How To Create Shapes In GIMP

GIMP is a superb alternative to Photoshop for editing your images, creating illustrations, and graphic design. There’s one tool, though, that is missing from GIMP that has me and others scratching their heads…

Where is the Shape Tool in GIMP? Unfortunately, there isn’t one!!

No fear, I have you covered with this guide that will show you how to create shapes in GIMP. It takes a little bit more effort than other software like Photoshop and Affinity Designer.

I’ll show you how to make rectangles and squares, ovals and circles, and even a triangle or two. Oh, and I’ve included 27 pre-made, hi-res files you can use for your design projects!

If you’re ready… let’s do it!


Table of Contents

The Shape Tool

As mentioned previously, GIMP does not have a built-in Shape Tool. Instead, we have to manually make them. There are two methods for creating them; fill in a selection or fill in a path.

With the Rectangle and Ellipse tools, you can create 4 basics… rectangle, square, oval, and a circle. 

Polygons will require the use of creating a path. Following, you’ll find step-by-step instructions for using the tools to create them.

Pro Tip:

GIMP itself is raster-based software and can not create vectors. Creating shapes isn’t a problem. The problem is, resizing them larger!

The difference between a raster and a vector shape is that vectors can be enlarged to infinity without losing quality. Rasters are made up of pixels and this causes pixelization when resizing larger.  This is due to GIMP having to fill in the larger layer’s missing gaps as you enlarge it, and it creates the pixelization.

The good news is, the Shape Tool will be arriving in a new version of GIMP soon. Until then, download the 27 free shape resources I’ve provided and use this guide for creating new ones.

How To Create Basic Shapes

Let’s start off with the 4 easiest types to create! To get started, create a new document sized to 1920 x 1080 @ 300DPI and fill the canvas with white. We’ll use this document to make all our shapes.

To keep them separate from each other, we’ll create a new layer for each. This will give your shape layer transparency on the non-filled portion of the layer.

How To Create a Rectangle & Square in GIMP

Here are the steps for creating a rectangle…

The final step is to deselect with Command or Ctrl + Shift + A, and you now have your rectangle shape!

To create a square shape, you’ll need to set the Tool Options to “Fixed” and choose “Aspect Ratio.” Repeat the steps above and name the new layer Square.

How To Create an Oval & Circle in GIMP​

This time, you’ll use the Ellipse Tool (E) to create an oval and circle shape. The steps are exactly the same as before! For a nice, round circle, you’ll use the same settings (previously) in the Tool Options.


How To Create Polygons

Creating polygons requires more effort than the basics. Since GIMP doesn’t come with a polygonal selection tool, we’ll improvise with the Paths tool.

5 sided

How To Use the Paths Tool For Creating Polygons

Although the Paths tool is not a selection tool exclusively, you can fill a path with color like a selection. Let’s start off by creating a new layer and naming it “Triangle.”

The first thing we need to do is add some guides, so our sides are even and straight. Make sure your ruler is visible and set to pixels, then put your guides as follows;

Now, grab the Paths tool (B), and with your mouse button, click the top of the first horizontal line (250) and the second vertical line (500). Move down and to the left to click where the two lines intersect, and another click on the right side.

To complete the path, click on the original point. Change your Foreground color, and in the Tool Options, click on the “Fill Path” button. 

A new pop-up window will appear. Choose Solid Color or Pattern and click Fill.

The final step is to crop the layer boundary to the shape by going to Layer > Crop to Content. Your triangle is complete!

How To Create Complex Polygons

Is it possible to make polygons with five or more sides? Yes, yes, it is. It will require adding multiple guides to create sides that are even. Or you could find a premade shape and trace it with the Scissors tool (or Paths tool).

Even, better you can download 27 shapes that I’ve pre-made… for free!

 No email address is required, and you may use them for personal or commercial use. All I ask is that you share this guide with family and friends!

How To Use the Premade Shapes

Truth be told, I made these with Photoshop since it has a built-in Shape tool. The size of each shape is GIGANTIC! Big enough for any type of GIMP design project.

Chances are, you will not need them at their native size. Use the Scale Tool (Shift + S) to resize them smaller. Before you do that, though, fill in the shape with your desired color. Here’s how…

Changing the Colors

To change the colors, you’ll first need to make a selection of them. With the Fuzzy Select tool (U), set the Tool Options to “Feather edges” with a Radius of 5, and click inside the shape.

Choose a new Foreground color and fill in the selection with the Bucket Fill tool (Shift + B).

Now What?

Now is the perfect time to expand your skills with more of my free GIMP tutorials. If you’re looking for a structured environment to learn how to use GIMP for graphic design and or editing your photos check this out.

Oh, and if you’re interested in learning how to create straight lines with check this out.

Like this article? If so, please share!

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