Even Quicker Way to a Digital Painting Look in GIMP

Last month I demonstrated a quick way to achieve a traditionally painted effect on a 3D render, using GMIC’s Brushify filter in GIMP.

If you are a GIMP user, there are even quicker and easier ways to get a basic painted effect. These are not as sophisticated as Brushify, but are simple to apply. Also, you won’t need to install anything beyond the core GIMP application.


Result of applying GIMP canvas filter to digital art

Low Depth Canvas Filter in GIMP

If you take a look at the Filters menu in GIMP, you’ll find an Artistic sub-menu. Sounds promising? Take a closer look. The first option is Apply Canvas. It applies a canvas effect using a repeated tile. (This is not entirely seamless so you may notice a repeated square effect on your image once applied).

The options are simple. You can choose the direction, which will subtly alter the appearance, and the depth, which will apply the effect more or less strongly. I recommend staying low on the depth. I’d also suggest you make a duplicate of your image before applying the filter, so you’ll always have an unaltered version on the bottom layer. This makes it easy to use layer modes on top of it, and can be helpful to compare changes between your image with and without a filter too.

The image shows what you get with a depth of just 2. Way too strong for my preference. You could always play with the Overlap, Multiply, Darken or other layer mode settings (right above the opacity slider in the Layers tab) but these will alter your image in other ways. For instance, with Multiply your image will appear very dark at full strength. I chose to keep the mode as Normal and simply dial the opacity down until I was happy with it. Remember, I kept an unaltered copy of my image on the bottom layer so this created a subtle effect over the top of it.

However, this is still all a bit boring. So let’s look at what else we can do with just a couple of clicks…


Get an oil painted look in GIMP with oilify filter

Apply the Oilify filter in GIMP

Make another duplicate of your unaltered base layer and send it to the top of the layer stack by dragging it or clicking on the green arrow at the bottom of the Layers window.

Back in the Artistic sub-menu of the Filters menu, take a look at Oilify. You don’t need to mess with the settings, just go ahead and apply it. Now you have a basic brushwork effect.

It’s not that thrilling, but it was quick.

Again, you can change the mode to something like Screen or Overlay and see how you like the result. If it makes your image too bright or dark, though, you’ll need to dial it down. Unfortunately that means you’ll lose much of the painted effect.

Instead, try keeping this one on Normal too and lowering the opacity slider until you get a nice hint of your canvas layer beneath.

Now this is nicer. This looks more natural than the full-on effect. I know it’s hard to see with the reduced-size web images, but the close-up shows how the surface looks more painterly. And since layer opacity was used to lower the strength of the effect, if this is too subtle all you need to do is crank that opacity back up.

It’s not the best result out there, but if you have little time and are working with standard free tools, it’s worth playing with settings like these to see what you can achieve.

A digital portrait enhanced with oilify and canvas in GIMP

GIMP filters Canvas and Oilify on the full image

Combining GIMP effects for a painted look on digital art.

Add an Oilify layer over a Canvas layer to combine these effects in GIMP.

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About Inky

As a digital artist on a budget, I'm fascinated by what happens when art and technology meet, and love discovering affordable ways to make that happen.

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