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.
For this GIMP 2.8 tutorial, we’re using the following assets from Pixabay:
- Laughing girl image by Greyerbaby
- Laughing child image by Pezibear
- Rowing image by thatsphotography
- Smiling girls image by cherylholt
- Children image by tebielyc
1. How to create the filmstrip
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.
Go directly to File > Open as Layers to open the images all at once.
Select the five images you downloaded and click Open.
Select Filters > Combine > Filmstrip.
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.
2. How to Create the Filmstrip Shadow
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.
We need a new layer that will sit below our filmstrip, which we’ll get to in a moment, so select Layer > New Layer.
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.
Click on the new Filmstrip Background layer, then head over to the menu and select Image > Fit Canvas to Layers.
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.
Let’s give it a more meaningful name, such as Filmstrip, and click OK.
Right-click the freshly-renamed Filmstrip layer again and select Add Alpha Channel.
Select Tools > Transform Tools > Move to use the Move tool.
Now move the Filmstrip layer’s image somewhere close to the middle of the transparent Filmstrip Background layer.
Go to Tools > Selection Tools > By Color Select.
Click on any of the white areas on the edges of the filmstrip. This will select everything on the layer with white color.
Select the Eraser tool by going to Tools > Paint Tools > Eraser.
Set the Eraser’s brush to Hardness 100.
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.
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 white areas in the filmstrip’s holes have now disappeared, so remove the selection with Select > None.
Back into the Layers dialog, right-click the Filmstrip layer and select Duplicate Layer.
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.
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.
Select Tools > Transform Tools > Flip.
Select Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Tools Options.
Click on the Filmstrip Shadow layer’s image to flip it vertically.
With the Filmstrip Shadow layer still active, go to Colors > Desaturate.
Set the option to Lightness and click OK.
Now, turn the Opacity of the Filmstrip Background layer down to 40.
3. How to divide the filmstrip and resize it to prevent distortions
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.
Rename the merged layer to Main Filmstrip via Edit Layer Attributes once again.
Keep the Main Filmstrip layer active, and go to Tools > Selection Tools > Rectangle Select.
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.
Select Edit > Cut to cut off the selection.
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.
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.
Now rename the layer to Part 1.
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.
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.
Next up, go to Tools > Transform Tools > Scale.
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.
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.
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.
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.
4. How to apply a 3D effect on the filmstrip
Select the Resized Filmstrip layer, and go to Filters > Distorts > Curve Bend.
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.
5. How to add a background to complete the filmstrip image
Select the Move tool to reposition the rendered output near the middle of the Filmstrip Background layer.
Now make the Filmstrip Background active by clicking on it and select Tools > Paint Tools > Blend tool.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!