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Ten-minute Tip: Create a ripped paper effect in GIMP
If you've ever been designing something and wondering how to get an uneven, rough-edged look to a shape in GIMP, this Ten-minute Tip is for you. We'll take a normal rectangle and use the Eraser Tool and the brush settings panel to get our ripped effect. Combined with other techniques like adding textures or colour overlays, you can take this further and design things like old treasure maps, ripped notes, or torn newspaper clippings.
Here's what we'll have by the end. I've already made the main image and background so I'll just be describing the final couple of steps here.
Free bleached paper textures from Vandelay Design blog
Here's a drawing I've been working on recently. It's very straightforward right now: just a rectangle over a simple background, but I want to give it a bit more depth and interest, specifically by roughing up the edges and applying a texture to make it look like a srewed up piece of notepaper fetched back out of the bin.
I could try drawing a new page by hand and painting the edges I want, or erasing parts of the edges manually a bit at a time, but this isn't very efficient and doesn't give me the unpredictable, roughened look that I want. Instead, I'm going to use a standard GIMP brush and adjust some settings to achieve the torn look I'm after.
Step 1 - Set up the Eraser tool by editing the brush settings
Activate the Eraser Tool using Shift and E, then move over the Tool Options panel and let's get stuck in.
I'm going to use a brush with a Hardness of 100%, and switch on the Apply Jitter setting, increasing the Amount to around 1.20. Then, in the Brushes dialog box (Ctrl, Shift and B or Windows --> Dockable Dialogs --> Brushes from the menu bar), I'm going to tweak the Spacing setting so that the brush stroke is slightly more dense. Reduce this to about 5.
That should be everything set up as we need, all that's left is to start brushing. To make our ripped edge really quickly, click once at the bottom left corner of the sheet to define a start point for the brush stroke. Position your eraser so that it half-covers the shape when you do this. Hold down the Shift key and click at the opposite end of your shape to quickly brush along a straight line from the start point to where you click for the second time.
Hold down Shift again and click back over the left-hand side to brush back in the opposite direction. Repeat this back-and-forth brush stroking if necessary to achieve the final look.
There, that was quick, wasn't it? You don't have to go in straight lines if you don't want to but the Shift key can help when you're trying to follow a straight edge. For different effects, try using a brush with a different hardness (try 25% for a more gentle effect) or clicking a bit further away from the edge so that you just get a slight erosion of the note's edges, or a couple of nicks along its length.
Step 2 - Download a texture image and apply it to the paper shape
To apply the paper texture, go to File --> Open as Layers (keyboard shortcut Ctrl, Alt and O) and select one of the images from the Vandelay Design bleached paper collection.
Resize the new layer so it's roughly the same width as your page image, using Layer --> Scale Layer. In my case, that's about 700 pixels.
Change this layer to a black and white version using Colors --> Desaturate.
Just before we do the next step, we need to tell GIMP that when we remove areas of this layer that we don't want, that those areas should be transparent. Because what we've imported is a JPG, this isn't currently the case, so add an Alpha Channel to the layer by right-clicking on its preview thumbnail and selecting Add Alpha Channel.
You'll know when it's done because the layer's name will change from bold type to normal.
Activate your page layer from the Layers dialog box by clicking on it once, then select Layer --> Transparency --> Alpha to Selection in the menus or, if you want to be quick (after all, this is a ten-minute tip), press and hold the Alt key and click on the thumbnail image in the Layers panel. You'll see a dotted outline that's the same size and shape as your page.
Invert the selection by pressing Ctrl and I, or by using Select --> Invert, and re-activate your bleached paper texture layer so that our next operation affects it rather than our page.
Press Delete to clear this area's pixels and leave just the paper shape filled with the texture.
Deselect the dotted area with Ctrl, Shift and A or Select --> Deselect, then hop over to the Layers panel and reduce the texture layer's opacity to 60%. Use the Layer blend mode dropdown to set this layer's blend to Grain Merge.
And that's all there is to it. After that work, you should have a nice textured piece of ripped paper all ready to go. Feel free to play around with the Grain Merge layer's opacity and tweak it up or down to make the effect stronger or more subtle, depending on what you prefer.
After that, it's up to you what you do to finish things off.
Was this ten-minute tip useful? Learned anything new from it? Let me know in the comments section below.
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