How To Turn Anything to Gold, the GIMP Tutorial

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The color of gold. What a precious sight. Wouldn’t you agree?

In this GIMP tutorial, I’ll show you how to turn anything into gold! Here are just a few of the things you’ll learn how to do;

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: Create a New Document & Add The Provided Image

new document

For this photo project, I’ll use the following dimensions; 1920 for the width and 1080 for the height. Let’s set the canvas color (foreground) to black.

Here’s the image we’ll be using. Once downloaded, drag and drop over the GIMP interface. After releasing your mouse button, the image will be added as a new layer.

Double click on the layer name to rename it to; “Original.” Next, duplicate the layer and rename it “Car.” Turn off the visibility for the Original layer.

Next, re-size the image to around 1200 px wide using the Scale tool (Shift + S). Instead of typing in width via the Scale window, hold down your Ctrl key, click and drag in. This will allow you to re-size the image from the center.

resize car

Step 2: Remove the Background

select car

Removing a background in GIMP is easy with the right tools. The first thing you have to do is make a selection of the background. But the question is which selection tool; Foreground Select tool, Fuzzy Select tool, Free Select tool, or something else?

Actually, any one of these is perfect for the initial selection. However, you may need a second tool to refine the selection.

Let’s start off by selecting the car with the Free Select tool (F). Draw around the car and try to get as close to the edge as possible. It doesn’t have to be perfect since we’ll use another tool to refine the selection.

Once you’ve made it back to the starting point and release your mouse button, the selection will be revealed. Now, turn on Quick Mask Mode (Shift + Q). This adds a red overlay on the outside of your selection. So, anything without the red overlay is part of your selection.

To add or remove from the selection, you’ll use a brush. Grab your Brush tool (P) and set your foreground color to black and apply the brush. Black removes from the selection, and white adds to the selection. Remember that anything in red is not part of the selection.

Adjust your selection as needed and press Shift + Q to de-activate Quick Mask Mode. Then, add a Layer Mask (white), Invert (Ctrl + I) the selection, and hit your Delete or Backspace key.

Then, Deselect with Shift + Ctrl or Command + A. Finally, duplicate the layer, right-click on it and select “Apply Layer Mask.”

Step 3: Golden Transformation Part 1

gold nugget transformation part 1

The key to this golden nugget effect is having an image that has texture throughout. For example, if you have a photo of a car with a smooth finish, this effect will not work (as well). Hence, the reason I chose this rustic vehicle.

Here are the steps required to achieve our golden nugget effect;

  1. Colors > Desaturate
  2. Duplicate layer
  3. Colors > Invert
  4. Mode = Difference
  5. Right-click merge down

How these steps affect your image and why you need them…

Desaturate – the gold nugget effect can not be achieved with a color image. This is due to needing a specific color, gold for instance applied to the entire tonal range of the image. It’s easier to get the desired color with a b&w image vs. a full-color image.

Duplicating – the duplicate layer gives you the option to bring back some of the lost detail when inverting the colors.

Inverting Colors – this reverses the brightness levels for the different tonal ranges. Darker tones are brighter and lighter tones become darker. This step alters the texture required for the nugget effect. And as you can see we lost detail in the process.

Difference Mode – this blends the inverted layer with the duplicate layer below and brings back some detail.

Repeat – if you want or need to increase the amount of texture, repeating the steps will achieve this. Repeat as many times based on your creative vision.

Step 4: Golden Transformation Part 2

gold nugget transformation part 2

Now it’s time to colorize your nugget.

Color > Colorize = Hue (to yellow/gold)

If you’d like to increase the contrast of the effect, use the Curves tool.

Colors > Curves

To add contrast, create what is known as the “S” curve. Drag the linear line from the top right up, and the bottom left down. This makes an “S.”

The higher and or lower the curve, the more contrast you’ll add.  The last thing I did was turning on the Background layer and filling it with black.

Step 5: Style With a Graphic, Text, and An Image

style the design

Let’s finish off our design with some text, another image, and a graphic element. If needed, resize the car smaller with the Scale tool (Shift + S).

First, grab your Rectangle Select tool (R) and create a square shape. Create a New Layer called Stroke, and set your foreground color to a yellow/gold.

the Stroke

Edit > Stroke Selection… set the Line Width to 12.

Add a Second Image To Create Sparks

Next, download and add this image to your canvas. Drop the opacity down to around 5. Also, reposition the picture so it looks like sparks are flying around the car.

Add Some Text + Style

To finish your design add some text (T). I typed out “Golden Nugget” with a free font called Goldstone. The size used is 125, and the color; #e5d9ac.

Place the text just above the car and align it to the middle. The last thing I did was add a gradient stroke. Here’s how…


create a glowing car

Let’s make your golden nugget car glow!

Duplicate your Car layer and rename Glow. Move the layer below the Car layer. Then…

Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur

Set the X and Y size to 100, click ok, and lower the Opacity to around 30 – 50.

Action Is Power

Knowledge is not power. Action is. Mastering how to turn anything into a golden nugget will require doing the actual project! It will also help you to retain what you learn.

What are you waiting for?

When you’re done, post your “Golden Nugget” effect in our private Facebook Group. Join our community to show off your new skills, ask for feedback, ask questions about GIMP in general, and more.

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