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How To Highlight Screenshot Areas Using Gimp

Updated on April 24, 2010
Gimp Image Manipulation Program
Gimp Image Manipulation Program

Gimp is a powerful image manipulator that you can use for your graphic design projects, web design purposes and, as in this example, as a means of highlighting the areas of screenshots that you intend to use in articles and “how to” pieces.

Manuals.  I hate them. The Gimp's user guide is not the easiest thing in the world to get a handle on, but fortunately there are many online tutorials covering the ways you can use Gimp.  I had no luck finding one that showed how to utilise Gimp’s simple interface to produce easy to understand screenshots - so I put together my easy to follow take on solving the problem.

Remember, the Gimp is freeware, so using this method to make your articles look more polished is going to cost you no more than a few minutes of your time!


  • Start by importing your image into Gimp (File>Open).  If you haven’t saved your screenshot – say for example you want to use a web screenshot that’s open in your browser right now – just open the browser, hit the Print Screen key on your keyboard (Prt Scrn), flip back to Gimp and click Edit>Paste As>New Image. 

Pasting your screenshot into the Gimp.
Pasting your screenshot into the Gimp.
  • Use the rectangle or ellipse selection tool to mark the area you want to bring to the fore.   
  • Copy the selected area (Ctrl + C or Edit>Copy from the menu bar). 

The rectangle select tool
The rectangle select tool
  • Click Layer>New Layer and a dialogue box will pop up.  Don’t worry about the size selection – that will automatically be the same as the image you imported – just make sure that the layer fill type is marked as “Transparency”.
  • Your new layer should now be visible in the layers sidebar.  Click it to select it and then use either Ctrl+V to paste the selected area from your original layer, or alternatively Edit>Paste from the menu bar. 

Anchor the layer.
Anchor the layer.


  • Anchor the floating layer using the anchor tool as illustrated, or by going to Layer>Anchor Layer.
  • Select the bucket fill tool.
  • Change the foreground colour to black.
  • Beneath the foreground colour select box you will see an opacity slider – set this to around 30%.  You can experiment with this later for your preferred effect. 

The Bucket Fill tool
The Bucket Fill tool
The Opacity Slider - set this to 30%
The Opacity Slider - set this to 30%


  • Now, make sure that your second layer remains selected.  Click your mouse on the image, away from the area that you selected (well outside of it).  You can repeat this step to darken the background further if you wish.
  • When you’re happy with the final result, save the image and make sure that you change the file extension to jpg or jpeg. 
  • That’s it, you are done!

All done!
All done!


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