How to Create a Basic 3D Filmstrip in GIMP 2.8

We'll be creating a 3D filmstrip in GIMP 2.8

What You’ll Be Creating

When you have multiple photographs to showcase in a single image, using a filmstrip can be a good solution. If you don’t have much taste for retro style, that option may not sound appealing to you; however, filmstrips can be heavily customized in GIMP. When modified with other tools, they can end up looking quite amazing.

In this GIMP 2.8 tutorial, we’ll be looking at the best way to create a filmstrip with properly-sized photographs. We’ll also work on a shadow to produce a more creative effect.

Tutorial Assets

For this GIMP 2.8 tutorial, we’re using the following assets from Pixabay:

1. How to create the filmstrip

Step 1

Open the asset links above and download all the images with their width set to 640 pixels. It is recommended to download the images in their smallest available sizes, as working with larger images will increase GIMP’s memory usage.

Save your image with a width of 640px.

Step 2

Go directly to File > Open as Layers to open the images all at once.

Open your images as layers.

Step 3

Select the five images you downloaded and click Open.

Select the images you saved.

Step 4

Select Filters > Combine > Filmstrip.

Make a filmstrip out of the images you opened as layers.

Step 5

We’ll leave most of the Filmstrip options at their default values, but we still need some minor changes. Let’s make sure we disable the Numbering above and below the filmstrip by unchecking At top and At bottom in the Selection tab, then click OK.

Filmstrip settings

2. How to Create the Filmstrip Shadow

Step 1

To begin, let’s ensure that we have our Layers dialog open. In the new GIMP file tab that contains our filmstrip displaying our five images, open the Layers dialog by going to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Layers.

Click the Layers dialog option.

Step 2

We need a new layer that will sit below our filmstrip, which we’ll get to in a moment, so select Layer > New Layer.

Create a new layer.

Step 3

Set the new layer’s name to Filmstrip Background, input 1800 pixels as both its width and height, and choose Transparency as its fill type. When you’re done, click OK.

Rename your layer.

Step 4

Click on the new Filmstrip Background layer, then head over to the menu and select Image > Fit Canvas to Layers.

Select Fit Canvas to Layers.

Step 5

Drag the Filmstrip Background layer down, so that the layer that is simply called Background gets on top of it. Now, right-click the Background layer – that is the layer containing our filmstrip – and select Edit Layer Attributes.

Click on Edit Layer Attributes.

Step 6

Let’s give it a more meaningful name, such as Filmstrip, and click OK.

Rename the layer to Filmstrip.

Step 7

Right-click the freshly-renamed Filmstrip layer again and select Add Alpha Channel.

Add an alpha channel to your active layer.

Step 8

Select Tools > Transform Tools > Move to use the Move tool.

Select the Move tool.

Step 9

Now move the Filmstrip layer’s image somewhere close to the middle of the transparent Filmstrip Background layer.

Reposition the layer.

Step 10

Go to Tools > Selection Tools > By Color Select.

Pick the Color Select tool in the menu.

Step 11

Click on any of the white areas on the edges of the filmstrip. This will select everything on the layer with white color.

Select everything with white color on the filmstrip.

Step 12

Select the Eraser tool by going to Tools > Paint Tools > Eraser.

Pick GIMP's Eraser tool.

Step 13

Set the Eraser’s brush to Hardness 100.

Select the Hardness 100 brush for your eraser.

Step 14

Set the Eraser’s Size to 20, but leave the other options at their default values, and verify that all the boxes under Dynamics Options are unchecked.

Set the eraser brush size to 20.

Step 15

Erase all the white areas in the holes as if you were painting on top of them. Note that, since we’ve only selected the white areas via color selection, it is safe to hold your mouse and drag the eraser’s brush all around the edges of the filmstrip. Nothing else, apart from what is in selection, will get erased. In this case, only the white areas in the holes react to the Eraser tool.

The filmstrip is now transparent through its edges.

Step 16

The white areas in the filmstrip’s holes have now disappeared, so remove the selection with Select > None.

Step 17

Back into the Layers dialog, right-click the Filmstrip layer and select Duplicate Layer.

Duplicate your layer.

Step 18

Because we want to use this new layer to create the shadow effect, let’s rename it to Filmstrip Shadow and move it down from one position so that it’s between the two other layers.

Rename your layer to Filmstrip Shadow.

Step 19

Pick the Move tool again and push the Filmstrip Shadow layer’s image down, in a way that both the original and duplicated filmstrips get displayed. The alignment needs to be accurate; one filmstrip needs to be properly positioned on top of the other. To achieve this, you can use your arrow keys along with the Move tool.

Duplicate the filmstrip.

Step 20

Select Tools > Transform Tools > Flip.

Select the flip tool to begin the shadow effect.

Step 21

Select Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Tools Options.

Select Tool Options.

Step 22

Select Vertical.

Select the option vertical.

Step 23

Click on the Filmstrip Shadow layer’s image to flip it vertically.

Click on the bottom layer to flip it vertically.

Step 24

With the Filmstrip Shadow layer still active, go to Colors > Desaturate.

Select the Desaturate tool to turn your layer to black and white mode.

Step 25

Set the option to Lightness and click OK.

Skip the Luminosity and Average options.

Step 26

Now, turn the Opacity of the Filmstrip Background layer down to 40.

Lower the Opacity to 40.

3. How to divide the filmstrip and resize it to prevent distortions

Step 1

Let’s start by merging both the Filmstrip and Filmstrip Shadow layers so that whatever manipulation we do will be applied to both the main filmstrip and its shadow. To do that, we’ll right-click the top layer (Filmstrip) and select Merge Down.

Merge down the first layer.

Step 2

Rename the merged layer to Main Filmstrip via Edit Layer Attributes once again.

Rename the layer to Main Filmstrip.

Step 3

Keep the Main Filmstrip layer active, and go to Tools > Selection Tools > Rectangle Select.

Select the Rectangle tool.

Step 4

Zoom in at 200% and select one photograph with its shadow. We’re using 5 photographs from Pixabay here, so the aim is to have the filmstrip divided in 5 equal parts – each part displaying one photograph and its corresponding shadow.

We’ll start with the first part consisting of the first photograph. Using the Rectangle Select tool, select the first photograph and its shadow. It is okay to slightly exceed the filmstrip’s borders.

Zoom in and use the Rectangle Select tool to separate one side of the filmstrip.

Step 5

Select Edit > Cut to cut off the selection.

Cut your selection via the menu.

Step 6

The part of the filmstrip we selected has now disappeared, so we need to paste it back. By doing so, we can have it back as a layer on its own, which we can stretch or shrink independently. To have the selection back, select Edit > Paste.

Go to Paste (CTRL + V).

Step 7

Right-click the floating selection (Pasted Layer) in the Layers dialog and select To New Layer. This puts the pasted content in its own layer.

Create a new layer by right-clicking the floating layer.

Step 8

Now rename the layer to Part 1.

Rename your new layer to simplify the manipulation of the filmstrip.

Step 9

Repeat Steps 3-8 to divide all the other four parts of the Main Filmstrip layer and create new layers in the process, which we’ll call Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5. Note that it is best to perform the cut-and-paste process on the Main Filmstrip layer all the time.

Cut the filmstrip into 5 parts and rename their respective layers.

Step 10

Leave the Part 1 and Filmstrip Background layers on, but turn off all the other layers by clicking the eye icon near each of their names in the Layers dialog.

Deactivate the other parts but leave Part 1.

Step 11

Next up, go to Tools > Transform Tools > Scale.

Scale the layer.

Step 12

Leave the height value as is, but change the width to 400px. The intention here is not to maintain the image’s aspect ratio, so let’s verify that the chain icon is in its “detached” form, and not closed. Once we’ve confirmed that the dimensions are correct, we can click Scale.

Scale the width to 400 pixels.

Step 13

Repeat Steps 10-12 for the images from the Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 layers. We also need to scale them to give them different widths. Again, the height for the images in the Part 1-5 layers must remain intact, so below are all the exact width values we need to input while scaling them:

Part 1: scale to 400px (done in the previous step)

Part 2: scale to 350px

Part 3: scale to 185px

Part 4: scale to 400px

Part 5: scale to 350px

Once you are done, make sure all the layers are active (turned on) and use the Move tool to properly position them.

Your resized layers should look like this after you position them.

Step 14

In the Layers dialog, starting from Part 5, let’s merge down sequentially the layers from Part 5 all the way to Part 1. This means that we’ll need to right-click the layers Part 5, Part 4, Part 3 and Part 2 and select Merge Down for each of them.

Merge all the dividing layers you created into a single one.

Step 15

Rename the Part 1 layer to Resized Filmstrip, and delete the Main Filmstrip layer by right-clicking it and selecting Delete. The latter is no longer needed, as we’ll be using solely our Resized Filmstrip layer to create the 3D effect.

Delete the layer as we will not need it in the rest of this tutorial.

4. How to apply a 3D effect on the filmstrip

Step 1

Select the Resized Filmstrip layer, and go to Filters > Distorts > Curve Bend.

Select the Curve Bend tool.

Step 2

In GIMP’s Curve Bend settings, check the Automatic Preview box to visualize in real time the changes you’re making. Under Options, set the Rotate angle to 0, and make sure the Smoothing and Antialiasing boxes are checked.

Under Modify Curves, drag the points in the grid in order to create something similar to an “S” shape, then play around it a little bit to modify it. To add more points in the grid and better manipulate curves, click anywhere within the grid and reposition the points by dragging them as you see fit. It is however worth noting that non-perfect curves can sometimes add a more realistic feel to the output.

We need to pay attention to the Curve for Border options, because they correspond to the side of the filmstrip that will be transformed – either it is the Upper border or the Lower border. Try experimenting with it, and once you get something you appreciate in the Preview, click on the Copy button to copy your curves to the opposite border.

For Curve Type, we want to choose Smooth for best rendering.

Once everything’s set, click OK.

Add your settings to the Curve Bend tool.

5. How to add a background to complete the filmstrip image

Step 1

Select the Move tool to reposition the rendered output near the middle of the Filmstrip Background layer.

Place your 3D filmstrip near the middle of the background layer.

Step 2

Now make the Filmstrip Background active by clicking on it and select Tools > Paint Tools > Blend tool.

Select the Blend tool.

Step 3

Set your Foreground Color to your preferred shade of grey. Here, I’m using the RGB value (174, 190, 205). Your Background Color should be set to White.

Update your foreground and background colors.

Step 4

In the Blend Tool Options, set the Gradient to FG to BG (RGB), choose Radial for the Shape, and check the Dithering box. Repeat should be set to None, Offset should be 0, and Adaptive supersampling can be left unchecked. The Opacity however needs to be set to 100 and the Blend Mode should be Normal.

Check your Blend Tool settings.

Step 5

Now place your mouse in the middle of the Filmstrip Background layer’s image and drag a straight line in diagonal past the corner of the canvas. Try experimenting with this to obtain a suitable radial gradient.

Experiment with your blended background for your filmstrip.

And That’s All!

Our 3D filmstrip with a black and white shadow is finally ready, so simply go to File > Export and select JPEG as the format. Our exported filmstrip now looks complete!

The final filmstrip made in GIMP 2.8

As you can see, filmstrips do a great job at displaying multiple photographs without taking too much space. As you play around that neat little trick and become more familiar with GIMP, you can even try working with more photographs at the same time, or try creating more complex curves, which will require you to scale each part of the filmstrip differently before applying the Curve Bend tool.

If you enjoyed this GIMP tutorial, don’t forget to share it and leave a comment to let me know what you would like to learn next!