GIMP Tutorial: How to Create a Text Portrait Poster

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How to Create a Text Portrait Poster in GIMP (Text Version)

Text Portrait Posters are really cool projects that combine images and text to create powerful, oftentimes dramatic statements that neither medium could create on their own. They can be used for movie, motivational, political, or fan posters.

I decided recently to make a video tutorial on how to create one of these portrait posters using GIMP, the free graphic design software comparable to Photoshop. Turns out that this tutorial is useful for a variety of reasons outside of designing a cool poster. There are photo editing techniques, such as adjusting the saturation, levels and sharpness of an image, as well as text effects that allow you to add dimension to your compositions. I also go over a few shortcuts that should help speed up your workflow when working in this program.

Without further adieu, let’s begin the text version of this tutorial!

To begin, create a new file in GIMP by going to File>New.


Make your composition’s dimensions the dimensions of your poster. In this case, we will do 11 x 8.5 inches (standard US Paper size in Landscape orientation). You’ll notice in the picture below that there are measurements below the unit dropdown box that show the size and ppi (pixels per inch) of the image. The default setting here is 72 ppi. If you click “Advanced Settings” and change the settings to 300 ppi, you will be working with a larger, but better quality, image.


If the image background is already erased or is a solid background color that you want to keep, Open the image you want to use as your background image by going to file > open as layers within your composition. However, if the image has a background that you want to remove, open it by going to file > open. Then, you will need to erase the background as shown in the tutorial linked here.


NOTE: For those of you who needed to remove the background first, you will then need to copy your image onto your poster by going to edit > copy, then clicking on your poster file and going to edit > paste as > new layer.

If you need to resize your image, go to Layer > Scale Layer and choose the size you would like to scale it to. I recommend changing the unit to %, which will scale it as a percentage of the current size of the image. I recommend also using the scale tool (Scale-Tool) found on the left tool bar to click and drag the image to scale it up or down and get the image to the exact size you want (hold ctrl to keep the aspect ratio the same while scaling to avoid warping the image).


Next, we’ll work on the color of our image. If you want your image to be black and white or de-saturated, go to colors > hue-saturation and bring the saturation down until you get the desired look.


You will then want to enhance the look of the image by going to Colors > Levels and adjusting the levels of the image. You can do this via the “Input Levels” section shown in the image below, click and dragging the black, grey, and white triangles to adjust the levels of black, grey, and white in your image. You can also sharpen the image by going to Filters > Enhance > Unsharp Mask


Next, we’ll ensure that our image is properly aligned in our composition. You’ll first want to add a guide to the center of your image. To do this, go to Image > Guides > New Guide (by percent).


Change the direction to Vertical and set the percentage to 50%. This will put the guide in the middle of your image.


Use the move tool or your mouse to adjust the image so that it is centered with the guide. The center of your image is denoted by a small + sign seen in the image below.


You can ensure objects snap to your guide by going to view > snap to guide. You can also turn this feature off if you prefer not to have objects snap to your guide by clicking the menu item so that it no longer has a check mark.

We are now going to set up the text overlay effect on our image. You’ll want to place your text on the lighter side of the subject’s face if one side is brighter than the other. In this case, both sides are equally bright so we can place the text on either side.

Start by grabbing the Rectangle Select Tool (Rectangle-select-tool) and dragging the rectangle over the part of the image you will be placing your text over.


Next, create a new layer and make sure it is set to transparency.


Grab the bucket fill tool (Bucket-Fill-Tool) and fill in the square with black. Then go to select > none or press Select + Cntrl + A to deselect the rectangle selection area.


Next, grab the text tool and choose a heavy, thick font. I chose Impact Condensed as my font. Set the color of the text to white. Make sure the text is also aligned to the edge of the rectangle. In my case, I will use “Right Justified” () to align the text to the right side of the rectangle.


Click and drag the type area (using the text tool) to ensure your text fits in the composition. You select the text to change its size, and can show/hide the black rectangle to see if the text is positioned correctly relative to the image beneath it. You can also use the scale tool to click and drag the text to scale it up or down.


You can also increase or decrease the space between each line of text, called the Leading, by using the tool outlined by the red box in the image below (located within the text tool options when you have the text tool selected – the mouse hover note says “Adjust Line Spacing”).


You can also add a horizontal guide to center the text on your image by going to image > guides > New Guide (by Percent), selecting “Horizontal” and setting the percentage to 50%. Go to image > guides > remove all guides to hide the guides completely once you are finished with them.

Once your text is centered, use Alt + Click on the text layer in the layers panel to select the text (Alt + Click where the red arrow is pointing in the picture).


Hide the text layer by click the show/hide icon in the layers panel next to the text layer, then click on the black rectangle layer you created below it to select that layer.


Press the delete key on your keyboard to delete the area within the text selection. Deselect the text by going to Select > None or holding Ctrl + Shift + A on your keyboard.


Next, you’ll want to make the darker areas under the text lighter so they are easier to read. Select the layer your image is on and grab the dodge tool. You can increase/decrease the size of the dodge brush, and increase or decrease the opacity using the Dodge/Burn tool options shown in the image below (on the lower right portion of the image).

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Create a rectangle select area around the area you want to lighten to ensure you don’t accidentally lighten other parts of the image (optional).


For areas of the image that are very dark, you can grab a paint brush, choose white, turn down the opacity, and paint over the dark spots to brighten them up.


Once the image looks the way you like, you are done! You can then export the poster by going to file > export.


You can then choose the file type you want to save your image as by clicking the “Select File Type (by extension)” drop down arrow at the bottom. The black rectangle shown in the photo below is to censor this computer’s file information.


I recommend saving the file as a JPEG and setting the quality to 100 if you plan to print it. If you are using the photo for a website, you can lessen the quality a bit to save space.

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That’s it for this tutorial! I encourage you to check out all of my GIMP video tutorials on the Davies Media Design YouTube channel.

You can also read about and watch our Top 10 GIMP Tutorials on YouTube here!