Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gimp Tutorial: How To Use Gimp to Make the Abandoned House Creepy

In this tutorial, I'm going to show you how to take a photo of an abandoned house, and made it look extra creepy using GIMP by simply duplicating the photo, changing how the photo looks, applying various layer styles, and masking everything properly.
Suggested Prerequisites:
Layer Mask Gimp Video Tutorial
Layer Mode Gimp Video Tutorial
Adjusting Colors Using Gimp
Layers and Selections Gimp Video Tutorial
Suggested Items:
Wacom Tablet (For Shading and Masking)
My eBook on Layer Masks - This short and inexpensive book focuses on one thing -getting you insanely good at making Layer Masks.  If you get good at layer masking, you'll get good at Gimp.
Start with this photo:
This photo was taken by me.  Feel free to do whatever you wish with it, just throw some credit my way.
End with this photo:
Again, created by me.  Feel free to do whatever you wish with this photo, just throw credit my way.
Click colors>>>curves - adjust the photo to something like this.
Before I ever edit any photos, I always tweak the original photo using basic tools.
My curve diagram looked like this:
Often times, the secret to the curves is the "S" shape.  Adjusting the intensity of this S shape creates some awesome results.
Part 1: How to use GIMP to create Cloudier Clouds
Whenever it comes to making clouds more "cloudy," sometimes, you're better off using a stock photo and replacing the skyline all together.  In this case, the tree's thin network of very thin twigs makes this nearly impossible to do without looking bad.  Fortunately, there are already clouds in the sky that we can pull out.  That's exactly what we're going to do.
Duplicate the background layer by clicking Layer>>>duplicate layer.  Name the duplicated layer "Clouds"
Remove all color from the cloud layer by clicking Colors>>>Desaturate.
Now that our clouds are gray, it's time to make them pop out.  Click on Colors>>>curves - adjust the photo to something like this.
Don't worry about how anything but the clouds look.  Nothing else will be visible in the final photo.
My curve diagram looked like this:
Identifying where the clouds are effected in the histogram is what makes curves so much more powerful than the Brightness/Contrast tool.
Hide the Clouds layer
using the pen tool, trace the outline of the sky, like this:
Notice that the path goes outside of the photo, and around to the beginning.  This is so the selection can be properly made.
Un-hide the Clouds layer
Right-Click on the path, and click "path to selection"
Click Select>>>invert (or press CTRL+I)
Right-click on the black and white layer, and click "Add Layer Mask."
Initialize the layer mask to selection.
Take the brush tool, making sure you're painting on the layer mask.  using a soft brush, and brush the trees in the background white.  This will darken them.
Although you could have included the trees in your original path selection, I found it to be better to have a softer edge on the bottom-edge, since the line between the trees and ground is not so defined.
Brush the side of the tree closest to the house, giving the tree some depth.
Notice the right side of my tree is dark.  This is done with the mask tool, using the brush used to darken the trees in the background.
Your photo should look something like this:
Now that our clouds are dark and scary, let's make the rest of the photo match. 
Part 2:  How To Use GIMP to Blend the House
The clouds look pretty good.  Now we want to make the house look like it belongs in the photo just a little more.
duplicate the background layer.  Set the duplicated layer mode to "Overlay."  Name this duplicated layer "Color"
Add more color to the duplicated layer, by clicking Colors>>>hue-saturation.
Increase the saturation by 50.
Right-click on the Clouds layer layer mask, and click "mask to selection"
select>>>invert (CTRL+I)
Create a layer mask on the layer "color."  Initialize the layer mask to selection.
Your photo should look something like this:
The purpose of this layer is to preserve some of the red in the house when we remove color from the photo.
Duplicate the background layer, set the mode to "darken only."  Move this layer above all of the other layers.  Name this layer "Darken"
Remove all color from the darken layer by clicking Colors>>>desaturate
Right click on the overlay layer mask, and click "mask to selection."
Add a layer mask to the darken only layer.  Initialize the layer mask to selection.
Set the opacity of the darken only layer to about 55.  You should end up with something like this:
Now the house looks like it should be in the photo.  The chipped paint is so exciting.  Too exciting to not pull out more.
Duplicate the darken layer you just created.  Set the duplicated layer to "overlay," and adjust the opacity to 100.  Name it Overlay
Desaturate the  newly created overlay layer by clicking Colors>>>desaturate.
Colors>>>Curves>>>adjust the curves until the photo is at something you like.
My photo looks like this:
The imperfections of the house are really pulled out with the overlay layer.
My curves diagram looked like this:
And again, you'll see where the "S" Shaped curves comes into play.  I almost always start here with my curves adjustments.
Create a new layer.  Name it "Yellow."  Fill the layer with a dark-yellow color.  The color code I used was 54502a.  Copy and paste that code into the HTML notation box in the color palette in order to get the exact color I used.
Set the layer mode to color
Adjust the color layer opacity to something you're happy with.  I set mine to 35.  Here's what I came up with:
I tried several different colors and tones here.  Yellow was what I liked best.  Play around with it, you may like a different color more.
Create a new layer.  Name it Gradient.
Using the blend tool (Shortcut Key: L) set to the gradient "FG To Transparent,"
Create 4 gradients along each edge, your photo should look like this:
Notice that the house is mostly still visible.  This is because we want to keep the clouds and the house light, so they stick out more for the finished product.
Set the layer mode to overlay
Duplicate the gradient layer.
You'll end up with this photo:
The Gradient Overlay layers darken the ground, and a lot of the photo to really add some cool finishing touches to the photo.
What do you guys think?  How would you have edited this photo differently?


  1. Cool tutorial. Thank you, Alex!

  2. No problem. Glad you liked it.

  3. Great job .Thanks for this amazing tutorial!

  4. Nice tutorial. Thanks very much, Alex.

  5. I like the result! But not easy for me.

  6. Hey Xiaoxia, don't worry - this is one of my more involved tutorials. Where are you getting stuck? Maybe I can direct you to something that will explain it a little better.

  7. Thanks for the tutorial! I love the way this came out and it taught me a but about the masks. thanks again!

  8. No problem Lost in Louisiana. Here are a few more good layer mask video tutorials:

  9. This tutorial is really good at explaining. Thanks!

  10. Lovey this tutorial and thanks a lot for sharing .

  11. Very useful post about how to use gimp to make the abandoned house creepy .

  12. This tutorial is amazing. It helped me a lot. Thanks


Wacom Tablet

In my Gimp Tutorials, I frequently use Wacom Tablets. Here is an awesome wacom tablet I recommend using.
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Gimp Reference Manual

I highly recommend getting this Gimp book to use as a reference manual in conjunction with my tutorials. This book will explain how the tools I use work. My tutorials will give you practical applications for the tools shown in this book.