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How to Capture Color with GIMP

Updated on August 12, 2016
cclitgirl profile image

Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts and culture and sharing that knowledge.

You can improve your photos with GIMP
You can improve your photos with GIMP | Source

A Gimp Tutorial

We all take pictures and often times, once we pull an image up on our computer screen, we notice a blemish or some other oddity in an otherwise good picture.

What to do?

You can use the color picker tool in GIMP to help you get rid of those imperfections. No one will ever know that your photography skills aren’t perfect of that your pictures weren't perfect in every way!

GIMP is a free photo-editing program. Its letters stand for “Gnu Image Manipulation Program.” Within the program itself are lots of tools to help you create the best images possible. If you don't want to pay hundreds of dollars for a photo editing program, this is one of the best I've seen out there.

Why Use the Color Picker Tool?

Besides helping to rid your photos of imperfections, you can use this tool to help you get rid of unwanted objects in pictures. For example, I took this picture on a recent hike:

You can see a car in the picture.
You can see a car in the picture. | Source

There was a car in the picture and I wanted to get rid of it. I used the color selector tool to match up the colors and “painted in” where the car was.

If you had not seen the before and after pictures, you wouldn’t be able to tell there was a car in the picture in the first place:

I used the color picker tool to match the surrounding colors with where the car had been.
I used the color picker tool to match the surrounding colors with where the car had been. | Source

In addition, if you have an image where you want to match text to a color in the picture, you can use the color picker tool to help you with that.

In the picture below, I wanted to select the red color to create text that would match it:

I used the color select tool to match the color of the text to the leaf.  Then I used a gradient to change the color from dark to light.
I used the color select tool to match the color of the text to the leaf. Then I used a gradient to change the color from dark to light. | Source

How to Capture Color

Open up GIMP. Upon opening, GIMP will default to displaying a tool box on the left side of the screen. In the second row there will be a tool that looks like an eyedropper (again, assuming you’re on default settings). Select that tool and you’re ready to find the colors you need on your picture.

The color picker tool in GIMP.
The color picker tool in GIMP. | Source

Now take a look at this picture:

This ornament has imperfections.
This ornament has imperfections. | Source

Matching Colors

On the gold ornament in the center of the above picture, there are a couple spots that are a bit distracting. We want to get rid of those spots to improve the overall quality of the picture.

Let’s work on one spot at a time; we’ll tackle the top little spot, first.

Using the color picker tool, select an area next to the spot. If you don’t, the colors will not match exactly because of various degrees of shading:

Using the color picker tool - the colors sometimes look a little different than they would seem.
Using the color picker tool - the colors sometimes look a little different than they would seem. | Source

The color picker tool came up with a color that looks like a dark lilac – no where near gold! But those are the colors of the pixels right next to where the first spot is.

Now, select the paintbrush tool. For the actual brush, you’ll want to select a “fuzzy” brush so that it feathers your edges and helps to hide your edits a little more:

Using the "circle fuzzy" paintbrush "tip."
Using the "circle fuzzy" paintbrush "tip." | Source

Now, start painting over the spot. You may find it better to do short, small strokes rather than one large one. Large strokes tend not to blend as well:

The first spot is gone.
The first spot is gone. | Source

Do you photo-edit a lot of your images?

See results

Use the Smudge Tool

Do the same for the other spots.

Sometimes it can be hard to match up the colors perfectly. When that happens, you can use the smudge tool (it looks like a little index finger pointing near the middle of the toolbox) to help blend the colors more effectively.

Just remember, you’ll want to do short strokes, even “dots.” That helps to keep the colors matching better because if you do one long stroke, the chances increase that you’ll move into an area with a different color than your brush.

Here’s what the finished picture looks like:

The finished product.
The finished product. | Source

Of course, once you get the hang of this, then you can try different things. For example, you can choose a brush with a different “tip” for interesting effects:

Playing with paintbrush textures.
Playing with paintbrush textures. | Source

By color matching all the “shining” areas of the photo, and then using a texturizing brush, I added an interesting effect to it:

"Shining" effects.
"Shining" effects. | Source

The Color Picker Tool Works Wonders!

Thus, the color picker tool has a number of applications that you can use to really do a lot with just one photo.


© 2012 Cynthia Sageleaf

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    • snakeslane profile image

      snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

      cclitgirl, Thank you, this Gimp tutorial is really helpful. I'm wondering if you would use the color picker to get rid of dust spots on a photo? A friend uses a 'clone' tool to get rid of dust with her PaintPro editing program, but I don't have that program, I have Gimp2. Do you know if the color picker is the same as a cloning tool? Voted up and useful, and awesome. Thanks again. Regards, snakeslane

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You realize, right, that this is all beyond me? That in a million years I could never figure out how to use this tool? Sheez, thanks a lot, Sis! Now I'm feeling really stupid. LOL

      Great info Cyndi!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      This was great and I thought my iPhoto did a lot, but has nothing on this. I have totally pinned to try and have also voted up much and shared all over!!

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Hmmm, I always thought gimp was a pejorative term. I had no idea it had anything to do with gnus (Gary anyone?) or that it was a handy photo editing program.

      Anyway, thanks for leading the way to this free program - it looks like it has some great features.

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 4 years ago

      cool I will check it out.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Very cool!!! I sure do need to know this, so thank you very much and free too! Awesome.

      Voted Way Up

      In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • seh1101 profile image

      Sean Hemmer 4 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Good info. Upvote! I use GIMP on my Ubuntu machine from time to time. It is definitely useful, especially when editing images for hubs.

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi Cyndi, this is another wonderful tutorial for learning how to Gimp! I am studying Gimp, it will probably take me some time, but I'm slowly progressing. At first everything I read was way over my head, but now I can at least figure out which way you are pointing. It is a wonderful tool, but complex for somebody with no experience. Your hub is pushing me to work some more on it, so thank you! Voted up etc., and shared. Have a good day!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      So interesting and thanks you for sharing.

      I vote up.

      Eddy.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great tutorial! This is such a valuable skill. I am determined to learn more advanced photo editing techniques when I upgrade to an SLR.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Snakeslane - The color picker and the clone tool are different. The color picker looks like a medicine dropper and the cloning tool looks like a finger pointing. :) So, yes, you can edit out "dust" for sure.

      BB - haha, you crack me up. You're one of the wisest people I know. And that's the truth.

      Janine - I hope you like playing with GIMP. :)

      OD - long time no see!!! Great to see you. I love it: pejorative term. Funny how language evolves like that. I was talking about "SPAM" with some friends the other day and its multiple meanings.

      Lovedoctor926 - great! Thank you. :)

      Faith Reaper - Thank you for stopping by. It's a great tool!

      Seh1101 - GIMP is SO useful. I use it daily. DAILY. :)

      Joanveronica - My best advice is that the more you use it, the more you will learn. There's definitely a learning curve and you'll get there. :)

      Eiddwen - thank you so much! I appreciate the votes.

      Randomcreative - I can't WAIT to see what you come up with when you get your SLR. You've got such an artistic flair and good eye. Looking forward to seeing it!!

    • snakeslane profile image

      snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

      cclitgirl, Thank you! Good to know.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      How great to have such a wonderful tool availablel for free! Your instructions are so helpful and make me want to find a photo to start working on!

      Voted up, useful, and very interesting!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      This sounds like a fun tool. Great hub. Voted up and shared.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      I had to come back. You do have to have Microsoft Office to use Gimp. I just found that out won't work on my computer.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Interesting, Cyndy! There are such good photo editing tools out there. Thanks for bringing this up.

    • Nora411 profile image

      Nora411 4 years ago from Chicago, IL

      This seems like a helpful tool to have to edit pics, especially with kids ! Voting up!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Tillsontitan - this is such a great program! Find that photo! :)

      Moonlake - it IS a fun tool. I've never encountered that problem with GIMP. I have always had MS office, though...but apple users report using this and they don't have MS installed usually. Not sure on that one. :P

      Aviannovice - hey there! Photo editing tools are *awesome* :)

      Nora411 - it's a great tool and you can do so much with it to help make cards and things like that. :)

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      I have never edited my picture Nd I will give it a shot.

      Your hubs always put a feather in my cap...thanks cyndi :)

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      These are popular tools on high-end programs like Photoshop. Thanks for pointing out that they are also available on a freebie like GIMP. I only discovered GIMP within the past couple of months and am quite impressed by its capabilities. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      This is a great tool for photo tuning. I am going to look into it. Do you know if after a trial period GIMP you have to purchase this program?

    • JanMaklak profile image

      JanMaklak 4 years ago from Canada

      Great information I always wanted to know more about GIMP

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Ruchira - thank you! I love feathers. ;0)

      Alocsin - exactly! That's one reason I love GIMP so much - it has many tools that photoshop has. To be sure, it's a free program, so it doesn't have some of the premium features that photoshop does, but with the plugins and updates, I feel like you just can't be that.

      Teaches - No - you NEVER have to purchase it. :) It's FREE!!

      JanMaklak - thank you for stopping by!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Thanks, CC, I am going to try it. I can't thank you enough for this information.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Hooray, Teaches. There's a bit of learning curve, but it's pretty user-friendly and the more you use it, the more it becomes understandable. :)

    • profile image

      AudraLeigh 4 years ago

      I admire you as a photographer and really like when you write a tutoral for people who enjoy photography. This is a great piece that I am going to index!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      AudraLeigh - WELCOME BACK!!! I'm so glad to see you. I can't wait to see your photos and poems here!! Thank you for your feedback on this. Cheers!

    • profile image

      AudraLeigh 4 years ago

      Love ya girl!!!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Right back atcha. :D

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      I have GIMP in my computer, but have never used it. I'm much comfortable with photoshop. Thanks for this tutorial.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Vinaya - GIMP is pretty much like Photoshop, but PS definitely has some more frills than GIMP. But, I still like to use GIMP because I've used it for so long. :)

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