Once you have finished, and it should only take a few seconds, you should have a picture and Layer Mask icon that looks like the one shown (although I’ve added a blown up version so you can see better). It doesn’t look too bad at this stage. The top four windows are complete. If you notice any green bits sticking out in these windows you need to fix these in the final clear up stages later.
I deliberately left clutter on the window sill so that it can be used to create a feeling of depth in the image. We are going to mask out the candles, tankard, and my face so that it looks like the aquarium is behind them.
Time to get rid of the marching ants, go to ‘Select / None’ in the menu. Zoom in on the window with the candle and Pritt stick. Chose a very small brush size, I went for 23 pixels, and with a black brush carefully ‘colour in’ the detail of the candle back in again. If you accidentally reveal too much of the bottom layer ie get some of the green garden showing like a halo around the objects then you need to change to a white brush to conceal the layer. This is why you went to the effort of making a mask and not just used the eraser tool. You can quickly flip the white/black colours by clicking the small arrow next to the colour blocks (shown in the middle circle).
In the image above I’ve already done the candle and have started on the Pritt stick. As you get closer to the edge of the object you may want to decrease the brush size – this can be done quickly by using the [ key and ] makes it bigger again. Remember if you make a mistake there is no need to worry, change your brush colour back to white and the water pixels can be painted back in.
When you get to the scissors take extra care with the handle. By only painting back the red bits you can leave the aquarium showing in middle, the same applies to the punched holes in the top of the pen refill boxes that are sticking out of the tankard. Take care when painting between the pencils. Zooming right in and using a small brush, as shown below makes this relatively simple.
Now for an extra touch. When you get to my face you’ll notice I’m wearing glasses. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could see the aquarium through the glasses! Its actually pretty simple. All you need to colour in is the arm of the glasses and the darker curve of the edge of the lens to make a sort of T shape. I zoomed right in to get the detail right and used a tiny brush to draw to a point as shown.
Nearly done. Once you’ve finished the tankards, candle, cigar box and my face you should zoom out and admire your handy work. You’ve been working at an extreme magnification and it helps to stop and step back every now and then to check the overall effect is working. You should have something that looks like this, reasonably neat edges around the windows and the aquarium visible in the cardboard holes, scissor handle and through my glasses.
Now its time for your final checks. Zoom in and inspect around the edges of each window frame. Even with careful selecting with the pen tool you may have missed a few pixels, as I have shown below, and have a thin strip of grass showing through. Using the brush on a very small setting you can colour in the missing bits of aquarium – remember that you will have to use a black brush to reveal the window layer, a white one to conceal it. If you have overrun too much into the window you can use the Pencil tool to ‘draw’ straight lines to tidy up the edges. With a small brush left click once at your starting point. Press and hold the Shift key and you get a moveable line that you can drag along to the required position.
Once you’ve finished all of your editing you must remember to turn the aquarium layer opacity back up to 100%
With the editing complete you need to make the image ready for saving. In order for GIMP to remember the layers and masks you need to click on File / Save and it will ask you for a filename. GIMP uses the .xcf format. If you want to be able to share your images or save it as a smaller file then you want to convert it to a JPEG. The .xcf for my picture was 34Mb in size but the .jpg got it down to 1.4mb (you can go smaller by reducing the quality further).
The conversion option is hidden away (it took me a few internet searches for the answer) but want you need to do is click on File / Export from the main menu. You get a screen similar to the one shown. If you click on the small + icon near ‘Select File Type’, shown in the small red circle, you get all the compatible formats that GIMP can work with. Scroll down until you see JPEG Image as shown. Type in your filename in the top box and hit ‘Export’. And relax.
Congratulations on making it to the end of the post! If you are a novice to photo editing and you’ve followed along with me then you’ve learnt an amazing amount of techniques:
Open an image adjusting the colour balance
Adding a layer
Importing an image into a layer
Scaling and Moving an Image Layer
Changing Opacity and Anchoring
Creating a Layer Mask
Making a selection using the pen tool
Inverting a Selection
Using the brush tool in black or white mode to add /subtract to the mask
Zooming in an fine tuning
Exporting your image
The techniques you have learnt will stand you in good stead for future projects. Advanced use of these skills mean you can produce images like this one, taken one quiet afternoon at work and created in about an hour in Photoshop from 12 different shots. You can click on the image to zoom in and check out the little details like being able to ‘see’ through the glasses 🙂