Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gimp Tutorial - How to Use Gimp to Give a photo a retro or vintage look (and touching up bubbles!)

In this GIMP how to, we're going to do some basic curves adjustments to make this photo have a cool stylized retro-type look. All of these steps could also be done using photoshop as well.
What you will need:
A basic understanding of how to use gimp's curves tool
A basic understanding of how to use gimp's layers and using gimp's selection tools.
An Understanding On Layer Masks  (for the bubbles)
An Understanding On Layer Modes (Also for the bubbles)
Suggested Items:
Wacom Tablet (for editing the bubbles.)
My eBook on Layer Masks - This is an extensive, but short book that will help you get insanely good at layer masks.  If you get good at layer masks, you'll get good at Gimp.
Start with this:
End with this
Part 1: How to Use GIMP to Get the Retro Colors
Most of the effect for this photo is simply from adjusting the curves of each channel (the red, green, blue, and alpha channels) like so:
Note: To change which channel to adjust, select the channel from the channel drop-down. You can switch back and forth between channels. all of these curves adjustments should be done in ONE COMMAND, not a series of four commands.
After making the adjustment, your photo should look something like this:
This looks pretty cool, but we need to tone the contrast down a bit.
Next, do another curves adjustment like so:
My photo looks like this:
Not bad, now if only those bubbles didn't disappear in the process.
Part 2: How to use GIMP to Enhance the Bubbles
The bubbles seem to have disappeared in this photo. We're going to use a combination of selections, and soft brushes to put some pop back into them.
Create a new layer, name it "bubbles"
Now we will select the bubbles. Using the path tool, trace around the outer edge of each bubble.
One all of the bubbles have been outlined, right-click on the path in the path menu (located in the same window as the layers,) and click "path to selection."
Set your foreground and background to a lime green and hot pink.
using a fairly large and soft brush, carefully brush in a few spaces of pink, and green in each bubble, like so:
Now that we have added the color to the proper areas of the bubble, let's change some layer styles and adjust the opacity to make the bubbles look realistic.
Set the layer mode to Overlay
Duplicate the layer. Name the duplicated layer "bubblebrighten"
Set the duplicated layer mode to addition.
Adjust the opacity of both the "bubble" and "bubblebrighten" layer until you end up with something you're happy with. My opacity settings are set to 23 and 40 respectively, and they look like this:
Now that our bubbles are a little more visible, let's dramatize the photo a bit.
Part 3: How to Make the Final Touches
Create a new layer, name it "dramatize" set the layer mode to Overlay, and fill the layer with black.
Add a layer mask to the dramatize layer.
Using the blend tool, set the gradient mode to radial, and use a gradient that goes from black to white.
Create a gradient that goes from the center of the photo outward. Adjust the opacity of the layer to something you're happy with. Here is what I ended up with:
Did you like this? Please share it!


  1. I'd have pulled some Sat out of the dress and face and arms and pulled the magenta back a bit and the 3/4 Y down some... but that's just imho.

  2. Cool! Thanks for your input!

  3. Thanks...this is good info. I like the effect very much.

  4. I'm glad that you found the information useful. Feel free to connect and share what you do with this tutorial via Flickr:

  5. I wrote a script for the retro effect. Not exactly following the method in this post, but it can be easily adapted in case someone wants to. Find the script here.

    1. Hey thanks Skand! I myself am not a huge fan of scripting things like that because I think each photo needs different settings, but I'm sure that it would come in very handy for many.

  6. It just came to me that I've gone through more than a few of your tutorials and I don't think I've left a comment. My shame is great. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge.

    Concerning Skand's comment and your reply, I've found some scripts very useful. Many are just fun to play around with. However, I've also found that some of them do too much of the work for you, just my opinion.


  7. Thanks a lot man, I was trying to achieve this effect for a long time, and now it turnes out to be quite simple, .... if you know it!!

    My result is here


    Karel Degroote

  8. Nice tutorial . Must be i'll try to do it .

  9. I seem , this tutorial is more useful for beginner .

  10. Add to this, the administrations of a computerized studio and you get an entire arbitrary accumulation of never observed shading plans, shining foundations and grand expert quality symbolism. https://photolemur.com

  11. Great tutorial. Learning a lot from your blog. Thanks

  12. Why do you use so many filters? This photo looks too unnatural. Why not use a simple color correction via https://letsenhance.io/ ?


Wacom Tablet

In my Gimp Tutorials, I frequently use Wacom Tablets. Here is an awesome wacom tablet I recommend using.
A Wacom tablet will enhance your GIMP photo editing experience by offering a pressure-sensitive touch that translates to varying transparency when making brush strokes in GIMP.

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.