How To Draw a Circle In GIMP {3 Methods}

It probably came as a shock when you realized GIMP doesn’t have a shape tool. I know it was for me. Fear not, I have the solution for creating shapes in GIMP… circles in particular… one of those solutions no one is talking about!

This GIMP tutorial provides several methods for drawing a circle in GIMP. Plus, I’ve included how to create a hollow circle too. Oh, and you’ll also find premade shapes you can download for!

Table of Contents

How To Create a Circle With the Ellipse Select Tool​


Our first method for creating circle images with GIMP will be done with selection tools and filling it with a color. The selection tool for our circle images will be the Ellipse Select tool.

Step 1: New Document + Color Choice ​

new doc

Let’s start off by creating a new GIMP document for your project if you haven’t done so already. For this project, I’ve set my dimensions to 1080 x 1080 @300DPI.

Now, set the Foreground color swatch to any color of your choice. I’ve set mine to the following hexadecimal number: #F3D391.

Step 2: Draw the Circle

tools grouped

Here’s how to show all tools in GIMP vs. in groups.

Next, click the Ellipse Select tool icon in the toolbox. This can be found in the upper-left of the toolbox. It looks like an oval with a dashed border. If you have the latest version of GIMP, it might be grouped with the Rectangle Select tool.

If so, click on the Rectangle Select icon and hold your mouse button down. This will reveal the Ellipse Select tool in a pop-up menu. Or use the keyboard shortcut to select it, which is the letter “E.”

Tool Options

In the Tool Options, make sure to have “Fixed” turned on and choose “Aspect Ratio.” This will ensure you create a perfect, round circle vs. an oval.

fixed aspect ratio

Draw the Circle

Now, click on your canvas and drag out your mouse (while holding down the button) to create your circle. To reposition it, click inside and move as needed.

circle image

Step 3: Fill in the Circle

circle image filled

Before filling in the circle with a color, let’s place it on a new layer. Click on the new layer icon at the bottom of the Layer Panel. It’s the first one. Give the layer the name of “Circle,” set the background color to transparency, and click OK.

Grab the Bucket Fill tool from the toolbox or Shift + B. Click inside the selection to fill it with your Foreground color. Now, deselect before moving on, with Command or Ctrl + Shift + A.

Pro Tip:

Some GIMP tutorials describe using the Shift key to create a round circle with the Ellipse tool. This worked in older versions of GIMP. The steps described in this tutorial is based on GIMP 2.10+.

If you’re using a newer version of GIMP, then the Shift key may not work. Instead, the Shift key is used for adding to a selection vs. making a perfect circle.

Hence, the reason I suggested setting the Aspect Ratio in the Tool Options.

How To Use GIMP to Fill Your Circle With a Pattern

circle image filled with a pattern

This is a dot pattern I created for this GIMP retro text effects project… I show you how to create this pattern and two others.

Who says you have to fill your circle with a solid color? It’s true. You don’t need to limit your shapes, in GIMP, to a solid color. How about a pattern? It’s easy… here’s how…

Follow the same previous steps to create a circle. Don’t forget to create a new layer for it too. Before filling it, we need to choose our pattern.

Select your Bucket Fill and navigate to the Tool Options. Click on “Pattern fill” and then click on the icon below to select your pattern. GIMP includes some free patterns. Choose one for your circle.

Now, go to the GIMP menu bar, Edit > Fill with Pattern… your pattern is instantly added! Don’t forget to deselect.

choose your pattern

The Quickest Way To Make a Circle In GIMP

circle image created with paint brush

Here’s how to make an instant circle, with one click, that no one is talking about!

Create a new layer and name it Paintbrush. Now, grab your Paintbrush (P) and choose a round brush from the Brushes panel; Windows > Dockable Dialog > Brushes.

Grab the hard-edged GIMP brush labeled; 2. Hardness 100. Set the size of the brush via the Tool Options to around 800. Now, click on the canvas… and boom, instant circle!

How To Use Premade Circle Shapes In GIMP

Even though the last method is the quickest, I thought I’d share this free source anyway. Other than a circle, we can’t use a brush to instantly create shapes. Unless, of course, you find a free brush that is shaped like the shape required.

The next best thing to using brush shapes is premade shapes!

I’ve created over 25 shapes from triangles, octagons, stars, and more that you can download for free. Oh, and no email address required!

How To Create a Hollow Circle

Our last challenge is creating a hollowed circle. Or a circle with a simple stroke vs. being filled.

Circle Stroke Option 1

Click to enlarge

Follow the steps before to create a circle with the Ellipse Select. Create a new layer named “Stroke Circle Option 1.”

To add a stroke to the circle, go to Edit > Stroke Selection. In the “Stroke Selection” window, set the “Stroke line” to Solid color, Antialiasing, and set the “Line width” to your preference. I’ve set mine to 12px.

Click the Stroke button to create your hollow circle!

Circle Stroke Option 2

Click to enlarge

Note: Revealing the path isn’t necessary. I’ve included this to show you where to find and reveal it if needed.

To stroke the path, go to, Edit > Stroke Path and choose your settings accordingly. Clicking the Stroke button will add the stroke as before. However, this time the stroke is smoother!

The previous method for adding a stroke created a pixelated edge. We can smooth that out by using the following procedure.

Again, create a circle, on a new layer, with the Ellipse tool. This time, we’re going to convert our circle selection into a path. You can do this by going to Select > To Path.

At this point, your path has been created. It’s just not visible… let’s make it visible. First, deselect the selection by going to Select > None.

Now, go to Windows > Dockable Dialog > Paths. This will reveal the Paths panel. Inside, the path looks similar to a layer. By default, it’s disabled. Click to the left of the preview thumbnail to enable it as you would a regular layer. You should now see a red circle outline on your canvas.

Now What?

Your journey with GIMP has just begun? Or you’re an avid user looking to improve your GIMP skills? Either way, check out my list of free GIMP tutorials and some premium tutorials.

Did you know that another cool thing you can do with circles is wrap text around them?

Like this article? If so, please share!

One Response

  1. Thats a great tip! thanks for sharing. Very helpful not just for the beginners.
    I have been using Gimp with a XP-Pen ( ) drawing tablet for almost a year now and my experience has been that I can make decent art in Gimp but there are some roadblocks with the software I cannot seem to find answers to deal with them.
    What I end up doing is using Krita on my computer to create outlines and then do colors and detail in Gimp.

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