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by Wendi E. M. Scarth.


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Brush From A 
Photo GIMP


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Create A Custom Brush From A Photograph

Create A Custom Brush From A Photo GIMP

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This GIMP (GNU) tutorial demonstrates how to create a Custom Brush from a Photo. To work along, you are welcome to download the Start Image I am working with HereUnzip the file and open the image onto GIMP’s workspace.

Apply Brushes
Create, Save & Apply A Sparkle Brush
Create A Multi Coloured Picture Brush
Create A Custom Brush From A Transparent
Create, Save & Apply A Copyright Signature Brush
Create A Brush From A Transparent Clipboard Image

Read GIMP’s Comprehensive Brush Notes Here

Colourise Your Custom Brush
Improve Your Image’s Contrast
Remove Your Object’s Background
Remove The Object’s Colours (Optional)
Apply Your Newly Created Custom Brush
Save Your Transparent Object As A Custom Brush

You can quickly Undo a step at any time by pressing Ctrl then Z. Alternatively, click a previous Undo History snapshot - Windows then Dockable Dialogues then click Undo History. In addition, to Zoom in (or Zoom out) of your image; from the top menu, choose View then select a Zoom Tool from the subsequent drop-down

Launch GIMP & Organise Its Workspace & Palettes

Open your choice of Start Image onto GIMP’s workspace - File then Open - Ctrl then O.

Ensure the Layers and the Undo History Palettes are visible, and then drag them into position over your workspace - (Windows then Dockable Dialogues - then click Layers and Undo History).

Brush Palette Note
To bring up the Brushes Palette, from the top menu, choose Windows then choose Dockable Dialogues and then choose Brushes.

2/ Add An Alpha Channel
Now, from the Layers Palette: right-click over the Background Layer and from the subsequent drop-down list, click Add Alpha Channel. Your Layers Palette and image will not change their appearance. 

Before saving an object as a Brush, it needs to have a Transparent Background. I am going to demonstrate how to isolate part of a photograph using the Free Select Tool. If you already know how to do this, then
Proceed to my Create A Brush Chapter Here. If not, my chapters below demonstrate how to isolate Sacha’s face with a Selection Marquee.

Now, from the left-side Toolbox, activate the Free Select Tool. (
Free Select Tool).

And enter the following Add to the current selection and Feather 60 settings into the left-side Options Box.

Feather Note
I have a Feather of 60 Pixels (px): - however, for personal feathering, (edge-fading) - this setting is worth experimenting with. For example, depending on your photograph and its
Resolution, you may prefer more - (or less) Feathering.

click-and-stretch a “Lasso Line” around Sacha’s face, or the object you would like convert into a Custom Brush. 

Tip - Retracing Your Steps
Whilst you are applying the Lasso Line; - and before the Selection Marquee has been
applied, to go back one step - press your Keyboard’s Delete/Backspace Key. Press your chosen Key for however many steps you want to go back - (this is for Window PC users,
I am unfamiliar with Mac’s). Tapping the Escape Key completely removes the Lasso Line/Selection Marquee.

After you have isolated your subject with a Selection Marquee, pass your cursor over the exact point where you began, and then double-left-click. Double-left-clicking completes the circuit and transforms the Lasso Line into the following Selection Marquee.

Now that you have isolated the subject with a Selection Marquee, you are ready for the next step.

Disable the Free Select Tool by clicking any other Tool from the left-side Toolbox. I always activate the Move Tool.

4/ Optional: Further Feathering
From the top menu, choose Select and then choose Feather. From the subsequent Feather Selection dialogue box, enter a Feather Selection by value of 5 pixels, and then click OK as illustrated below.

Now, from the top menu, choose Select then choose Invert.

Then from the top menu, choose Edit and then choose Clear. (Alternatively, tap your Delete Key). To deepen the Feathering, select Edit and then Clear again. Alternatively, tap the Delete Key again. I tapped my Delete Key four times.

From the top menu, choose Select and then choose None.

If necessary, remove unwanted (brush) pixels by isolating them with the Free Select Tool, and then Deleting/Clearing them.

8/ Optional Remove Colour
From the top menu, choose Colours then choose Desaturate. And from the subsequent Desaturate dialogue box, enter settings of your choice, and then click OK.

9/ Improve Your Image’s Contrast
To create a sharper black and white contrast; from the top menu, choose Colours then choose Levels. Now, from the subsequent Levels dialogue box, move the Black Point Slider a little to the Right. And then move the White Point Slider a little to the Left, and then click OK.

Unsharp Mask Tip
For extra impact, it’s a good idea to apply a Sharpening Filter to your image. From the top menu, choose Filters then choose Enhance then choose Unsharp Mask. From the subsequent Unsharp Mask dialogue box, enter the following settings, or experiment, and then click OK.


Now, from the left-side Toolbox, activate the Crop Tool. And
Crop away any unwanted Transparent Pixels.


Congratulations, your transparent object can now be saved as a Brush.

To preserve your image’s Transparent Background, it’s a good idea to save it as a XCF File.

11/ Save The Brush To GIMP’s Brushes Folder
To save your transparent object as a Brush, from the top menu, choose File and then choose Save As. And from the subsequent Save Image dialogue box, click open the Select File Type menu, and from the subsequent drop-down list, click GIMP brush - (gbr). (Don’t click Save).

Then navigate to and open GIMP’s Brushes Folder; (Program Files, then
GIMP-2.0 then share then gimp then 2.0 the brushes). After you have navigated to and opened GIMPs brushes folder, click Save - as illustrated below. 

Now, from the subsequent Save as Brush dialogue box, enter a unique name for your Brush (and change the
Spacing if you wish), and then click Save.

Congratulations, you have successfully created and saved your Custom Brush and it is ready to apply.

To see your new Brush, (from the foot of the Brushes Palette) click the Refresh Brushes tab.

Then activate your newly created Brush by clicking its icon.

Your Brush is now ready to apply, in the usual manner. 

My tutorial
Here demonstrates how to apply Brushes.

Reapplying the Brush will darken its coverage

You can quickly Resize your Brush by tapping the Bracket Keys.

Colourise Your Brush Application
(Gradient Colourising Here).
To colourise your brush application. From the top menu, choose Colours then choose Colourise. Now, from the subsequent dialogue box, experiment with the Hue and Saturation sliders until you see a colour you like the look of, and then click OK.

Now you are more familiar with this technique, you can have lots of fun creating personalised Brushes from Photo Objects or Photographs. Remember, any object that has a Transparent Background can be saved as a Brush.

Final Note (Back Up Your Custom Brushes)
Your Brush has been saved to GIMP’s Brushes Folder; however, it’s always good practice to backup GIMP’s Brushes. Backing up this folder preserves your newly created brushes should you need to reinstall your operating system .

Wendi E. M. Scarth. 
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