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How to use GIMP IWarp

Updated on July 11, 2009

Quick and simple step by step guide to using GIMP IWarp

Basic introduction into IWarp, a feature that twists, turns, shifts, enlarge, shrink and etc. images to enhance its presentation effect. In this How To guide, I will show you the function of each tool, difference between them and a few ideas to inspire using this tool. Other than that, check out my step by step guide to find out more! Don't worry... All the tools will be generally explained in layman's term.

IWarp & what is it?

Have you ever played with your cell phone photo editor or visited a website that offers you the power to twist your friend's face, enlarge your girlfriend's bosom, make humiliating faces out of your coworker or even put a smile to that gloomy guy next to you? That is all possible when I found out about it in Gimp 2.6.

Apparently, this feature was also implemented in Photoshop under the "Transform Menu" called "Warp" and many professionals use it to enhance images and add effects just to spice up the quality. This feature uses complex algorithm (which won't be explained here) to allows users or digital artists to select an area and apply the effect to the image with a click of a button.

Basic steps

First off, load an image or your girlfriend's picture (in this example, it's a cat) in Gimp and begin by opening the drop down menu in the main window labeled "Filters" (Alt+R shortcut key) and select "Distorts".

Clicking on "IWarp..." will bring up a new window showing you a preview of your currently opened picture on the left. On the right are radio buttons that selects the type of effect you can apply and right below it are sliders you can use to control the scale of the effect.

Next we focus more on the 6 radio buttons which consist of "Move", "Remove", "Grow", "Shrink", "Swirl CCW", and "Swirl CW". Basically the effects of these tools can only be used and seen in the IWarp window and it has no direct effect to your current picture unless you click the "OK" button. In other words, the tools work in the preview picture within the IWarp window.

The almighty "Move" tool

When the "Move" option has been selected in your IWarp window, you just have to left click on the preview image, hold the mouse button and drag it to the direction of your desire. In my example, I just click at the cat's left ear and drag it outwards and another from his face down past his chin. You can see the difference between the original preview (Left) and the stretched out cat face (Right).

The "Move" effect actually stretches the image in the direction you want when you hold the left mouse button and drag the mouse.

The even mightier "Remove" effect

The "Remove" effect is similar to the eraser but slightly weird because it's more like an undo tool than an eraser. This effect will be used often especially when it comes to removing a mistake but professionals will know how to combine the effect of the remove tool with the other tools.

To use it, select the remove tool and simply hold the left button and drag it across the preview image. This tool will remove an area stretch by the move tool, reverse back swirls to the original image, grown areas are shrunk back, and shrunk areas are grown. The effect of this tool can only be seen if the preview image has been modified by the other 5 tools and it will not work on a warped image after you click on the "OK" button to confirm warping.

The highly misused "Grow" tool

Have you ever visited any particular website that features people body that seem to be a little unnaturally bigger than expected but still manage to stimulate your mind? It's true that many digital artists tend to use the "Grow" tool very often to enlarge or enhance areas to emphasize your desires. Still, there are many other uses to it especially reshaping one's face to look like a cute baby or even an alien. Basically this tool causes areas you click or drag around to grow naturally without distorting the surrounding.

To use this tool, select the "Grow" option and click on the area in the preview image you want to enlarge. The area can be grown multiple times by clicking on the same spot repeatedly. Other than that, you can even hold left click and drag it around. Usually this tool is most effective when using on shapes that are curved or round such as the eyes, cheeks, chin, and in your imagination.

You never visit your "Shrink" often

The “Shrink” tool typically causes the point or area you click on to stretch the surrounding towards the point and causing that area to look smaller than before. This tool is the least used tool because shrinking can cause obvious distortion in the image you are editing. The effect is similar to the “Grow” tool but it works in the opposite direction. Shrinking is normally used in situation requiring audience to focus towards a point, make unattractive areas in your picture not noticeable, and others.

To apply this effect, click on the “Shrink” radio button and left click on the spot you wish to make it disappear or smaller. Repeated clicks will cause the effect of shrinking to be stronger and that spot will look narrower. You can hold left mouse button and drag just like the other tools but its effect is noticeable when applied along the edge of the subject. Just like the “Grow” tool, it is effective when used on curved or circular shapes.

When you "Swirl" to the left and you "Swirl" to the right...

Swirling consists of two separate but similar functions and that is to twist the area you select into a whirlpool like effect. The "Swirl CCW" and "Swirl CW" actually stands for "Swirl Counter-Clock Wise" and "Swirl Clock Wise" although both create the same effect. The only difference between them is the direction of the swirl. For the "Swirl CW" option, the area selected will twist clock wise or if you can't imagine it, try looking at an analogue clock's second hand direction and that is the direction the twist will move. As for the "Swirl CCW", it is the same for "Swirl CW" but the direction is in the opposite.

The swirl tools actually distort the pixels in the selected area to move in a circular direction and the effect is more noticeable especially at the mid section between the mouse cursor towards the edge of the selected area. In the Cat example, the red points indicated the area the swirl tool was applied by left clicking on the same spot multiple times or by holding the left mouse button and moving the mouse in a circular pattern. This effect is great especially when there are images with thick bold lines that could give the twisted like motion a boost to the image.

Cat Snail - A good reason to play with Iwarp

How cute... A Cat Snail! I used "Swirl CW", "Move",and "Grow" but can you do it to?

GIMP vs Photoshop

Which do yo think is better?

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