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by Wendi E. M. Scarth.


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Apply Lightning Bolts


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Add Bolts Of Lightning To Photographs
Intermediate Plus

Add Lightning Bolts GIMP

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This GIMP (GNU) tutorial demonstrates how to apply bolts of lightning to a photograph. To work along, you are welcome to download the Start Images I am working with HereUnzip the file and open the Start Images onto GIMP’s workspace.

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 list.

Resize Images
Understand Layers
Scale Tool Tutorial
Eraser Tool Tutorial
Understand Blend Modes
Resize Two Layered Images Equally
Launch GIMP & Organise Its Workspace & Palettes

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).

To open the two Start Images onto GIMP’s workspace: from Gimps’ top menu choose File then Open - Ctrl then O. Now, from the Open Image dialogue box, navigate to the folder where your Start Images reside, then Ctrl-click to highlight both files - and then click the Open tab.

Now, from the Lightning Image’s Top Menu, choose Edit and then choose Copy.

Then from the Night Scene’s Top Menu, choose Edit and then choose Paste as and then choose New Layer - as illustrated below.

Maximise Note
If it’s not already maximised, maximise the Night Scene Image by clicking the following Maximise tab.

It’s safe to Close the original Bolt of Lightning Image - top menu, then File then Close

Now you have Layered your two Start Images, you are ready for the next step.

From the left-side Toolbox, activate the Scale Tool. (
Scale Tool For Beginners).

Then (working on the Bolt Of Lightning Layer), left-click over your image. And from the subsequent transformation bounding box, stretch/deform the lightning bolt and position it over the pond, as illustrated below.

Then complete the deformation by clicking the Scale button.

Colourise The Lightning Bolts
To add colour to the lightning, from the top menu, choose Colours then choose Colourise. Now, from the subsequent Colourise dialogue box, experiment with the Hue and Saturation sliders, and then click OK when you find a colour you like the look of.


Duplicate the Bolt of Lightning Layer, by right-clicking over its Layer (in the Layers Palette), and then selecting Duplicate Layer from the subsequent drop-down list. Repeat the Duplication one more time, and you will have three identical Lightning Bolt Layers, as illustrated below. (Go ahead and create additional duplications, if you like).

Now is a good time to save your Layered Image as a

Using the Move Tool Move Tool, separate your three Bolts of Lightning. 

Then activate the Right-side Bolt’s Layer.

Now, activate the Flip Tool .

Then left-click over the workspace’s right-side Bolt of Lightning.

And working between the Move, (Flip) and Scale Tools, (
Beginner Tutorials), Resize and Reposition each Lightning Bolt over the water, until you are happy with their final positions.

Now is a good time to save your Layered Image as a

Understand Blend Modes
Working on each Lightning Bolt Layer, individually, change the Blend Mode from Normal to Dodge - as demonstrated below.

For personal blends, it’s important to experiment with different
Blend Modes and Layer Opacities.

You can create extra impact by Duplicating each Lightning Layer.

Eraser Tool Note
Unwanted Lightning pixels can be removed using a Soft, Round
Eraser Tool Brush.

Prior to Flattening your image, you may want to save it as an
XCF File.

11/ Flatten Image
When you happy with your work: from the top menu, choose Image and then choose Flatten Image.

Sharpen Tip
To create extra impact, apply a
Sharpening Filter of your choice - Filters then Enhance.

Congratulations, your Lightning Bolts Conversion is complete,
and it is ready to save - top menu, then File then Save As.
Now you are more familiar with this technique, you can have lots of fun applying bolts of lightning to your favourite images. 

Wendi E. M. Scarth. 
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