The Designmark Graphics blog

Quality tutorials for Inkscape and GIMP

Involved GIMP Tutorial


Today's tutorial will show you how to create a snowy piece of text, and a wintery background upon which to set your centrepiece. My idea is a bit of a mish-mash of styles and techniques, but it's likely that most people will find some value in the steps I show you here.

We'll be using a whole gamut of GIMP's tools and features throughout this project so, although none of the steps are that complicated in themselves, this is still quite an involved tutorial. Here's a quick look at our final outcome:

Completed snowy text image

Skills you'll be developing in this tutorial

Step 1 - Set up the new document

Begin by creating a new image in GIMP (Ctrl and N or File --> New in the menus) which is 720 pixels wide by 400 high. In the Advanced Options area, select Fill with foreground colour which will, if you've just started up GIMP, fill the background with black.

New GIMP image settings

Canvas with black background

Step 2 - Add a centre highlight to work against

Add a new layer above this background which has a transparent fill, using Ctrl, Shift and N on the keyboard to bring up the New Layer dialog box.

Creating first new layer

Activate the Ellipse Select Tool (keyboard button E) and draw a wide ellipse across the centre of your canvas. Then choose Select --> Feather in the menus and enter 200 pixels for the amount to greatly soften the edges of your selection.

Selection area with Feather dialog showing

Fill this shape in white using your preferred method - Ctrl, Shift and . on the keyboard (fills with the currently active background colour: white at the moment), Edit --> Fill with BG Color in the menus, or use the Bucket Fill Tool (Shift and B) if that's your bag.

Filled feathered ellipse

Reduce the opacity of this layer to about 10% to really make the highlight subtle, then deactivate the selection by pressing Ctrl, Shift and A or use Select --> None.

Highlight with reduced opacity

Step 3 - Make a hilly-looking backdrop

Add another new layer, also transparent, above this one and think about the shape you want to use as your backdrop.

Pick out the Paths Tool (B) and use it to draw a smoothly-curved hilly shape which covers about the bottom 1/3 of your canvas. Set up some points outside the canvas frame with some single clicks, then click and drag the handles of the centre point outward to create the curved part of the hillside.

Path for hills

On the toolbox, click Selection from Path, or press Shift and V as a keyboard shortcut to convert the path into a selection area.

Path to selection

Then click on the foreground and background boxes on GIMP's palette in turn to set the foreground colour as R = 255, G = 255, B = 255 (full white), and the background as R = 231, G = 231, B = 231. Switch to the Gradient tool (keyboard L), then draw a linear gradient (foreground to background) from the top of your selection to the bottom.

Gradient panel settings

Gradient drawn

Step 4 - Enter the text to be used and stylise it

Cancel the selection as before, then switch to the Text Tool using the T key. Change the foreground colour to R = 73, G = 145, B = 225. Take a look at your Text Tool's settings and choose a good font for the job - in my case I'm going to use Cooper Black - and set a large size for it - 148pts for me. The goal is to fill about three-quarters of the width of the canvas with the text. Click on the canvas and type in your text, using either the Text or the Move tool (M) to position it correctly.

Font settings

Creating text on canvas

With your text layer active, select Filters --> Map --> Bump Map and use the settings shown below. Most of them will be set for you by default, so just check over your settings against these and click OK when you're ready. The ones you'll most likely be amending will be setting Map Type to Spherical (which gives a more rounded 3D edge), tweaking Elevation to 50.00 and lowering the Depth to 2 from the default of 3.

Text bump map settings

You probably won't be able to see the difference that this has made, but all will become apparent as we move onto the next few steps. Let's bring up the Perspective Tool using Shift and P. Then use the mouse to click and drag the right corner handles at the top and bottom in a little. GIMP's preview is difficult to see clearly as it sits over your original, but what we're trying to do is to give a slight feeling of the text being tilted away and narrowing as it gets further away.

Perspective work

Press OK on the rather confusing dialog box when you've done this to see the final result of the perspective transformation.

Perspective result

Step 5 - Turn the text into a 3D shape

Good work. Now, duplicate the layer with the text on it, which will result in a new layer with a #1 at the end of the layer name in the Layers panel.

Duplicating layer

In the Layers panel, click and drag this layer downwards so that it sits below the original version. Then activate the Move Tool (M) and get ready to move this new layer. We'll use the keyboard so we can be precise and get the result we want to.

Dragging new layer below first

In your canvas area, and with the duplicated layer still active, press the left arrow key once, then press the down arrow key once.

Nudging layer copy left and down

Repeat this process by copying each new layer that you make, then off-setting it by one keyboard tap left and downwards. Soon you'll have a tilted piece of text with a chunky 3D effect. It's a little laborious but not too time-consuming and the effect is a powerful one.

Layer stack

Extruded text

Step 6 - Add snow to the lettering

Great, now we're getting somewhere. Time to start adding our snow caps. Add another new, transparent layer right at the top of the layer stack. Activate the Brush Tool (P), and set your foreground colour to white. In the tool's options panel, select a circle brush with a Hardness of 100, at a size of about 12 pixels.

Brush tool options

Use your brush to paint small, lumpy snow piles on the top of your letters. Keep it a little uneven and bumpy to increase the feeling of a snow drift having taken place.

First snow cap

All letters topped with snow caps

Re-run the Bump Map process from earlier (Filters --> Map --> Bump Map) using the same settings as before. One thing to watch out for here - check that the top Bump Map dropdown box is pointing to your snow piles layer. GIMP normally uses the last-created layer as the Bump Map but it's always a good idea to check in order to avoid strange results.

Bump map settings box for snow

Outcome of bump mapping

Step 7 - Create a background blizzard

Add another layer at the top of your stack and fill it with black: R = 0, G = 0, B = 0. If you've got nothing on your canvas currently selected then this should just be a case of setting either your fore- or background colour to black and using a fill method of your choice - Bucket Tool, keyboard shortcut or the Edit menu.

New layer filled with black

From the menus, select Filters --> Noise --> HSV Noise and use settings of Holdness = 2, Hue = 5, Saturation = 2, Value = 195 to add a scatter of white speckles across the image canvas.

HSV noise settings

Result of adding HSV noise

These speckles are going to be our snow blizzard, so let's make it look like they're moving by adding a Motion Blur. With this layer still active, go to the Filters --> Blur --> Motion Blur menu and add a Linear blur with a Length of 6 and an angle of 135°. I've chosen this angle because I want the snow to appear as if it's being blown in at an angle and travelling quite quickly. It will also give the image some depth because it will be visible in front of the text.

Motion blur settings

Motion blur applied

Now change this layer's Blend Mode to Screen - this will make the black areas transparent and just allow the white snow to show through. Duplicate the blizzard layer to strengthen the effect and really pump up the feeling of the wintery wind howling through our piece.

Layer stack with Screen mode applied to top layer

Here's what we've got with our blizzard layers in place.

Blizzard layer duplicated

Step 8 - Add more falling snow

I want to do two more things before we finish this work. Firstly, let's add some larger snowflakes into the mix to heighten the intensity of the background scene and add some unevenness to our windy setting. Add another new layer at the top of the stack and pick up the Sparks brush from GIMP's default brush set. Give this brush a size of around 24 pixels and tick the box next to my old friend, the Apply Jitter setting, increasing the numerical value in the box to 2.5.

Brush settings for sparks

Use this brush to scatter some sparks over your new layer. Don't worry about the fact they're yellow for now (ewww, yellow snow!), that's just a default GIMP setting for this brush.

Sparks added to new layer

You can see the idea I've got in mind here - I've sent the brush in the same direction as the Motion Blur for consistency. Now go to the menus and select Colors --> Desaturate and choose the Luminosity option from the pop-up dialog that appears to change those yellow sparks into sparkling white snow flakes.

Desaturating and the result

Step 9 - Give the text an icy feel

That's pretty good and you can stop there if you want to. But while we needed a flat colour on our lettering for the Bump Map to work earlier, I'm not a fan of leaving the centrepiece of this work plain and unpolished. So re-find your original text layer from earlier and click on it in the Layers panel to activate it once again. Click the Lock Alpha Channel button to constrain any colours we change on this layer to areas where there are already pixels. Then switch your foreground and background colours to R = 143, G = 203, B = 241 and R = 73, G = 145, B = 225 respectively and activate the Blend Tool once again.

Reselecting text layer and setting up colours

Use the Blend Tool to draw a short vertical gradient over your text to get a brightened result with an icy feel.

Outcome of blend

Now select the layer below this one (the name is probably suffixed with a #1) and draw a gradient in the opposite direction - from the bottom of your text to the top. It's a simple, cheeky technique that will give the impression of a shiny outline around your text because we're affecting the layer BELOW the top one. You may need to check that the Lock Alpha Channel setting has been maintained and applies to this layer, which you can quickly do in the Layers panel.

Layers panel and text outline

Step 10 - Pull the text away from the background with a drop shadow

Finally, let's add a shadow to the text to integrate it into the whole scene a little more. Firstly, select the bottom-most copy of your text layer from earlier on - the one just above the background you drew near the start. Then, from the Filters menu choose Filters --> Light and Shadow --> Drop Shadow and use the settings below. The negative number 8 in the X Offset box means an offset to the left of the shape. Use a fairly sizeable blur of about 30 pixels and an opacity of around 50%.

Layer select and Drop Shadow settings

Click OK on the Drop Shadow settings when you're ready, and wrap up warm as you bask in the glow of the result of your work.

Completed snowy text image

Has this tutorial given you a warm fuzzy feeling or has it just left you cold? Let me know in the comments area at the bottom of the page.

Mark is the Editor and owner of Designmark Graphics Ltd. Publishing tutorial articles and guides for Inkscape and the GIMP, this blog aims to boost the profile of these Open Source graphics applications and showcase what they are capable of.


Be aware that all comments are moderated before being published on site. Please be considerate to others in any comments you post and please don't spam.

4 comments (newest first)

  1. Mark
    Fri, 8 Mar 2013

    That's great to hear, Shahin! I hope you'll get a lot out of my tutorials and reading feedback like that encourages me to write lots more for you. :)

    @Tim, brilliant news, glad you're enjoying the tutorials. There's loads more to come so do keep coming back - it's good to have you around.

  2. Shahin Azad
    Fri, 8 Mar 2013

    I wasn't a real Gimp fan. I used to used Photoshop and that was really great. but after switching to the Linux, I left that!
    Sometimes I tried Gimp, but I failed every time. Now, with your awesome tutorial, and unbelievable tricks, I'm passionate on great Gimp :D. I'll use it more. Thank you ;-)

  3. febby
    Fri, 8 Mar 2013

    great tutorial!

    it also can use blender for the 3D text... get more to play perspective :D

    I still wait for your next tutorial...

  4. Tim
    Thu, 7 Mar 2013

    So glad I found your Blog. Firmly planted in my Bookmarks!
    I have learnt a great deal already from this and the Inkscape post also. ;-)

Add your thoughts using the comment form below.

Please insert the result of the arithmetical operation from the following image:

Please insert the result of the arithmetical operation from this image. =

Connect with me

I'm on a range of social channels and, to get alerts as soon as new tutorials are published, subscribe to the RSS feed using the link below.

Search the site

Search the site for a topic or tutorial subject using the search box below:

What's this blog about?

The Designmark blog is the best online resource for Open Source Graphics software tutorials, showing you how to produce quality graphics in Inkscape and the GIMP. You can find out more about how this blog came to be and what's going on behind the scenes in this article.

Who's in charge here?

That would be me, Mark. You can learn more about me, my background and the design work I do on .

Things that built this blog