A lot of photographers and artists like to add borders to their images when printing their works, and this can certainly add a nice to frame around a photo when done properly. With GIMP, adding borders to your images is a very simple process, and can be done in any color of your choosing. I recently put out a tutorial on how to prepare photos for print in GIMP, which I definitely recommend you check out if you are looking to learn how to get everything set up before sending photos off to the printer, but this tutorial certainly builds on that concept as this can be the final step prior to exporting the final file and sending compositions off. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Figure Out Your Final Dimensions FIRST

You will need to know 2 different measurements before scaling your image – the first is what the final size of your paper will be that you are printing on, or the final size you want your overall composition to be, and the second is the size you want your border to be.

For example, I know that I want my final composition size to be 5 in. x 7 in. as this will be the size of the paper I will print my photo on. So, that means my photo PLUS my border have to equal 5 x 7. If I don’t factor this in ahead of time, I could end up with something like a 5 x 7 image with a .5 inch border, giving me a final size of 6 x 8 (after I add .5 inch from the left and right side of my image to the width, and .5 inch from the top and bottom to the height).

Since I have calculated my desired width and height of the total composition ahead of time, I can now plan accordingly and take into account the dimensions that my border will add to the image.

Step 2: Scale Your Image

It’s now time to scale your image down to the size it’ll need to be after you’ve subtracted the dimensions of the border. Let’s stick with the .5 inch border measurement, which means we need to subtract 1 inch from the total width (.5 inch the left side plus .5 inch for the right side equals 1 inch total) and subtract 1 inch from the total height (same reasoning, but using top and bottom measurements).

For this example, I am working with a 5 in. x 7 in. image. So, I’ll need to scale it down to 4 in. x 6 in. The only issue is that 5 x 7 has a different aspect ratio (the aspect ratio is 1:1.4) than does 4 x 6 (which has an aspect ratio of 1.5). So, if I simply scale the image down to 4 x 6, it will look squished as we need to change the aspect ratio. To solve this issue, I’ll simply need to scale the largest dimension of the original image to the largest dimension we’ll need for the final image, keeping the aspect ratio locked. In other words, I’ll scale the height down from 7 inches to 6 inches, and allow the width to automatically scale down to whatever measurement it needs to to maintain the aspect ratio.

Image Scale Image GIMP White Border Tutorial

I can do this by going to Image>Scale Image, which will bring up my Scale Image Dialogue Box (shown in the photo above).

Scale Image Dialogue Box White Border GIMP Tutorial

Next, I’ll change the units for the Width and Height to inches (in. – denoted by the red arrow in the image above), and will make sure the chain-link icon is locked to ensure the original aspect ratio is maintained (denoted by the green arrow in the image above).

Then, I’ll change the Height, which is the largest dimension to 6 (blue arrow in the image above). If you hit the Tab key on your keyboard, the Width of your image should automatically update to 4.287 inches. If you are using this image for print, you may want to check that your X and Y resolutions are set to 300 as shown in the photo above (if not, type 300 for both). Make sure the interpolation option is set to NoHalo or LoHalo, then click “Scale” to apply the changes.

Step 3: Crop Your Image to the Proper Aspect Ratio

Crop Tool Tool Options White Border GIMP 2.10 Tutorial

Your image is now scaled down to the appropriate size in terms of the height, but the width still needs to be changed from 4.287 inches to 4 inches. To do this without effecting the height, click on the Crop tool in your Toolbox (denoted by the red arrow in the photo above). Then, click on the “Fixed” checkbox under the Tool Options, choose “Aspect Ratio” from the dropdown box (blue arrow), and type 4:6 as the ratio (you can also type 1:1.5 – it will produce the same result – denoted by the green arrow in the photo above).

Setting the Right Crop Size White Border GIMP Tutorial

Next, click and drag your crop tool from the very top of the image to the very bottom. There should be some extra room on the sides of the crop – this is the area we are cropping out. If you aren’t sure if you drew the crop properly, you can check the “Size” field under the Crop Tool’s Tool Options and make sure it says 4 inches x 6 inches (blue arrow above) as the dimensions of your crop (you will likely have to change the dimensions from px to in – denoted by the red arrow in the image above). Once you have your crop in place and are sure it is the right size, double click in the middle of the crop area to apply the crop.  Your image should now be 4 inches by 6 inches, or 1200 px by 1800 px (assuming you have your resolution set to 300 ppi).

Step 4: Adjust the Canvas Size

Image Canvas Size GIMP White Border Tutorial

We’ll now need to increase our canvas size to make room around our image for the border. To do this, go to Image>Canvas Size. This will bring up the Canvas Size Dialogue Box.

Canvas Size Diailogue Box White Border GIMP Tutorial

Change the unit for the Canvas Size Width and Height to inches (in.), and this time unlink the chain-link icon so that the aspect ratio is NOT maintained when we scale the width and height (denoted by the red arrow in the photo above). Next, change the Width to 5 inches and the Height to 7 inches (you will have to manually change both).

You’ll notice in the little preview window that there is now a lot of extra space around our image, but it is not centered. To center the image on the new canvas, click the “Center” button under the “Offset” section (denoted by the green arrow in the image above). Click “Resize” to apply the changes.

Step 5: Create a New Layer for Your Border

New Layer Options White Border GIMP Tutorial

Click the “Create a New Layer” icon in the layers panel to create a new layer. Name the layer “____ Border,” with the blank filled in by whatever color you want your border to be (denoted by the red arrow in the image above). In my case, I went with a white border, so I named it “White Border.” At the very bottom, there is a drop down box titled “Fill With” (denoted by the green arrow). If you want a white border, simply choose “White.” If you want it to be any other color, choose “Foreground Color” and then double click on your active foreground color (denoted by the blue arrow in the photo above) to change it to whatever color you would like. Once you have the color set, click OK.

Layer Stacking Order White Border GIMP Tutorial

Next, click and drag your Border layer below the main image layer so that it is at the bottom of the stacking order (demonstrated by the red arrow in the photo above). You should now have a border around your image!

You can now go to File>Export As, name your file, and choose a file type to export your image to.

Final Image with White Border Created with GIMP 2.10

That’s it for this tutorial! You can check out more GIMP Video Tutorials on my GIMP YouTube channel or How-To Articles on my Tutorials page!

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