you'll see the grey checkerboard pattern that gimp
uses to indicate "transparent".

Now you need to copy the remaining image.  But Copy only copies one
layer at a time.  You could select a layer, copy it, paste it, select
the next layer, copy it, and so forth; but it would be tedious,
and you might have trouble getting all the layers lined up.

Instead, use Edit->Copy Visible to copy all the visible layers at
once.  Now you can Paste into another image.  The logo now pastes
as a single new layer, which you can move around your image at will.

Did the logo paste at a size that surprised you?  Depending on the
size of your image, sometimes when you paste, the logo comes out
looking teeny even though it looked big when you copied it.  That's
because of zooming: if the destination photo is zoomed in or out
(perhaps displaying at 1/2 or 1/3 its real size), but the logo is
displayed at full size, then what you get when you paste may not be
what you expect.  If this happens, go back and make another logo at
a different font size.  Sometimes it takes a few tries to get the
font size to where it fits just perfectly.


All the Logo scripts we used from the toolbox create a brand new
image, using text you've provided.  Usually that's what you want.  But
occasionally you may find that you already have the text, perhaps
because you scanned it, or because you want to use text or some other
shape that you drew yourself with the mouse.  Nearly all the logo
scripts from the toolbox are also available as filters, in the submenu:
Script-Fu->Alpha to Logo.

Run "Alpha to Logo scripts on an image which contains your text, and
only your text.  Anything else, like a photographic background, will
be destroyed during the logo-making process.  So if you already have
text on a background, select it (if it's all one color, Select by
Color is probably the easiest way) and Edit->Paste as New to make a
new image.  Once you're done making your logo, you can paste it back
into the other image later.


In later lessons, we'll explore some of the techniques used in some
of these logo effects.  But for now, let's start with the simplest:
how to make a drop shadow.

You already know you can make a drop shadow using the Script-Fu menu.
But how are they made?  The technique behind making drop shadows is
very straightforward, and understanding it is the first step in
creating more advanced effects.

First, start with any image that has a layer of text, in any color
besides black (since the shadow will be black).
I'll use File->New... to create a blank image with a white
background, then I'll use the text tool to put some text on it:

Now make a copy of the text layer: go to the Layers dialog,
right-click on the text layer, and choose "Duplicate Layer".
Your new layer will become the drop shadow, so I recommend renaming
it to something that will remind you that it's the shadow, by
doubleclicking on the layer and editing the name.  Since my primary
layer is called GimP, I called my shadow layer "GimP shadow".

The shadow layer should still be the selected layer.  If you've
selected anything else, then click on the shadow layer to make sure
it's selected.

Now make all the letters in the shadow layer black.  The fastest way
to do that is to make sure black is selected as the foreground color
in the toolbox, select the Bucket Fill tool, check "FG Color Fill" and
"Fill Whole Selection" in the tool options, turn on "Keep
Transparency", then click on a letter.


Keep Transparency lets you color on the layer without drawing outside
the lines, so to speak.  The easiest way to see what it can do is to
toggle it on for the layer you're looking at, choose a different
foreground color, choose a drawing tool such as the Pencil, then
scribble over the layer.  Notice that gimp only draws where there's
already something in the image; it doesn't draw over the transparent
parts.  For partially transparent areas, it draws on them but keeps
them partially transparent.

In Gimp 1, Keep Transparency is clearly labelled in the Layers dialog;
but in Gimp 2, it's a tiny checkbox to the right of the Mode dropdown
(we'll talk about Mode in a later lesson) with a little checkerboard
icon next to it.  To see the words "Keep Transparency" you have to
hover the mouse over the checkbox and wait for the tooltip to pop up.

Keep Transparency is useful, but it's also sometimes a problem,
because it has a bad habit of getting flipped on when you don't want
it.  Then, when you try to draw on an image, nothing draws, and it's
not obvious why.  When that happens to me, "Keep Transparency" on the
currently selected layer is one of the first things I check.

DROP SHADOWS, continued

Now you have a black text layer, which is temporarily hiding the
colored text layer underneath.  Don't worry, your colored text is
still there (if you want to verify that, click off the layer
visibility for the shadow layer, to see the colored layer below.
Then turn visibility back on for the shadow.)

We're going to blur the shadow layer, so that means we need Keep
Transparency off.  Why?  Because the shadow becomes bigger when you
blur it; but gimp won't be able to draw any of the new parts with Keep
Transparency on, because it would have to draw over formerly
transparent areas.  So make sure the Keep Trans box is unchecked.

Now do the blur: Filters->Blur->Gaussian Blur (either variety).  How
much blur you want depends on how sharp you want the shadow to look.
Less blur will make it look like your text is floating just barely
above the page; more blur will make it look like it's floating higher.

Now offset the shadow: switch to the Move tool in the toolbox (the one
with two crossed arrows), and drag the shadow diagonally a little.  I
usually drag down and to the right, but it depends on where you want
the light to appear to be coming from.  If this is on an image that
already has shadows, you might want the text shadow to go in the same

Drag just a little, so you can see a small bit of your original
colored text peeking out from behind the shadow, like this:

Finally, it's time to move the shadow layer below the text layer.
Go to the Layers dialog, where the shadow layer should still be
selected, and click the downarrow button to move that layer down
in the stack.

Voila!  A drop shadow.  You can continue to fiddle with the spacing
between the text layer and the shadow layer, using the Move tool to
click on the shadow area and move that layer around underneath the
text layer.  With the Move tool, if "Pick a layer" is selected in tool
options, you have to be careful to click on the shadow and not on the
text above it; or (in gimp 2) choose "Move the current layer" in tool
options, in which case it will always move whatever layer you have
selected in the Layers dialog, regardless of where you click.



One last note in case you find your solid-colored text too boring.
You can use that "Keep Transparent" button to make it easy to
color your text in unusual ways.  For instance, if I use the
paintbrush tool, select the text layer, and turn on "Keep Trans.",
I can scribble with a different color:
or I can use the bucket fill tool to fill it with a pattern:
or I can select the gradient tool from the toolbox, then drag from
the bottom of the letters to the top to fill with a gradient:
or drag horizontally to make the gradient go in another direction:

Homework: Make some nifty looking text.  Paste it onto another image.

Next lesson: Layer Effects, including some more cool text tricks.

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