In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a professional flyer using the free (open source) graphic design and photo manipulation program GIMP, version 2.9.8. If you have an older version of GIMP (i.e. GIMP 2.8), you can still follow along as many of the features found in this tutorial are also found in most version of GIMP. By the end of this tutorial, you should have an awesome flyer that you can print out for things like events, clubs/nightlife, business promotions, etc.
Step 1: Download Photos and Install Brushes
If you want to follow along using the same photos I’m using, you can download them for free on Pixabay via these links: dancing girl, laser show. I also use these brushes, which you will need to install in GIMP (you can read my tutorial on how to install brushes in GIMP here). I’ll be using Nexa Bold and Nexa Light as the main fonts, which you can download for free here. You can also download the “development version” of GIMP, which is the version I use in this tutorial, by clicking this link.
Step 2: Create a New Document, Open Your Photos
To start, open GIMP and create a new document by going to File>New.
Change the unit from pixels (px) to inches (in.) and then set the dimensions for your flyer, which you can find on the dimensions table on this website under the “Club Flyers” and “Flyers” section. For my flyer, I used the dimensions 5.5 in. x 8.5 in., or a half-page flyer. You’ll also want to click on the “Advanced Options” and make sure your X and Y resolutions are set to 300 pixels/in – the best setting if you plan to print the flyer.
You’ll also want to open up the images you’ll be using in your composition that you downloaded from Pixabay (or wherever you got your images from) by going to File>Open. Navigate to the folder where your file is located, then click on that file (you can generate a preview of the image by clicking on the “click here to generate image preview” area under the “Preview” column) and click “Open”. Repeat this step until all of your images are open in GIMP.
Step 3: Erase Image Background
Once you have both the photo of the dancing girl and the laser light show open, use the tabs at the top (if you are in single window mode – denoted by the green arrow in the image below) to navigate to the photo of the dancing girl. We are going to erase the background of this image, then copy and paste the result into our flyer composition.
We will start this process by adding a layer mask to the main image layer. To do this, click on the “Main Image” layer (I renamed this layer by double clicking on the name in the layer’s panel, typing this new name, then pressing enter – you can also right click on the layer and go to Edit Layer Attributes to change the name), and click on Add Layer Mask (shown in the photo above).
The “Add a Mask to the Layer” dialogue box will appear. Under “Initialize Layer Mask to:” choose “White (Full Opacity)” then click Add. You now have a layer mask added to your Main Image layer.
Next, grab your paintbrush tool (denoted by the green arrow in the photo above) and set the foreground color to black (red arrow). Choose a soft brush and increase the size of the brush using the size slider (blue arrow) or by using the left and right bracket keys (“[” or “]”) on your keyboard. Make sure the layer mask is selected (pink arrow), then paint the black around the model so that the background areas begin to erase. You’ll want to increase or decrease your brush as you paint depending on whether you are erasing larger areas or smaller areas with lots of detail.
Painting on a layer mask is considered “non-destructive” editing because you can always paint erased items back into the composition by switching the paintbrush color over to white. By contrast, when you use the “eraser” tool, you cannot bring back items you erased unless you “undo” the changes you made (which can undo all the progress you made AFTER your mistake).
You should see transparency behind your model as you paint, denoted by a grey checkerboard. If, when you apply the layer mask, you see a solid color instead, this means you may not have an “alpha channel” applied to your layer. To apply the alpha channel, right click on your main image layer and go to “Add Alpha Channel” (shown in the image above). Once your alpha channel is added, you can now paint transparency with the layer mask (be sure to click back on the layer mask before you start painting again).
After you have erased the background, grab the crop tool (denoted by the green arrow in the photo above) and crop your image so that there is less excess space around your model where the background used to be (I cropped my image to 980px x 1280px – see the red arrow above).
Step 4: Add a Gradient Background to Your Flyer Composition
Using the tabs at the top of the window, navigate over to the blank flyer composition (denoted by the pink arrow above). Grab the blend tool (green arrow), and choose a pinkish color for the foreground color (html notation: 931562) and a dark pinkish color (html notation: 1b0504) for the background color (red arrow). Set the Gradient to “FG to BG (RGB)”, and set the shape of the gradient to “Linear” (blue arrow).
Click at the top of your composition (denoted by the green arrow above) and, while holding the ctrl key on your keyboard, drag the gradient to the bottom of your composition (pink arrow). Holding the ctrl key ensures your gradient is drawn in a straight line. You should have the lighter color at the top, fading into the darker color towards the bottom. In the newest version of GIMP (2.9.8), you can “live edit” your gradient – which means you can change out the foreground and background colors, change the direction, shape, and type for the gradient, or move the placement of the gradient – with the changes displaying on your composition as you make them. The gradient (blend) will be applied once you grab another tool, and will no longer be editable at that point. I typically grab the move tool once I am ready to apply my settings to the gradient.
Step 5: Add a Shape to Your Flyer
Once you have a background for your flyer, grab your paths tool in the tool bar. Then, create a new layer (the create a new layer icon is at the bottom left of the layers panel) and name it “Wavy shape.” In GIMP 2.9.8 you can add a color tag to the layer, which helps keep related layers organized in your layers panel. I set the color tag to purple for this layer. Make sure the background for the layer is set to Transparent. I’ll click OK to create the new layer.
Using the paths tool (denoted by the pink arrow above), I’ll click to create points (blue arrow) to draw a path across my composition. If I click and drag, it will create a curved path at that point (red arrow).
When you create a curved point, the next point you draw will have its path curved in the opposite direction by default (denoted by the blue arrow above). This is the effect we want since we are creating a wavy shape. Draw your remaining points along your path outside the composition, around the bottom frame (red arrow). Your last point should be drawn a little below the first point you drew, then click and drag that point so that it overlaps with the first point you made (green arrow). This will connect the points to create a shape.
Next, click “selection from path” to create a selection area using the points we just drew (shown above).
Grab your bucket fill tool (denoted by the pink arrow above), choose black as your foreground color (green arrow), and, with the Wavy shape layer selected, fill in the selection area with the black color (red arrow). Once the area has been filled in, go to Select>none to deselect your selection area. Turn down the opacity of your Wavy shape layer to around 50% using the opacity slider (blue arrow) to have it blend in better with the background.
Step 6: Place First Photo Into Composition
Now that we have a background and shape created for our flyer composition, we want to place the photo of our dancer (whose background we removed earlier) into the composition. Navigate to the dancer photo and go to Edit>Copy Visible.
Then, navigate back to your flyer composition and hit ctrl+v on your keyboard. This will place your photo, without a background, as a “floating selection” layer (denoted by the blue arrow above). Click on that floating selection layer and click “add new layer” (red arrow). This will add the dancer photo onto its own layer (called “Pasted Layer” by default). You can double click on the layer name to change it (I’ll name it “Dancer”).
Now we want to scale this layer up a bit as the dancer photo is a bit too small. With the Dancer layer selected, go to Layer>Scale Layer.
Change the unit to percent (%) and increase the width and height to 120%. Click Scale.
Grab the move tool (either from the toolbox or hit “m” on your keyboard) and move the dancer up a bit so that her head is just slightly below the very top of the flyer.
You can ensure that the model is aligned to the middle of the composition by grabbing the alignment tool (denoted by the blue arrow), clicking on the dancer, and clicking “align center of target” under the alignment tool options (pink arrow).
Since we want the Wavy shape we created earlier to start just below the model’s legs, we will grab the move tool, click on the Wavy shape layer, and will drag the wavy shape down a bit. Part of the model’s legs can still overlap with the wavy shape at this point as we are going to fade the legs out a bit later on.
The wavy shape layer’s boundary will now be offset from the composition’s boundary since we just moved it down, so to correct this we can go to Layer>Layer to Image Size. The boundary should now be reset to match the boundary of the composition once again.
Step 7: Add Paint Splatter Behind the Model
Create a new layer in your layers panel and name it “Paint Splatter.” You can assign a purple color tag to this layer to keep in associated with other background elements (i.e. the Wavy shape layer, which also has a purple color tag). Click OK to create the layer.
Grab your brush tool (denoted by the pink arrow), and choose one of the paint splatter brushes you downloaded and installed at the beginning of this tutorial. I find it easier to find the paint splatter brushes in the Brushes panel underneath the Layers panel on the right side of your GIMP window (red arrow). It doesn’t matter which splatter brush you use to start as you will be using a random variety of these brushes to create a dynamic background behind your model. Increase or decrease the size of your brush using the brackets on your keyboard, or by dragging the “size” slider in the paintbrush Tool Options (green arrow). Change the foreground color of your paintbrush to white (blue arrow).
Make sure your paint splatter layer is below your model layer in the layers panel, then start painting by clicking in various spots around the model. You can increase and decrease the size of your brush as you paint. You’ll also want to change to different splatter brushes as you paint. A good rule of thumb for this tutorial is to keep all the paint splatters above the hips of the model as we are going to fade out her legs and we don’t want much of the paint splatter (if any) showing up behind that fade. You can also drag the “angle” slider in the paintbrush tool options if you want to change the angle of the brushes (denoted by the green arrow above).
Once I have my paint splatter background completed, I want to draw a gradient over the splatters to make it even more dynamic. To do this, I’ll make sure my paint splatter layer is still selected, then will go to Layer>Transparency>Alpha to Selection. This will turn the pain splatters into a selection area.
Now, create a new layer and name it Paint Splatter Gradient. You can set the color tag to purple again, then click OK.
Select this new Paint Splatter Gradient layer and grab your blend (gradient) tool (denoted by the pink arrow above). Change the foreground color to white, and your background color to a very light pink (html notation cd58a0). With the shape still set to linear, and gradient still set to FG to BG (RGB), click in the top right of the selection area (green arrow) and drag to the bottom left of the selection area (blue arrow) to draw the gradient. If you have a newer version of GIMP and need to make adjustments to the gradient before applying it, feel free to do so, then grab the move tool to apply the changes.
Once you have applied your changes, go to Select>none to deselect the selection area. You should now have a paint splatter area with a gradient.
Now, grab your move tool (denoted by the pink arrow), hide your original Paint Splatter layer (blue arrow) and click back on the Paint Splatter Gradient layer. Turn down the opacity of this layer (I turned it down to just above 40, but you can adjust this until it looks the way you want – green arrow) so that the gradient splatter blends in better with the background.
Step 8: Add the Laser Light Show Photo
Navigate over to your laser light show photo that you downloaded from Pixabay and go to Edit>Copy or hit ctrl+c on your keyboard. Come back over to your flyer composition and hit ctrl+v on your keyboard or go to Edit>paste.
This will add the laser photo to your composition as a floating selection layer. Click on this floating selection layer and click “create a new layer” to add this to its own Pasted Layer. You can then rename the layer by click on the layer name and typing “Laser Lights.”
Grab your scale tool from the toolbox (denoted by the pink arrow), make sure the chain icon is locked (this ensures a proportionate scale – green arrow), and click and drag on the Laser photo layer to resize the layer. You’ll want to increase the size of the layer until it overlaps the outside edges of the composition. Once it is scaled to the right size, click “scale” (blue arrow).
Grab your move tool to move the photo up until it slightly overlaps the top of your flyer. Then, click and drag the Laser Lights layers so that it is below the Paint Splatter Gradient layer in your layers panel.
Then, with your Laser Lights layer still selected, change the mode (denoted by the blue arrow) of the layer to “Screen” (green arrow). This will get rid of all of the black in the image, leaving just the laser lights and erasing the background.
Because there are so many different laser colors, which don’t gel well with the colors in my composition (in my opinion), I am going to remove the colors from the lasers. To do this, I will go to Colors>Hue-Saturation and will turn the saturation all the way down to -100. If you are using GIMP 2.9.8, you can check the “Split View” box to preview your changes, with the applied changes previewed on the left side of the split view line and the original (before changes) on the right side of the line. Click OK to apply the changes.
Step 9: Blend Your Elements
Now that we have the model, paint splatter, and our laser lights, you’ll notice that there are hard edges where the model layer ends (her legs) and where the laser lights end (the bottom of the layer). We want to blend these layers in better so that these elements fade into the background and look more professional.
I’ll start this process by right clicking on the Dancer layer and going to “Add Layer Mask.” For “Initialize Layer Mask to:” choose “White (Full Opacity).” Click Add to apply the layer mask.
Next, grab the blend tool (pink arrow) and change the foreground color to black. Change the gradient to “Foreground to Transparent” (green arrow) and make sure the shape is still set to linear. Click just above the bottom of the Dancer layer and drag the gradient up so that it ends around the waste line of the model. You want the legs to fade out without having too much of the rest of the model fading out as well. In GIMP 2.9.8, you can adjust how high up the fade goes by dragging the yellow dot along the live edit gradient line (blue arrow). You can also adjust the start and end points of your gradient prior to applying the changes so that you get the fade right.
Once you have the fade the way you want it, click the move tool to apply the changes.
Repeat this step with your Laser Lights layer, ensuring the lasers don’t peak behind the transparent parts of our model.
Once you have blended your elements, you’ll want to also erase any of the paint splatters that show up behind the transparent parts of the model. To do this, click on the Paint Splatter Gradient layer, grab the eraser tool (green arrow), and erase the splatters that show up behind the model.
Step 10: Add Your Text
Grab your text tool from the toolbox (green arrow) and change the foreground color to white. Change the font to Nexa Bold (which you downloaded earlier – blue arrow), and change the size of the font to 288 (pink arrow). Click anywhere on the composition (somewhere near the top of the Wavy shape) and type the main title of your promotion (in this case “NITELIFE” in all caps). This will create a new text layer in your layers panel, which you will need to click and drag to the top of all layers to ensure it isn’t hidden behind or obstructed by another layer.
You can then center your text by clicking the alignment tool, clicking on the text layer, and then clicking “Align center of target.” You can use the move tool if you need to raise or lower the position of your title text on the composition.
I am then going to add a small touch of customization to my text by adding a line at the top of the N. To do this, I’ll create a new layer and name it “N Custom.” I’ll add a green color tag and will click OK. Ensuring this N Custom layer is above my text layer, I’ll grab my zoom tool (either from the toolbox or my hitting “z” on your keyboard) and zoom in on the N letter.
Next, I’ll grab the rectangle select tool and will draw the rectangle so that it is about as thick as the original lines in my text and aligns with the top part of the N.
I’ll then grab my bucket fill tool (pink arrow) and will fill this selection area in with white (green arrow). To deselect the area, I’ll go to Select>none.
I’ll grab my zoom tool and will hold ctrl on my keyboard while I click to zoom back out.
Step 11: Add Your Remaining Text
I’ll grab my text tool and change the font to Nexa Light. I’ll decrease the font size to 116 and change the letter spacing to 32. I’ll then click on my composition above the Nitelife main text and will type the words “ENJOY THE” in all caps. You can use the move tool if need be to adjust the position of this text – just make sure you click on the text itself when trying to move it otherwise you will accidentally move whatever element you are clicked on.
I’ll grab my text tool again and will now type the (made up) date that I want displayed for this promotion. I’ll change my font size to 100, decrease the spacing of the letters back down to 0 and will click on my composition below the main NITELIFE text. I’ll type SATURDAY JULY 27TH in all caps.
I’ll then grab the alignment tool, click on this text, and click “align to center of target” to center align the text. You can again grab the move tool if you need to adjust the location of the text.
I’ll grab the text tool again, change the font size to 50, increase the letter spacing to 5, click on my composition below the date text, and will type the line of text with further details about the event (“TICKETS $20 | DOORS OPEN AT 7 PM | 18+”). I’ll use my align tool to center align this text.
For my last line of text, I’ll grab the text tool, change the font to Nexa Bold, increase the font size to 75, and decrease the spacing down to 0. I’ll type my fictitious website “NITELIFE.CLUB” at the bottom of the flyer. Then, I’ll use my move tool and alignment tool to center the text and position it where I want it.
Step 12: Style Your Text
Now that I have all of my text set up, I want to start styling the text. I’ll start with my main NITELIFE text – which I want to look like it has a sort of neon glow. I’ll start by clicking on the “N Custom” layer and merging it down so that it becomes merged with the original NITELIFE text layer.
Then, with this layer selected, I’ll go to Layer>Transparency>Alpha to Selection to create a selection area around the NITELIFE text.
Next, I’ll create a new layer and name it NITELIFE Pink. I’ll assign a green color tag to this layer and will click OK.
With the NITELIFE Pink layer selected, I’ll grab my bucket fill tool (pink arrow above) and will select a pink color for my foreground color (html notation c11e82). Fill the selection area in with this foreground color.
I’ll then go to Select>shrink and will shrink the selection area by 5 pixels (you may need to change the unit from inches to pixels).
Create a new layer and name it NITELIFE Bright Pink, assigning it a green color tag (denoted by the blue layer above). I’ll then change my foreground color to a brighter pink (html notation f826a7 – green arrow), and, with my bucket fill tool still selected (pink arrow), will fill in the new selection area with the bright pink color (red arrow).
I’ll then go to Select>shrink one last time and will shrink the selection area by 10 pixels. I’ll create a new layer, name it NITELIFE Highlight, assign it a green color tag, and will click OK (the newly created layer is denoted by the blue arrow). I’ll change my foreground color to white and will fill in the selection area (green arrow). Go to select>none.
Go to Filters>Blur>Gaussian Blur and adjust the X and Y values of the blur to somewhere between 4 and 5. Click OK to apply the blur.
Next, duplicate the “NITELIFE Bright Pink” layer (pink arrow above) and drag it underneath the “NITELIFE Pink” layer (blue arrow).
With the NITELIFE Bright Pink Copy layer selected, go to Filters>Blur>Gaussian Blur and turn the blur amount up to around 30 for both the X and Y values. This should create a bright pink glow around your text. Click OK to apply the blur.
Now – grab your text tool, select the “JULY” text and change the color of the text to the bright pink we’ve been using (html notation f826a7).
Next I want to add a rectangle behind the third row of text (TICKETS $20.. etc) to help the line of text stand out more. To do this, I’ll create a new layer and name it “Tickets Rectangle,” and will assign a purple color tag to it. I’ll then click and drag the layer so that it is below the original TICKETS text layer.
I’ll grab my rectangle select tool (blue arrow) and will draw a rectangle around the text.
If you want to ensure the rectangle is centered on your image, you can grab a guide by clicking on the rulers at the outer edges of the GIMP composition window (green arrow) and placing the ruler at 2.75 inches (you can see the unit where your guide is located in the bottom left corner of the composition window – denoted by the pink arrow). With this guide in place (blue arrow), you can now center align your rectangle, which has a “+” sign in the middle of the selection area that will snap to the grid. Once your rectangle is center aligned, grab your bucket fill tool, change the foreground color to black, and fill in the rectangle select area.
Then, go to Filters>Light and Shadow>Drop Shadow to add a drop shadow to the rectangle.
Set your X and Y offset values to 0, and turn up your blur radius to 20. Change the color to bright pink, and set the opacity to somewhere between .70 and .75. Click OK to apply the drop shadow.
Step 13: Add the Finishing Touches
Now that we have our main elements set, including our background pieces and our styled text, we’ll want to add the finishing touches to our composition to blend everything together. I’ll start by adjusting the colors on my dancer model by selecting the “Dancer” layer and going to Colors>Color Balance. I used the settings in the photos above for the midtones, shadows, and highlights so that my model took on a more purple/pink hue (the hue is very subtle as you can tell). This helps the model blend better with all of the purples and pinks in our image.
Next, I am going to add a pink outer glow to the model. I’ll start by creating a new layer and naming it “Dancer Highlight,” to which I’ll assign a yellow color tag.
I’ll then grab my paintbrush tool and will change the foreground color to our bright pink. I’ll change the brush to a soft brush, and will paint along the highlighted edges of the upper body of our dancer.
After I’ve painted my highlights, I’ll go to Filters>Blur>Gaussian Blur and will make sure both my X and Y values are set to around 30. I’ll click OK to apply the blur.
Finally, I’ll decrease the opacity of this Dancer Highlight layer to just under 70 (denoted by the blue arrow). As you can see, it now appears as if our dancer has a nice pink glow around her that matches the glow around our main title text and the general color scheme of our composition.
Step 14: Add a Vignette
I now want to add a vignette around the outer border of my professional flyer. In the latest version of GIMP, there is a built in vignette feature that makes this part very easy. If you are using GIMP 2.8 or 2.6, you can check out this tutorial on how to add vignettes the old fashioned way in GIMP. Otherwise, create a new layer and name it “Vignette” – I also added a dark grey color tag to this layer. Click and drag this layer so that it is at the very top of your composition.
Next, go to Filters>Light and Shadow>Vignette.
Match the settings for your vignette with the settings in the photo above, or adjust the settings until you get the look you want. You pretty much only need to adjust the Radius, Softness, Squeeze, and Color settings. Click OK to apply the vignette.
Step 15: Export Your Composition
You’ll definitely want to save your composition in the native XCF file format in GIMP – which you can do by going to File>Save (or hit ctrl+s on your keyboard). However, if you want to export this composition to something like a JPEG or a PDF, just go to File>Export and navigate down to the “Select File Type By Extension” drop down to choose the file type.