One Four Challenge January Week 3 – (A GIMP Tutorial)…

Ok… are you ready to channel your inner child?  I’ve dubbed this image ‘Finger Paint’, because I literally smudged the pixels around with my index finger on my laptop’s touchpad.  The pixels move around very much like slick paint, only in the digital world I don’t get paint on my hands, clothes, hair…


You will need:

  • Your imagination
  • Your index finger
  • A photo editor, I used GIMP*


Finger Paint Tutorial – Quick Glance:


  1. Duplicate base layer, create threshold image
  2. Duplicate threshold layer, select-by-color black, create mask, fill with black, turn off visibility and set aside.
  3. Duplicate base layer, saturate
  4. Duplicate saturated layer, blur
  5. Duplicate blurred layer, create mosaic
  6. Duplicate mosaic layer, turn back on threshold layer, smudge
  7. If needed, add a layer set blend mode to color, sample color from smudged layer, paint in areas on new layer, then add mask and cleanup edges

*** You will note that there are more layers shown than there are steps… this is a trial-and-error process… I kept my work and put it in layer groups (see the little + beside the thumbnail… those are full of layers too).  The actual image only has three of the layers turned ON (eye).  You could do most of the process in the same layer… but it would be hard to go back if you wanted to change anything.  I have each step as a new layer so that it is like a snapshot that I can go back a few steps and try something else in any order I choose.  I suggest you do the same. ***


Detailed Notes:

1. Duplicate base layer by clicking on the icon or [Shift-Ctrl-D].  Create threshold image by going to Colors->Threshold… note that you can move the black arrow towards the left (or change the left value) to get a more refined outline of your image…


And depending upon the image, the threshold settings will give you different results… I found that using my week 2 image gave me better lines and that is the one I ended up using for my final image (note that b30 is my husband’s runner-up, b45 is my runner-up, and b21 is the one we both liked)…


2. Duplicate threshold layer [Shift-Ctrl-D], use the select-by-color tool and pick black, then create a mask with the selection (I have a select-by-color tutorial here), then fill with black by clicking on the image thumbnail (NOT the mask) and going to Edit->Fill with FG Color (make sure your foreground color is black)…



Then turn off visibility (click the eye OFF) and set aside.

3. Duplicate base layer [Shift-Ctrl-D], then play with the saturation by going to Colors->Hue-Saturation… you can play around with the master color and/or each color individually.  I set the Overlap to 100 and then went nuts… I wanted to make sure my photo had lots of color to work with… 141007_NAT_009-gimp-saturate-diagram4. Duplicate saturated layer [Shift-Ctrl-D], then use Gaussian blur by going to Filters->Blur->Gaussian Blur… I chose 120px for my image…


5. Duplicate blurred layer [Shift-Ctrl-D], create mosaic by going to Filters->Distorts->Mosaic… there are lots of choices in mosaic… have fun…


6. Duplicate mosaic layer [Shift-Ctrl-D], next we are going to smudge this layer using the smudge tool…I set dynamics to Random Color… I suggest leaving the opacity to 100% otherwise you can still see the mosaic underneath and it ends up being more work to rework those areas…


you can smudge willy nilly and try to keep like colors together… or you can turn the threshold mask layer visibility back on… it will make a difference, but it really is about your vision…


with the settings shown in the last section, smudge 1 was done willy nilly… smudge 2 was done with the threshold mask turned back on… and smudge 3 was a test before writing this tutorial what it would look like if I had used bigger tiles.  The bigger tiles took less time to smudge… but I still like smudge 2 best (which is the one I used as my final image).

Turn back on the threshold mask layer and then you are finished… unless you want to refine your image, in which case go to step 7.


7. I felt that some of the brown on the smaller tree trunks got lost in the smudge process.  To fix this I added a layer [Shift-Ctrl-N] and chose transparency..


Change the transparent layer to blend mode Color.  Next I selected a brown from my blurred layer by using the color picker tool, then I painted on the transparent layer the areas that needed some extra attention…


I added a mask Layer->Mask->Add Layer Mask and selected a white mask, then I painted black on the mask to cleanup the edges.

Whew!  No matter how concise I try to make these tutorials they always get away from me! Haha!

I hope this tutorial was helpful, there are a lot of concepts here than can be used for other things, you are only limited by your own imagination. 😀

Until next time…

* GIMP is Open Source software that is available for all platforms (Linux, Mac, and Windows), it is a photo editor that does many (if not all) of the things you can do in Photoshop. You can download it for free here. The GIMP online manual can be found here.


Like Wilber? You can get him here.

I have joined a month-long photo post-processing challenge called One Four Challenge, hosted by Robyn at Captivate Me. “This challenge is about processing 1 image in 4 different ways over 4 weeks.” Every Monday Robyn posts a new version of her photo and challenges us to do the same each week.

12 thoughts on “One Four Challenge January Week 3 – (A GIMP Tutorial)…

  1. Great tutorial Nic. You’ve reminded me to use layers more often do save the time clicking undo shortcut. I like how you are using Gimp. I’ll have to check it out.

    • Thanks, KC! Once I got a handle on layers, I started to use them more often. It really does make life easier when you want to go back and change something. Masks really help when I have a wild stroke, I can just change the paint brush to the opposite color (black/white) to ‘undo’ what I did, but more refined. 😀

      GIMP is a great program, I hope that my tutorials and resource list help you learn the new program. 😀

    • Thanks, suej! I guess it really is how you look at it… when you play around you may not realize all that you’ve done. If you keep each trial as a separate layer then it looks like you did a bunch… but if you were to just play all on one layer, you don’t know what you did, but it’s all on one layer and looks like it was easy peasy. I am kind of a control freak and a bit of an organizer, I like to be able to go back and see what I’ve done, as well as change what I’ve done at any point in the process – so I tend to have lots of layers. By doing it this way I actually have several versions of this image all in one file, I can choose to make the output any of these that I want… so really this ‘one’ file has a permutation of several smudged layers (3) and several threshold layers (4) making it something like 12 possible images. 😀

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