Welcome to Davies Media Design, and in this article I’ll be showing you how to create frames for your images or graphics using selections in GIMP! With this technique, you can basically create a frame of any shape using selection areas. This is a beginner friendly tutorial, but let’s dive in!
For starters, your going to want to create a new composition. You can do this by hitting the ctrl+n shortcut key on your keyboard or by going to File>New.
Set the size you want your composition to be by entering a numerical value for both the width and the height (I went with 1200 for the width and 600 for the height, with the units set to “px” for pixels), and click OK to create the new document.
Once your new document is created, open up the image or images you’d like to frame using this technique. You can do this by finding the image file on your computer (i.e. via the File Explorer if you’re using Windows – shown in the image above) and then clicking and dragging that file from the folder into GIMP (make sure you drag and drop the file over the little Wilber design just above the GIMP toolbox – follow the red arrows and green dotted line in the image above). You can also simply open the photo by going to File>Open and finding the photo on your computer.
Now that your photo is opened into GIMP, navigate back over to the blank composition we created towards the beginning of this tutorial (click the tab at the top of the image window – red arrow in the image above).
Click the “Create a New Layer” icon at the bottom of the Layers panel (red arrow in the image above). Name the new layer whatever you want (I went with “Photo Frame” – green arrow), make sure it’s filled with transparency (blue arrow), and click OK.
Next, grab any selection tool you’d like to use to create your frame from GIMP’s toolbox. I’ll be going with the “Free Select Tool,” but there are a variety of other selection tools to choose from (which you can learn all about in my GIMP tutorial series on selections). I like this tool because you can either hand draw your selection areas or click to create nodes and draw lines between those nodes (for creating polygons or more abstract shapes). To access this tool, click and hold the third tool group (red arrow in the image above), then hover your mouse over the Free Select Tool and release (blue arrow). You can also use the shortcut key “F.”
Now that I have a selection tool, I’ll draw the selection area on my composition (you can start the selection area outside the canvas, though it’ll be cut off at the layer or image boundary). In my case, I’ll simply click to create a node (red arrow in the image above), then release and drag my mouse to a new point.
I’ll then click again to create another node (blue arrow) – there is now a straight line between these two points.
I’ll continue clicking to create nodes around my composition to build a selection area boundary. Finally, I’ll make sure I close the selection area by clicking on the first node so that it is also my last node (red arrow in the image above). Now we have a sort of abstract rectangle shape.
If you are using the Free Select tool like me, hit the “enter” key on your keyboard to apply the selection area (you should now see what’s called “marching ants” around the border of your selection – red arrow in the image above).
For the next step we are going to bring in our image, so I’ll navigate over to the photo we opened up earlier. I’ll go to Edit>Copy to copy the image (red arrow in the image above – or hit ctrl+c on your keyboard).
Navigate back to the composition with your selection area and go to Edit>Paste into Selection (red arrow in the image above). Note that you cannot scale the image at this point, so make sure you scale it beforehand based on the size you need it to be (check out this tutorial on how to scale or resize images in GIMP).
You’ll now see a new temporary layer in your layer’s panel titled “Floating selection” (red arrow in the image above). At this point, you can still reposition your image inside the frame using your mouse (which will automatically convert to the move tool temporarily). Click and drag on the image to move it in place (green arrow in the image above). Once in place, release your mouse.
Now that your image is in place, come back over to the Layers panel and click the “Anchor” icon (blue arrow). This will essentially merge, or anchor, your temporary floating selection layer with the “Photo Frame” layer below it that we created earlier in this tutorial.
Your selection area, or marching ants, will still appear around the edges of your frame, but you can remove it by going to Select>None (red arrow in the image above) or hitting ctrl+shift+a on your keyboard.
And there you have it! You have now inserted your photo into a custom frame using GIMP. Note that you can also use layer masks in GIMP as a more non-destructive way of creating photo frames from shapes as well as brush strokes and more.
That’s it for this tutorial! If you liked it, you can check out my other GIMP Help Articles, GIMP Video Tutorials, or even one of my GIMP Premium Courses to learn more about GIMP.