Fancy Glow Effects in Gimp

Fancy Glow Effects in Gimp preview

In this effects tutorial we’ll have a look at how to create some fancy glowing lines and how to make it so that the end of the line will fade nicely. We’ll also have a look at adding glow to objects that are not created from a path.


This is what we will be creating:

Fancy Glow Effects in Gimp

Step 1

Create a new image with size 600×400 and a black background layer.

First let’s make the background a little bit more interesting to look at, select the Blend tool (aka Gradient tool). Set the shape to radial, select the gradient called Incandescent, and reverse the gradient.

Reverse gradient in Gimp

Drag the gradient from the exact middle of the image to the bottom edge. (look at the coordinates in the bottom left corner, the exact middle should be 300, 200) Hold Ctrl to get a straight line.

Gradient from exact middle

Our image should look like this now:

Radial incandescent gradient

Step 2

Go to Filters->Distorts->Ripple
Keep the default settings and just click OK.


Step 3

Find Filters->Distorts->Whirl and Pinch
Set Whirl Angle to 360.

Whirl and Pinch whirl angle 360

That should give us this result:

Incandescent gradient after whirl and pinch

Step 4

One more thing and the background is done, go to Filters->Blur->Motion Blur
Set Blur Type to Zoom and Length to 150. If you have an old computer like I do this might take 10-15 seconds.

Set the Blur Type to Zoom

Our background is done and it should look like this now:

Finished background

Step 5

Pick a nice color for the glow, it’s nice if the color matches the background. I chose fd4000.

Select the path tool. Create an S like shape similar to the one in the image below:

S like path

Now first create a new layer, and then choose stroke path. Make a line 6px thick.

Stroke path

Our image should look like this now:

S like shape stroked with 6px line

Now find Filters->Blur->Gaussian Blur.
Set the blur to 12.

Gaussian Blur of 12

It should look like this now:

S like shape blurred

Step 6

Create another layer.
Now we want a white line, so change the color to white and choose stroke path, this time we want a 3px thick line.

After you’ve done that give it a Gaussian blur of 1. (Filters->Blur->Gaussian Blur)

S like shape stroked with 3px white line

A little tip: Remember that if your path disappears at some point because you press a different tool, it’s not gone forever, just doubleclick on it in the Paths Dialog and it will reappear.

Step 7

Merge the layer with the white line and the layer with the blurred red line together. (Click on the top layer in the Layer Dialog, then right-click->Merge down)

Add a layer mask to the layer. (right-click on the layer in the Layer Dialog and choose Add Layer Mask).
Make sure you set it to White(Full Opacity).

The layer mask controls the transparency of the layer, but unlike just setting the opacity of the entire layer, the layer mask allows you to set different transparency for different areas in your image.

So let’s put that layer mask to good use. Select the Free Select tool, and draw a selection around the end of the line as in the image below:

Selection around the end of the line

First, make sure that it’s the layer mask that is selected and not the layer itself. (just click on the layer mask once in the layer dialog to select it).

Now set your FG and BG colors to black and white, then select the Blend tool (aka Gradient tool).
Choose the gradient called FG to BG (RGB), the shape should be set to linear and the gradient should not be reversed.

Then create a gradient from just before the end of the line and all the way to where the selection ends.

Gradient from just before the end of line to selection

The end of the line should fade nicely like this:

End of line fading nicely

Repeat the procedure for the other end of the line.

Both line ends fading nicely

Step 9

We need more than just one line don’t we? Create a new layer and select the path tool. Draw a path similar to this:

Path that looks like a reversed C

Select that red color we used earlier (fd4000), stroke the path with a 6px line. Do a Gaussian blur of 12.

Path stroked with 6px line and blurred

Create a new layer, stroke path with a 3px thick white line. Blur the white line with a Gaussian blur of 1.

Merge those two layers together, and add a layer mask. Make sure the layer mask is set to White(Full Opacity).

Grab the Free Select tool, draw a selection around the end of the line, and create a gradient (make sure your FG and BG colors are black and white first, and that you are working on the layer mask).

Gradient from just before the end of line to selection

Likewise on the other end of the line:

Two lines with both ends fading nicely

Step 10

Let’s add a third line, you probably know how to do that by now, so let’s make it challenging and make that third line thicker.
The red line should be 12px thick and have a Gaussian blur of 12, the white line should be 6px thick and have a Gaussian blur of 3.

Here’s what mine looks like:

Thick line

Step 11

As you can see we get a problem when the line is so thick, it doesn’t fade as nicely as the smaller lines. To solve this we’re going to use the Iwarp filter to make the end of the line thinner. First click on the layer with the thick line in the layer dialog so that it’s the layer and not the mask we’re working on, then find Filters->Distorts->Iwarp.

Set Deform Mode to Shrink and Deform amount to 0,10. Don’t click OK, we’re going to work with that window on the left.

Iwarp settings

We’re going to work on the bottom part of the line first.
Think of that part of the line as split into four small pieces like this:

End of line split in four pieces

To get a good result, you should click and drag from where piece 4 ends, to the end of the line. This will make our four pieces thinner than the rest of the line. Try to follow the line as best you can while you drag. It’s no disaster if you can’t follow the line exactly though, it’s just that it will move a little bit.

Click and drag from piece 4 to the end of the line

Not a big difference yet, so click and drag from where piece 3 ends, (right where piece 3 and 4 meet), to the end of the line. This will make piece 1, 2 and 3 thinner than piece 4.

Click and drag from piece 3 to the end of the line

Repeat the process for piece 2 and piece 1. Click and drag from where piece 2 ends and all the way to the end of the line. After that click and drag from where piece 1 ends and to the end of the line. Now you can click OK. You should get the following result:

Line after Iwarping

Now do the same thing on the other end of the line.

Both lines Iwarped

Step 12

Now you know a lot about adding glow to lines created by paths, but what about objects that aren’t created by paths? Let’s have a quick look on how that can be done before we finish this tutorial.

Create a new layer, set the color to white, select the Brush tool and grab a large Fuzzy brush and make it even larger. I chose Circle Fuzzy (15) and I set the scale to 10.

Now draw three dots so close to each other that they overlap considerably like this:

Three white dots

Next, change to a smaller brush (Circle Fussy 13, scale 1). Now draw small dots in random places, make sure they don’t overlap, and don’t draw them too far away from the center of the image.

Small white dots

Now do a ripple, Filters->Distorts->Ripple.

Rippled dots

Do a Whirl and Pinch, set the Whirl angle to 360. (Filters->Distorts->Whirl and Pinch)

That should give us a strange stretched white dot thing and a bunch of white spark like things.
If any of the sparks look like blobs instead of sparks then just erase them. Sparks like these can also be made with the Path tool the same way we made the big lines, only you need to make them smaller.

Stretched dot and sparks

Step 13

Now let’s give them some glow. Duplicate the layer, then lock transparent pixels.

Lock transparent pixels

Set your color to that nice red color (fd4000), and color the duplicate layer red. (either by just dragging the color from the toolbox or by using the Bucket Fill Tool). Remember to unlock the transparent pixels afterwards!

Now do a Gaussian blur of 24, so it looks like this:

Red duplicate

Now duplicate the layer with that blurred red on it, this will make the glow seem stronger.
Aftewards move the layer with the white dot things to the top.

That’s it, our image is done!

Fancy Glow Effects in Gimp

I personally think this image goes well together with glowing text, like the kind you learn to make in the tutorial about glowing text.

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  1. gbl

    July 24th, 2010

    i like your work, and im trying to learn how to use gimp by making many design although im stuck on step 9, you see, the selection made with the free selection tool wonΒ΄t go away, hence i canΒ΄t make another curve with the path tool..hope that you or anyone can help me with this. thanks.

  2. yay

    July 24th, 2010

    Select -> None
    That will remove the selection πŸ™‚

  3. BigFatty

    July 24th, 2010

    great tutorial . you have few tutorials but, all of them are great quality. thanks for the tutorial .

  4. yay

    July 25th, 2010

    Thank you, I’m glad you like them πŸ™‚

  5. gbl

    July 25th, 2010

    Thx for the reply man, although i realized short after, it’s a great tutorial, keep up the good work..btw can you recommend another tutorial for a beginner like me..? i want to learn making awesome stuff for the eye, he he.

  6. some random

    July 26th, 2010

    hey… i have to say awsome tutorial! but in step 7 where you say ”(right-click on the top layer in the Layer Dialog, then right-click->Merge down)” the option ”merge down” is faded out so i cant click it? do you have a solution?

  7. yay

    July 26th, 2010

    Ops, it’s supposed to say “Click on the top layer in the Layer Dialog, then right-click->Merge down”. I corrected that in the tutorial.

    If you have no merge down option check to see that you have selected the correct layer.

  8. Psychcomp

    July 29th, 2010

    Nice tutorial. Easy easy to follow while teaching useful techniques. Keep them coming.

  9. jyoti

    August 4th, 2010

    hI IT IS A good tutorial, What if want we want to make the paths transparent, How can we achieve it, eg.
    1) Supposse I have a route from New york to florida,And other route from New York to Washington D.C,If i try to overlap each creating 2 paths then New York To Washington D.C path gets hidden. How to achieve this ?

  10. yay

    August 4th, 2010

    jyoti, you would first create a new transparent layer, use the Path tool to create a path between NY to DC, then stroke that path. Create a new transparent layer, create a new path between NY to Florida, stroke that path. Now reduce the opacity of both layers to 50.

    If you have problems finding your old paths (those that get hidden when you create a new one), you can look in the Paths dialog, it’s the third tab at top of the layer dialog.

  11. Mr Gimpmaster

    August 5th, 2010

    Nice. another great tutorial man. very nicely written.

  12. yay

    August 6th, 2010

    Thx πŸ™‚

  13. frank

    August 17th, 2010

    I need help, when i try on the second line and try to stroke it, the orange colour comes in the down part only plz help

  14. Robyn

    August 20th, 2010

    I’m starting a new online business and want to make a logo with the globe on a transparent background and the name of the company in the foreground in blue, white, and red normal letters, and yellow italics. It would be cool if the globe and the letters would glow. Do I have to make a separate layer for each color letter? And is it worth making it glow? I already made the background transparent, but when I try to write, I can only use one color, which is why I asked about layers. A mild glow would be nice. I downloaded Gimp just to make this logo and am not really familiar with it yet. Another thing, the program keeps shutting itself down so I have to make sure to save frequently. Could you help me with my logo and also the problem of it shutting down? Thank you!

  15. Muhammad Anas

    August 25th, 2010

    Thankyou very much for such a nice tutorial!!!!
    @ Robyn
    Yes you have to create all those letters in separate layers that you want to have separate colors. And as the shutting down of GIMP is concerned, I remember it was a bug in gimp 2.6.9. Please check your version of GIMP (In the menu bar, click Help –> About). A new version of GIMP has been released to fix this bug and you can download it from the official GIMP website ( It is GIMP 2.6.10. However 2.6.8 doesn’t have any such problem.

  16. Step 5

    September 7th, 2010

    In step 5, i create a new layer and I am presented with 4 layer fill types. Do I choose one of these? Or proceed directly to the Stroke Path? Also, How do I view all of my layers that I create?

  17. Step 5

    September 7th, 2010

    Figured out my troubles. However, I think you need to add saving to the tutorial. I cannot save as a .gif or .png without layer mask issues.

  18. MeraX

    September 9th, 2010

    nice to learn some new techniques, e.g. the thing with the ripple an Whirl and Pinch effect. Thats really nice and well to know.

  19. Click23

    September 30th, 2010

    I felt compelled to leave a comment on this tutorial, because it is very well written. The fact that you wrote the steps to make a glowing line two times in a row really helps. Repetition helps me learn. Thank you for a great tutorial!

  20. Annette

    October 5th, 2010

    am stack at step five, dear, dont know how to choose the colour and to use the path tools to create shapes

  21. Weedoo

    October 25th, 2010

    I have a problem after step 7 or 8. After I made a “very nice line”, when I came to step 9 I can’t remove the “free select tool”. Which means I can’t make another curvy line because there is a selected area that will only be processed by the other tools except the area that’s not selected. Can you please reply to this problem? Thank you.

  22. yay

    October 29th, 2010

    Weedoo, go to Select-> None.

  23. $5 request

    November 14th, 2010

    […] I tought smthing like this, just a volleyball in the center (center of the gloving lines): (Fancy Glow Effects in Gimp | – Gimp tutorials and resources) with this text: Sure, it's all game 'n' fun until some girl KICKS YOUR BUTT! I pay only with […]

  24. Weedoo

    November 22nd, 2010

    ok thanks it worked

  25. Your GVO Profits

    December 15th, 2010

    Can I just say: WOW!

    I’ve been looking at a lot of GIMP tutorials lately. This one taught me several new things, especially how to actually use the Mask on a layer. I can now see the potential of that particular function.

    Excellently written, in exactly the right manner to actually teach you something.

    Thanks you, and I look forward to seeing more great tutorials from you.

  26. Step 7

    February 28th, 2011

    “Now set your FG and BG colors to black and white”… How do you do that? PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

  27. step 5

    March 11th, 2011

    Can you explain more in detail HOW to do the curve line because i have tried many times and i don’t know how!!! PLease help because i’m really a beginner and i’m trying to learn cool stuff πŸ˜‰

  28. chenlin

    April 14th, 2011

    it is a good tutorial,thank you for share

  29. Dalveen

    April 20th, 2011

    hey, first off fantastic tutorial mate really nice, i have got to the part where you creat the incandesant sphere in the center, however i want that whole sphere to glow, with nothing on top (iots to be a focus behind an icon so will glow when icon is selected) – i know how to set the glow when selected part within my program, but how do i make ths whole sphere glow?

  30. Craven

    July 1st, 2011

    Great tutorial man!
    I am completely new to GIMP but I found this tutorial and gave it a shot. You did a real good job at keeping things simple and easy to follow. I hope that I will be able to find more tutorials from you.
    Keep up the good work.

  31. CheeseWarrior17

    July 28th, 2011

    Step 5 –

    I have zero idea what “pick a nice color for the glow” means. I don’t even know where to find this “glow”

  32. yay

    July 31st, 2011

    It’s the color that will be that glow around the white stripes. Basically just set the color to fd4000 (red).

  33. Etape 8

    August 6th, 2011

    Hello ! I have a problem with the step 8 !

    When I fallow the orders, it gives me that ;

    See, we can see the transparency.. :'(

  34. yay

    August 6th, 2011

    This happens if the background and the white line is on the same layer, they are supposed to be on separate layers. Perhaps you forgot to add a new layer in Step 5.

  35. Etape 8

    August 7th, 2011

    I don’t think so..

    Just to be sur (sorry i’m french so i apologize for my mistakes), how do you add a new layer ?

    Thx dude

  36. yay

    August 7th, 2011

    Like this πŸ™‚

  37. Etape 8

    August 8th, 2011

    Thx dude ! πŸ˜‰

    I did it. ^^

    Juste I had a problem with the step 12 but it’s not a big deal.

    I did that ;

    Again, thank ! πŸ™‚

  38. Etape 8

    August 8th, 2011

    And by the way, great tuto’ πŸ˜‰

  39. chandrani

    April 28th, 2012

    Don’t know if you still answering any question but I got stuck on step7. I selected gradient B and W from F to B then used the gradient to disappear the end of the S but it got a black region created on the both end of the S. How could you get rid of that or I cant see any black color on your S after you did this. Please help. Thanks so much. I am learning from all your tut

  40. chandrani

    April 28th, 2012

    I resolved it by myself. Haha, I found I merged all the above layers–that was wrong
    Thank you for the great tut. Will ask so many question soon!! A good student of yours. πŸ™‚

  41. spiralteck

    May 15th, 2012

    This tutorial is really simple and lovely.

  42. Tonya

    July 23rd, 2012

    Thank you so much…it was very gratifying to accomplish this! : )

  43. John

    September 7th, 2012

    nice tutorial, I’m currently learning gimp and trying to create a background with glow effects. This is just what I needed. Thanks

  44. Jen

    November 6th, 2012

    how can i put different colors in one stroke???

  45. Terry

    November 21st, 2012

    I have made it all the way to step 11, with what do I drag and to where? ” you should click and drag from where piece 4 ends, to the end of the line.”, every time I try to “click and drag it” the tool I used except for the move tool, marks it, the drag tool wants to move the whole picture, so please help me I have been working steadily for 2 days trying to figure this one step out. Thank you

  46. Aisu

    February 24th, 2013

    I had a really weird problem… After I made the first line, I found myself unable to make a second one. The “stroke paths” part wasn’t working properly, as far as I can tell, because no matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t stroke my second line. I tried closing out of GIMP and restarting it, but it didn’t work. Do you have a solution?

  47. Monique

    December 26th, 2013

    Absolutely fabulous tutorial. Every step was complete, the directions were clear and it worked. THANKS THANKS THANKS. I learned so much.

  48. Gimp Tutorials | 70 Creative Gimp Tutorials | Best Gimp Tutorials | CanvasTheme

    February 2nd, 2014

    […] Fancy Glow Effects in Gimp In this tutorial you’ll learn how to create some fancy glowing lines and how to make it so that the end of the line will fade nicely. […]

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