The Designmark Graphics blog
Quality tutorials for Inkscape and GIMP
This tutorial will show you how to make a colourful soundwave background behind some bright featured text and add a sparkling effect to both. We'll be making use of some of GIMP's filters and layer blend modes to get a strong lighting effect, before using some brushing to soften the edges and adding the text to round the piece off with a big finish.
Skills you'll be developing in this GIMP tutorial
- Using GIMP's Wind filter to create a 'blasted' effect
- Rotate and Scale tools to adapt the soundwave's shape
- Using layer blend modes to achieve strong lighting effects
- Andromeda galaxy image - public domain license. Credit: NASA.
Here's what our final outcome should resemble:
Step 1 - Set up colours and begin
Before we start on the drawing proper, make sure your fore- and background colours are set to white and black respectively. If not, press D on the keyboard then flip the two colour settings using the curled arrows on the toolbox or the X key.
With that done, create a new canvas which is 900 pixels square, filled with the background colour: black.
Step 2 - Create the basic wave peaks
Create a new layer above the background using Ctrl, Shift and N or by hitting Layer --> New Layer in the menus, and give it a transparent fill. Activate the Rectangle Tool (keyboard R) to draw a tall, thin rectangle on the left-hand side of this new layer. Fill this shape with white using your preferred method, eg. Bucket Fill (Shift and B), or Ctrl and , on the keyboard.
Before we move on, we need to deselect this shape using either Ctrl, Shift and A or Select --> None. Then choose Filters --> Distorts --> Wind from the menus and enter the following settings:
- Threshold = 40
- Strength = 90
Hit OK when you're done to see the outcome of applying this filter.
Now, you can probably see some rather unattractive artefacts where your block starts to merge into the wind effect; that's an unavoidable by-product of the filter, but it's easy to remove. Just get your rectangle tool again and drag out a selection that covers the block base and some of the speckled areas, then press the Delete key to remove them.
Step 3 - Orientate the wave correctly
Good - we're up and running. Rotate this layer 90 degrees anti-clockwise by selecting Layer --> Transform --> Rotate 90° counter-clockwise, then take the Move Tool (keyboard button M) and move the rotated layer into position towards the middle of the canvas.
This is also a good point to see if you're happy with the result of the Wind filter. If it's not filling your canvas as much as you'd like, and you think the effect needs boosting (and I do), just take the Scale Tool (Shift and T) and stretch the layer to increase the size of the wave.
Step 4 - Create the negative version of the wave
Duplicate this layer using the button in the Layers dialog box, or quickly by pressing Ctrl, Shift and D. Go back to the Layers --> Transform menu, and this time select Flip Vertically. Use the Move Tool again to drag this layer into position so that it fits against the bottom edge of the original layer exactly.
Don't worry if, when you flip the layer, some of it disappears off the top of your canvas, just move it back down where you can see it. Tip: hold Ctrl down while you do this to keep everything locked horizontally and prevent the copy drifting out to the side.
Step 5 - Apply a gradient to introduce colour
Merge the two halves of your wave using the Layer --> Merge Down option in the menus. Then, create another layer at the top of your project which is also transparent. Flip to the Gradient Tool (L on the keyboard) and head to the tool options panel. Select the Full Saturation gradient from the Gradients preset pop-out.
Click and drag to draw a full spectrum gradient across your canvas on the new layer, then change its blend mode to Overlay.
Here's the gradient in Normal blend mode:
And here it is once the blend mode has been changed to Overlay.
Step 6 - Soften the edges of the image
Nearly there for the first part. I'm not keen on the hard edges on the left and right of the wave: I'd rather they faded out slightly at either side so they can blend in better with any backgrounds I might add later.
Re-select your wave layer (which still contains the white shapes we drew at the start) and choose Layer --> Add Layer Mask from the menus, and choose White (full transparency) in the options box).
This Layer Mask will allow us to use a brush to soften those edges slightly - any pixels on the mask that are white will be transparent, any that are black will be opaque, with a full range of opacities in-between for greys and so on. So, reset your foreground and background colours to black and white, then choose a large, soft paint brush (keyboard button P) from the tool's options box. I've selected a brush with a Hardness of 25%, at a size of 240 pixels.
Use this brush on your Layer Mask to add some soft black regions at either end, and anywhere else you feel the wave's spikes need tempering. I recommend using different brush sizes for different areas for a more refined outcome. Here's what the Layer Mask looks like in its own right:
Here's what the wave looks like as a result of the Layer Mask being created:
Let's add a finishing touch to this background to give it some more energy. Add another layer at the top of your GIMP project and fill it with black. Change the blend mode of this layer to Dodge, which will allow you to see the drawing underneath as though nothing has changed.
Switch to your Paintbrush tool with P on the keyboard and head to the tool's options panel. Click on the brush image and select the Sparks brush from the list that pops out. You can play with the size setting if you want to (I've left it at 20 pixels here), but make sure you find the Apply Jitter slider, tick the option box, and set the value to around 3.
On the Dodge layer, paint the sparks in funnels upwards from the centre of the soundwave, and downwards as well. Try to add more sparks around the middle, tailing off as you brush away to the edges. The Dodge blend mode will amplify the brightness of the colours and give a twinkling effect to the image. Like before, I'll show you the layer at Normal blend mode first, so you can see how the sparks are distributed over the image below.
And now using Dodge blend mode:
Looking good. This completes the background soundwave part of our image, now let's move onto the featured text.
Step 7 - Add and blend the text element
With the Text tool (T), click on the canvas and type your text. GIMP will create a new layer above the current one with the text on it. Use the Tool Options panel (or the on-canvas editing tool) to set a large font size and a text fill colour of white.
Still using the Text tool, or with the Move tool if you prefer, drag your text and position the baseline so that it's level with the centre of the glowing wave behind it.
Once positioned correctly, duplicate this layer and click the topmost copy to make it active, then click the 'eye' icon next to the lower copy of the text to hide it. We'll be using that again later on so don't delete it.
Using the menus, click Layer --> Transparency --> Alpha to Selection, or hold down Alt and click on the layer thumbnail in the Layers panel. This will create a selection from the text on this layer and you'll see the tell-tale dotted outline around the edge.
Use Select --> Shrink in the menus and shrink the selection by one pixel. Then press the Delete key to remove the central fill of this text and leave a thin white outline.
Change the blend mode of this layer to Screen and lower its opacity slightly to about 80%. Press Ctrl, Shift and A or choose Select --> None to clear the current selection. Now, click and drag your galaxy image from where you've saved it into the image window, where GIMP will add it as a new layer. You can also do this using File --> Open as Layers or Ctrl, Alt and O on the keyboard.
Move this layer in the stack so that it's below the text outline but above everything else.
Don't worry that we can't see our original work just yet, we'll fix that after this next step. Change the galaxy layer to black and white colours only by selecting Colors --> Desaturate and selecting the Average option from the pop-up that appears. Hit OK when done.
Hop up to the menus and choose Layer --> Mask --> Add Layer Mask. This time choose Black (Full Transparency) in the options pop-up, and notice how the galaxy image seems to have vanished. That's because we've 'masked' it out of view for now.
What we'll do next is punch a hole in this layer using our text from before. Repeat the steps from earlier in the tutorial to select the text outline; usefully, you can activate the hidden text layer and select-from-alpha-channel without having to make it visible.
Click on the layer mask that sits on the galaxy image layer (which should be the black thumbnail image in the Layers panel) and use your preferred method to fill it with white and make that area of the galaxy layer show through.
Change the blend mode of this layer to Addition and reduce the layer's opacity to around 70%.
Finally, reselect the original text layer you created, and click the space next to it in the Layers panel to make it visible once again. In the menus, choose Blur --> Gaussian Blur and set a value of 40 pixels. Click OK when you're done.
Change the blend mode of this layer to Addition as well, and give it an opacity of about 30 - 40% for a bright, but not overpowering, glow.
Marvellous, well done! Hope you've enjoyed this tutorial, have you learned anything new from it? Produced your own version that you're proud of and want to show off? Leave a comment below and tell me how you got on.
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