Want to learn how to resize a layer in GIMP? You’re finally in the right place. In this article, I show you how to resize individual layers in GIMP using the scale tool. Before I get started, I’d like to make the distinction between resizing a layer in GIMP and resizing an image in GIMP. When you resize your image, you are resizing the entire composition – including all of the layers within that composition (if you have more than one layer). However, when you have a composition with multiple layers, you can resize an individual layer without resizing the entire composition. That is exactly what I’ll be getting into in this article.
You can follow along by downloading the images I used in this tutorial for free on Pixabay. The image with a Yellow background can be download here, and the image with the Pink background can be downloaded here.
1. Create a New Composition
For starters, you’ll need to create a new composition where you’ll be opening your layers. Some of you may already have a composition open – if that’s the case, you can skip this part. Otherwise, to create a new composition, go to File>New.
This will bring up the “Create a New Image” dialogue. From here, you can choose the dimensions and resolution you’d like to set your image to. I went with 1920 for the width and 1080 for the height (both units in pixels). You can change the units of your composition if you would like by clicking the units dropdown (denoted by the red arrow in the photo above).
To change the resolution, I clicked the “Advanced Options” dropdown (denoted by the red arrow). The first option in this area is to change the X and Y resolution. A good rule of thumb is to set your X and Y resolution to 300 pixels per inch (pixels/inch) when you intend to print your final composition, and set your X and Y resolution to 72 pixels per inch when you intend to use your composition on the web (i.e. on a website).
As for the other options, leave the Color Space option set to the default, set precision to 32-bit floating point, and set gamma to “Perceptual gamma (sRGB).” You can leave all of the other options at their defaults.
Click OK to create your new composition.
2. Create Your Layers or Import Files As Layers
As I mentioned in the last step, if you already have your composition open and have created layers for your composition, you can skip this step. Otherwise, you can create a new layer by clicking the “New Layer” icon in the Layers panel (red arrow in the image above).
This will bring up the “Create a New Layer” panel, where you can adjust your layer settings (i.e. name your layer, add a color tag, change the size and background of the layer, etc.). For a more in-depth look at layers, I recommend checking out my Intro to Layers and Advanced Layers GIMP video tutorial.
Additionally, you can open images as layers into your composition by going to File>Open as Layers.
Navigate to the location on your computer where your file is located, then click on the file to select it (red arrow) and click the “Open” button (green arrow). Repeat this process until all of your files are open in your composition. In my case, I opened 2 images into GIMP, so I will now have 3 layers total (1 for each image I opened, and my background layer).
To make things easier, I am going to rename my layers by double clicking on the layer names in the Layers panel. I’ll name the layer with a pink background “Pink” and the layer with a yellow background “Yellow.”
3. Use the Scale Tool to Resize Individual Layers
Now that we have created our composition and imported files as layers, I can adjust my layers individually so that they fit a little bit better on the composition. To do this, I’ll use the Scale Tool from my Toolbox (denoted by the red arrow in the photo above). I can also access this tool by hitting Shift+S on my keyboard or by going to Tools>Transform Tools>Scale (denoted by the green arrow).
Once I have my Scale tool selected, I can click on the top layer of my composition (in this case, the “Pink” layer). This will bring up the Scale toolbox (denoted by the red arrow in the photo above), which shows the current dimensions of the layer I have selected, as well as options to reset my dimensions back to the default (prior to making any adjustments) via the “Reset” button, readjusting the handles that I can use to transform the layer via the “Readjust” button, or applying the scale to my layer via the “Scale” button. You can also see a chain-link icon to the right of the image dimensions, which allows you to lock the aspect ratio of your image (I recommend keeping this locked unless you want your image looking stretched or squished).
If you can’t see the transform handles for your layer, hold ctrl and use your mouse wheel to zoom out. Now that I’ve zoom out, I can now see the transform handles around the edge of my layer image and use them to scale the layer down. For this composition, I want both photos to appear side by side and have the model be about the same size in each photo. So, I’ll start with my “Pink” composition and will click and drag the top left transform handle (denoted by the red arrow in the image above) inward, causing the layer to shrink in size. You should notice the Width and Height values decreasing in the Scale toolbox as you do this.
I can then hold ctrl and use my mouse wheel to zoom in a bit. Next, I’ll click the transform handle on the bottom right of my image layer (denoted by the red arrow in the image above) and drag it inward. This will also cause my layer to shrink.
My issue now, though, is that I am not quite sure how much I want to shrink the layer in order to achieve the effect I am going for. To help guide me, I’ll create a guide by going to Image>Guides>New Guide (By Percent).
I’ll change the Direction to “Vertical” and keep the “Position (in %)” value set to 50%. I’ll click OK, which will then add a vertical guide at the halfway point of my composition. I can now continue scaling my layer, using this guide as a reference.
You can also use the middle transform handles (red arrow) within the scale tool to reposition your layer (these middle handles basically act as the move tool). I will click on these handles and reposition my layer so that the left edge of the layer aligns with my vertical guide and the top portion of my layer aligns with the top edge of my composition.
I will then use the bottom right transform handle again (red arrow) to scale the layer down until the right side of my layer aligns with the right edge of my composition. If you want to be more precise with this process, you can use ctrl + your mouse wheel to zoom in close to the edge of the photo to check and see if the edges are properly aligned.
You can see that my new layer dimensions are 960 by 1440 (green arrow in the photo above). Once I am ready to apply the changes, I’ll click the “Scale” button in my Scale toolbox.
The pink layer is now scaled within our composition!
4. Repeat This Process for All Layers You Wish to Resize
I am now going to repeat this process for my “Yellow” layer. So, I will click on the “Yellow” layer in my layers panel (red arrow) to make it my active layer. Next, I’ll click within the boundaries of my Yellow layer to select it with the Scale tool.
I’ll use the center transform handles to move the layer to the left side of the composition (as I have done in the image above). I have noticed that the model appears smaller in this layer than in the Pink layer, so I will need to scale the Yellow layer up. However, I want the image to scale from the center as opposed to scaling it from the corners.
So, to accomplish this, I’ll use any of my transform handles, but I’ll also hold the ctrl key as I click and drag the handle outwards (as demonstrated above). This will scale my image up while also scaling from the center.
I can continue using the center transform handles to reposition my image as I scale up. I will continue scaling the layer up until the model in the Yellow layer matches the size of the model in the Pink layer.
I could even temporarily reposition my Yellow layer on top of the Pink layer (ensuring my Image Opacity setting was below 100 for my Show Image Preview option under the Scale Tool’s Tool Options – denoted by the red arrow in the image above – so that I can see the Pink layer below) and continue transforming the image until both models are the same size. I could then reposition the layer back to the left side of the composition when completed.
Once everything is lined up, click the “Scale” button to apply your scale to the layer.
I’ll hit ctrl+shift+t to hide my guides. Both models are now approximately the same size, and are centered on their respective sides of the composition.