GIMP Text Effects Tutorial {Exploding Text}

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Are you ready to discover how to make your text explode? Awesome! 

That’s precisely what you’re going to learn how to do in today’s GIMP text effect tutorial.

The secret to this text effect is layer masks and brushes. I’ll show you how to use layer masks in conjunction with some free (included below) brushes.

Note: the above video tutorial was created with beginners in mind. The following step-by-step instructions are for more experienced users.  

Either way, I’d recommend the video tutorial for all levels!

Table of Contents

Step 1: Create a New Document

create a new doc

Here are the dimensions I’m using for this design project; 1920 x 1080 @ 300 ppi. For the color of your new canvas, I’d recommend a dark gray to black.

You can set the color while creating a new document by clicking on the Foreground color swatch and choosing “Foreground” under “Fill with.”

Pro Tip:

I recommend a resolution of 300 ppi for all text design projects. The reason why is GIMP, unlike Photoshop, is 100% raster-based (pixel vs vector).

Therefore the text, in GIMP, will have sharper details with a higher resolution.

Even if I’m working on a document or project that will be mostly for online use, I will still use a resolution of 300.

And then, when I’m ready to post it online, I will resize the canvas to a resolution of 72 ppi.

Step 2: Add Layer Mask + Texture​

The key to this exploding text effect is starting out with a Layer Mask added to your background layer. Click on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the layer panel. The icon looks like a clown!

Next, let’s add this image to our canvas. Once downloaded, locate it on your system folder and drag it over the GIMP interface. Once you release your mouse button, the image file will be added as a new layer.

I’d recommend renaming the layer to help you stay organized. Double click on the layer name and rename it to “Texture.” Also, move this layer to the bottom by clicking on the layer and dragging below the Background layer.

add the image and a layer mask

Step 3: Rotate + Resize Image​

rotate and scale layer

Depending on the size file you downloaded, you may need to resize it smaller (or larger). I ended up downloading the largest file size available and will resize smaller.

First, let’s rotate the layer. Find your Rotate tool (Shift + R) and click on the canvas (ensure the Texture layer is selected in the layers panel). In the toolbox (top right), type in 90 for the angle and click enter or return.

Next, with Shift + S (Scale tool), click on your canvas again to resize it accordingly. In the Scale toolbox, I’m going to type in my canvas width, which is 1920.

The tool should auto adjust the Height to keep it in proportion. If it doesn’t, make sure the lock icon is activated. It will look broken if not. Then retype your width, click your tab key, and then “Scale.”

Step 4: Add Text + Align​​

add your text

Now it’s time to add your text for this project. Grab your text tool with the letter “T” and type out anything you’d like. For this design project, I wrote out Exploding.

Oh, and the font type I’m using is called Montserrat Heavy, font size is 200, and the font color is white.

Next, let’s align our content in the center of our canvas. This can be achieved with our Align tool. The Align tool can be found on your toolbar and looks like a sideways bar graph. Or hit the letter “Q.”

To use the Align tool, you’ll first need to activate the layer you’d like to align with. In this case, our text.

Click anywhere on the inside of the text layers “layer boundary.” You’ll see a light-colored square in each corner. This is your visual cue that the layer has been activated for alignment.

Now, navigate to your tool options and set the “Relative to” the “First Item.” Then, click on the following to icons labeled…

Step 5: Reveal Textured Image Inside of Text​​​

Now the fun begins! This step involves revealing the image of our texture inside of the letters. Here’s how…

Your text should now be filled with the image layer like this…

reveal texture image inside of text

Step 6: Apply the First Brush​​​​

The magic for this design requires several custom dynamic GIMP brushes and adjusting the settings to alter how they’re applied. You can download these brushes from here.

The first brush I’m going to use is called Acrylic 02. The Dynamic Settings (in tool options) for this brush, I’m going to set to “Confetti.”

This Dynamic Setting will auto adjust the size, angle, and more as you apply the brush. This creates randomness to the application of the brush that makes for a more realistic effect.

For the initial brush size, I’m going to set it to 125. Then, as I apply the brush, it will be resized larger/smaller as I use it. But, it will stay within a specific range vs making it too large or small.

Now, apply your brush along the edge of each letter. If you’re unhappy with a brushstroke outcome, change your foreground color to white and paint over that area.

Painting with white brings back the original image. So, black removes and white adds.  

Once you’re happy with your edit, move onto the next step. For comparison, take a look at my design at this point in the project…

apply the first brush

Step 7: Apply the Second Brush

For this next step, I’m going to use the Charcoal 02 brush at a smaller size. This time, I’m going to apply the brush on the inside of the letters. When you’re done, it should look similar to this…

apply the second brush

Step 8: Create Dust Particles + Motion Effect

Next, you’re going to create some dust particles and add some motion blur to create your exploding text effect.

Before you apply the next brush, duplicate the Background layer and its mask. Click on the “Duplicate” icon at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Also, double click on the Background layer and rename it Brush 1. For the duplicate layer, I’m going to rename it Brush 2.

At this time, turn off the Brush 1 layer by clicking on the eye icon to the left of the layer.

The next step involves merging the layer mask with the layer itself. Right-click on the Brush 2 layer and select “Apply Layer Mask.” This commits your brush strokes to the layer.

Now, we need to add another Layer Mask for the second brush. Add one and then select the Splat 02 brush. For the size, I’m going to increase it to around 150.

This time, apply your brush above, below, and on the sides of your text.

The final step is adding a motion blur.

Filters > Blur > Zoom Motion Blur

Here are the settings I used for the motion effect…

zoom motion blur settings

Repeat the steps above at least two more times with the following changes…

Step 9: Create Smoke Effect

add a smoke brush

Our final step is adding a little smoke to the text effects design. The brush to use is called Smokebrushes_normal22. For the size, choose a massive brush around 1,000 and turn off the Dynamic Settings.

Oh, and make sure to create a new layer and mask, too… like the steps above.

Now it’s your turn…

Action Is Power

Now it’s your turn to complete this graphic design project, and I want to see your final design.

Head on over to our community and post your text effects project. I’ll answer any of your questions. Also, if you want feedback, add #CC.

Before you go, check out my GIMP text effects playlist with over 20 more GIMP tutorials.

Using GIMP can be challenging when you’re new to the software. If you’d like to master GIMP with less frustration, check out my GIMP Made Easy tutorials.

You can also click here to find all my free articles on GIMP.

Would you like to see how to process this design in Photoshop? If so, check out the Photoshop videos tutorial and article.

Like this article? If so, please share!

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