How to fake a tilt shift image with Gimp

How to fake a tilt shift image with Gimp

Tilt shift photography is a method of creating images with a shallow focus to give the sense of miniaturisation or a model like appearance. Although tilt shift photographs can be created with a specialised lense they can be very expensive, so instead of spending up to $1000 or so, with a little know-how the same effects can be achieved with Gimp, the free graphics software.

There are a number of ways to create a tilt shift image with Gimp but the best results are produced when the focus blur plugin is used, and it is this method that will be shown here.

Although there are already a number of tutorials on how to create a tilt shift image, some show methods that do not give the best results, whilst others are not entirely thorough, which leaves some guess work for beginners. The aim here is provide everything you need to know to create your own tilt shift images without that frustrating phase of wondering what to do next, or what went wrong.

The image used for this demonstration has been taken from Heatheronhertravels’ photostream on Flickr under the creative commons license.


Step 1

Start Gimp and open the image you want to use. It may be necassary to crop the image if it looks too ‘busy’ or too detailed.

Step 2

In the layers, Channels, Paths panel create a new layer.

In the Toolbox panel click on the Gradient icon.

With the cursor at the bottom of the new layer, hold down the left mouse button and drag upwards to the top of the layer. This will fill it with a gradient of the default foreground and background colours of black and white.

As you drag the mouse to create the gradient you will see a line. Try to make this line as straight as possible. The gradient should look like the image above.

Step 3

In the Layers Panel make sure the gradient layer is active then make it transparent enough to see your image by using the opacity slider above the list of layers.

Step 4

Choose the colour picker tool from the Toolbox Panel and with the gradient layer still active, click at the base of a prominent vertical feature in the image such as a building. This will choose the tone of grey or black from the gradient, depending on where the object is in the image.

Step 5

In the Layers Panel again, create a new layer and make this the active layer. Also click on the eye icon next to the gradient layer so it is no longer visibile.

Step 6

Select the paths tool from the Toolbox Panel, and use it to outline the object in the image.

Things Needed
• A suitable photograph, preferably showing a scene from a high angle.
• The latest version of the free Gimp software downloaded and installed on your computer.
• Basic knowledge of how to use layers and the Path Tool in Gimp.
• The Focus-Blur plugin for Gimp.

Tips & Warnings
• Whenever possible use a new layer for a new procedure in Gimp. This makes it much easier to make changes. So for each shape that is created with the Path Tool use a new layer.
• Save your work often, just in case your computer crashes or Gimp freezes. This way you will not need to re-do much of your work if you need to restart Gimp or your computer.
• It is best to make the last save just before you merge all the layers into one. If you decide to change something in the final result and need to open Gimp again, this will be much easier if all those layers have not been saved as one layer.


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