GIMP Tutorial: Jazz Poster Text Effect

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How do you create a portrait out of text? Easy you follow the step-by-step instructions in this GIMP tutorial!

In this text effects tutorial, you’ll learn how to create a custom brush out of the text. This brush is the key to this text effect.

Plus, you’ll also learn how to convert millions of colors into two, how to use layer masks, how to remove a background, how to warp text and more.

Are you ready to master this text effect? Awesome, let’s do it…

Table of Contents

Note: the video tutorial was created with beginners in mind. 

The following step-by-step instructions are for more experienced users.

Step 1: Open Image & Adjust Canvas Size

open the included image

For this project, download this image and open it in GIMP (Ctrl or Command + O). Next, let’s change the aspect ratio of the canvas to a square.

Image > Canvas Size

Next to the Width and Height number boxes, you’ll see a link icon. To switch to a square format, make sure it’s “unlocked.”

For the width, we want it to be equal to the height, which is 3173. Type in that number and press your tab key.

Now, we need to tell GIMP which part of the image should be within the square canvas.

Or in other words, we need to set up the composition for the new format. At this time, the musician is to the right of the new canvas.

Click on the thumbnail view (center of canvas size window) and drag to the right until the right edge aligns with the right side of the square. Press “Resize.”

Step 2: Create a Gradient Background

create a radial gradient

In an upcoming step, you will learn how to remove the background! So, at this time, let’s create a radial Gradient for the background.

First, let’s create a new layer named Gradient Background and fill with Transparency.

Set the foreground and background colors to the following hexadecimal, respectively; #f9c96c & #e2961d.

Grab your Gradient tool (G) in the tool options, set the shape to “Radial,” and the type to FG to BG (RGB). For this project, I’d like to place the radial gradient directly in the center of our canvas.

Yes, you can eyeball it. But I’d like to find the dead center. This is easy when you place a horizontal and vertical center at 50% each. Where they intersect is the center. To add the guides…

Image > Guides > New Guide (by Perecent)

Set both a horizontal and vertical guide at 50%. If the guides are not visible, it’s due to having them turned off. To turn them on…

View > Show Guides

Now, click in the center (with your Gradient tool) and drag out the length. The longer the line, the bigger the first color. Plus, a longer line results in a smoother color transition from one to another.

Step 3: Convert Color Image to B&W

convert millions of colors to two

I recommend working non-destructively. This means duplicating layers to have access to the original if things don’t turn out the way you intended them to. It’s easier to go back to a duplicate layer (or group) vs. starting over from scratch.

So, let’s duplicate our image layer, name it Step 1, and moving it above the other layers. Now, we’re going to convert the millions of colors into two colors; black + white.

Colors > Threshold – don’t close this window yet.

Boom! Two colors (make sure you have preview turned on). The only problem is we have some detail that was lost in the musician’s face and hands. You can bring this back by adjusting the Threshold.

Under the histogram, to the right, you’ll see a little node. Click on it and drag it to the left. For this image, I’m bringing the adjustment to align with the right of the Histogram. The numerical number is 204.

Step 4: Remove Background

removing the background

I’d like to replace the background with transparency. This way, the gradient background will be visible.

Most of the time, when you want to remove something, you have to select it first. For this image, since it only has two colors, you can use the Color Select tool.

Tools > Selection Tools > By Color Select

Now, click on the white part of the canvas to select that color. Then, right-click on the Step 1 layer and choose “Add to Channel.” Press your Delete or Backspace key to remove the white from the layer.

Let’s deselect; Shift + Ctrl or Command + A.

One problem. We have black on the background still! This time, instead of selecting a color, we’ll just use the Eraser tool (Shift + E) to remove it.

Style the Musician Layer

Before creating our custom brush, let’s duplicate the Step 1 layer and name it Step 2. Next, change the Blending Mode for Step 1 to; Dissolve and turn the opacity down to 25.

Also, change the Blending Mode of Step 2 to; Linear burn and set the Opacity to 85. Finally, add a Layer Mask (to Step 2 layer) with white.

Step 5: Create a Custom Text Brush & Apply

create a custom brush

The secret to a text brush? Text, but of course! Grab your text tool (T) and type out something like “Smooth Jazz for the Soul.”

For the font style, I’m using Aero at a size of 75. The color is vital… pure black; #000000.

Next, let’s select all the letters by right-clicking on the text layer and choose “Alpha to Selection.” Make a copy with Ctrl or Command + C.

The text layer is no longer needed. So, drag the layer to the bottom to hide it. Let’s also deselect with; Shift + Ctrl or Command + A. In the layers panel, click on the Layer Mask of Step 2.

Now the magic begins!

Grab your brush tool (P), navigate to the tool options, and take a close look at the very first brush. Well, I’ll be darned, it’s the text you typed out! How cool is that?

As soon as you copied from the selection, it auto-converted it to a custom brush! Hover your brush over a black part of your canvas, and you should see your text. Now, try this… click once anywhere in black.

Boom! A cut out of your text is applied via the Layer Mask. To create the text effect for this design, continue using it in different locations.

To fill in the gaps, adjust the size of the brush smaller.

Step 6: Create a New Layer of Text + Warp

create some more text and warp it

To finish our design, let’s add another text layer and warp, so it looks like it’s coming out of the saxophone. I’m going to type out the same line as before with the same font. For the size, let’s increase it to 250, and the color I’ve chosen is #694b0c.

I think I’d like to style text further by dropping the Opacity down to 85 and changing the Blending Mode to Dissolve.

To warp the text, we’re going to use the Unified Transform tool (Shift + T). Click on your text to activate the tool.

Now, all you have to do is grab one of the corners and move it in or out. Continue adjusting each corner until you get the text effect based on your creative vision.

So, what’s left? Glad you asked…

Action Is Power

Now it’s your turn to complete this project. Plus, I’d love to see your finished design. It’s easy to share via our private community…

Head on over to our community and post your portrait text effect project. It’s a great place to ask questions and get feedback too.

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.

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