How To Rotate In GIMP {In-Depth Tool Guide}

rotate in gimp



The Rotate Tool in GIMP provides a way to turn not only your images but selections and paths too. There are also some powerful, hidden tools within the Tool Options to help you precisely control your rotations.

Today, I’d like to share what all the options can do to assist in rotating pictures, selections, and paths.

If you’re ready, let’s do it!

Table of Contents

How To Use the Rotate Tool

Before we dive into the Tool Options, let’s explore the Adjustment Dialog when you activate the Rotate Tool.

There are two ways to select the Rotate Tool.

Once the tool is activated, you have two options for rotating. The first is to use your mouse. Click on the image and drag to rotate. The adjustment dialog provides the other option and offers more control over how the image is rotated.

Adjustment Dialog For Precise Rotation

GIMP adjustment box

The Adjustment Dialog consists of several parts to help you precisely control the rotation. Let’s look at each and discover how to use them for rotating your photos.

Using the Angle Slider

The Angle option provides you with a box to type in a specific angle, up and down arrows for rotating in small increments, and a slider for fast, precise rotations. Of the three, I prefer using the Angle slider for rotating.

What Is the Center X & Y?

We have Center X & Y options under the Angle slider, plus the graphic to the right. These options allow you to set the position of the center of the rotation.

By default, the anchor point of rotation is the center of your image. If you look at the middle of your image, you’ll see a crosshair icon. This icon marks the center of rotation.

crosshair of rotate tool in gimp

I created a black background so the crosshair is more visible (bottom left corner of the image above).  Also, you can detach the Adjustment Dialog, as I did above, by clicking the up-pointing arrow (top-right of the dialog).

With the “X” and “Y” options, you can change the rotation anchor. Adjust both settings to see how the crosshair changes position as you do. When you start rotating, the image will rotate from (center in) that new position.

The purpose of controlling the point of rotation is how rotating changes your image’s composition. As you rotate, parts of the image will begin seeping outside of the canvas’s original boundary.

Anything outside of it is no longer part of your image. Or at least it will not be once exported. By changing the X and Y axis, you can control how the composition changes.

What Is the Square Graphic?

What’s up with that dotted square to the right? Well, it allows you to pinpoint the center of rotation based on specific points, the corners, and directly in the middle of each side. By default, the middle is highlighted, which represents the center of your image.

Click on one of the other positions to change the crosshair location. Now, rotate to see how it works.

Click images to enlarge. The above image shows the new anchor I selected. Compare how the image is being rotated vs. the second image above.

Advanced Rotate Tool Options

GIMP Rotate Tool Options

The power of the Rotate Tool is located within its Tool Options. When you activate any tool, its corresponding tool options are presented in a panel. This panel is located under the toolbox by default (unless you moved it as I did here). If you don’t see it, go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Tool Options.

Inside the Tool Options panel, you’ll find options like Transform, Direction, Interpolation, and more. Let’s check out what each of these can do to help you rotate photos.

the Transorm Options

The Rotate Tool isn’t limited to just photographs! You can also use it to rotate a selection and a path. In all, there are four options to choose from;

the Direction Options

The default option is “Normal.” Which rotates the photo layer in the direction you intended.

The “Corrective” option does the opposite of what you’d expect. At first, this may seem in-practical. But when you’re trying to straighten a horizon, this might provide better, faster results. You’ll have to try it out to see for yourself.

When using Corrective, make sure to go to View > Grid to turn on grids to assist with the rotation. With the Rotate Tool active, click on the image layer and rotate the grid until the horizon matches the horizontal lines.

the Interpolation Options

When rotating an image in GIMP, the Interpolation can affect the quality of the photo when completed. Several options regulate the quality and speed of the tool.

the Clipping Options

You can see the edges of the photo exceed the layer boundary (yellow dashed line) as I rotate. The blue dashed line is a guide I added to help me straighten the horizon.  Click to enlarge

As you rotate a layer that fills the canvas, it will begin to seep outside the boundary the more it’s rotated. Choosing the right Clipping option can streamline your editing workflow by auto-cropping the Layer within its boundary.

Crop Aspect Ratio

This time, I used the “Crop with Aspect” option to auto-crop within the canvas boundary.

the Guide Options

Guides provide temporary overlays on your image to help improve your composition. This includes the following…

rule of thirds guide

This shows the Rule of Thirds grid overlay.  It’s my favorite!

Rotate More Than Just an Image

By default, the Rotate Tool is set up to rotate the active Layer. As mentioned previously, the Transform section offers options for rotating a selection or path. Let’s discover how to use each for rotating.

How To Rotate a Selection In GIMP

Rotate Selection

Why would you want to rotate a selection? Well, let’s say you have an object or subject that you’d like to rotate. When rotating with the active Layer, it rotates the entire image.

However, if you make a selection of the object, let’s say a building, it rotates just the structure! Here’s how;

  1. Grab the Marquee Tool or use the Paths Tool (and convert to a selection) and make a selection of a building.
  2. Now, select the Rotate Tool and select “Selection” next to
  3. ransform (in the tool options).
    Click anywhere on the image, and rotate!

How To Rotate a Path In GIMP

Rotating a path is useful when you want to make a mirror image of the path created. It works similar to rotating selections. After completing your path, you’ll need to select the “Path” option in the Rotate tool options. Then, rotate to your heart’s desire!

Now What?

Now that you’re familiar with all the options for rotating in GIMP, you might like my 7 pro tips for rotating images in GIMP.

Like this article? If so, please share!

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