How To Add a Glow Effect In GIMP {Turn On the Lights}

large featured add glow

Don’t you hate it when you take a photo at dusk, dawn, twilight, or at night and the streetlights aren’t working! No worries. In today’s GIMP tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a glow effect that will turn the lights on!

It’s a simple process of creating a path, filling it in with a color, blurring, and blending layers. Below, you’ll find the step-by-step instructions for completing the glow effect… photo included! If you prefer, watch my Youtube video above to see it in action.

If you’re ready to learn how to create a glow effect in GIMP… let’s do it!

Oh, and if you prefer watching video tutorials, click here instead.

Table of Contents

Step 1: Download + Open the Image In GIMP

open the image

This is the before and after image.

Download this image to use the same one I’m using for this tutorial. Once downloaded, open the image in GIMP.

Step 2: Add the First Glow Effect

Creating the illusion of light emanating from inside the lantern will require making a selection. There are three parts to this lamp where the light will shine through. So, each section needs to be a part of the selection process.

Of all the selection tools in GIMP, the one that’s perfect for this job is the Paths tool (B). With the tool activated, click around each side of the glass on the left. Hold down your Ctrl key and click on the first anchor point you created to close the path.

Next, continue creating a path for the second and third sections of the lamp.

Add the Light

Click image to enlarge

Now that each section has been defined with the Paths tool, we need to fill it in with color and blur it… to add the glow. Before we do that, let’s create a new layer for the light to be added to. This way, we can style the light to our preference vs. putting it on the image layer.

Next, set your Foreground color to a bright, yellowish color. Here is the hexadecimal number for the color I’m using if you want to use the same one; #f9f5dc.

In the Tool Options, click on the “Fill Path” button and then the “Fill” button. Although you now have “light” coming out of the lamp, it doesn’t look natural. Let’s fix that…

Style the Light

Click image to enlarge


By utilizing a Blending Mode, we’ve effectively taken the image’s background color and “blended” it with the light. This creates a more natural-looking glow. Wouldn’t you agree?

To create a more natural glow, let’s first change the Blending Mode to “Vivid Light.” Then, lower the Opacity to around 60 or whatever looks acceptable to you.

The secret to making our light glow is to blur this layer! Go to the menu, Filters > Gaussian Blur, and set the amount to around 10.

At this point, I’m finding the color of the light to be too yellow. Let’s fix that by going to, Colors > Hue/Saturation and lowering the Saturation to around -50.

Step 3: Add the Second Glow Effect

Although we’ve added light and a glow to the lamp, I think we can make it better. Let’s add another layer of light that will be glowing on the outside.

Again, let’s create a new layer for this second glow. We will use the Paths tool also to define the size and shape of the glowing light.

This time, I’ll create a path that starts at the top of the three sections and goes across each continuously. I’ll then continue that path outside the lamp along the right, bottom, and left sides. Fill in the path with the same color as before.

create the second layer of glow

For the blur radius (Filters > Gaussian Blur), I’m increasing this to around 100. The effect of this amount of blur causes the top edge of it to descend too far down. With your Move tool, reposition it higher to cover the three sections of glass.

move the light up and lower the opacity

Again, lower the saturation of the light and reduce the Opacity to around 5.

Now What?

I’d love to see your final edit for this image or any image where you’ve applied this effect! To post your image for my review and to show off your new skills, join our private Facebook group. It’s the friendliest group on this side of the Milky Way and a great place to learn, share, and grow as an artist.

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