Sunday, November 29, 2009

GIMP Tutorial: 60's Themed Christmas Card (Intermediate Level)


After perusing through various application offerings from Open Office Writer (there are very few templates offered) and MS Publisher (which has many templates but most are unappealing to use) I decided to create my own Christmas card template using GIMP and Open Office.

I opted for a "1960's Themed" Christmas Card since it's practical, yet simple to create.

There are three important things for you to note about this tutorial before we get started:

  1. It will include an Open Office quarter-fold template for printing.

  2. It will involve several outside sourced tutorials in combination with my own material.

  3. There may be connectivity issues with links to other tutorials, and due to that possibility, I will be posting the steps from those sites on this tutorial so you can follow along.

(This in no way implies that I am the creator and author of all content found within this tutorial.)


I did a little research on what the standard size greeting card is. For homemade cards, the answer  is A2, which is a sheet of 8.5" x 11" paper folded in half  (5.5" x 8.5"). However, I am finding that quarter-fold (4.25" x 5.5") cards are far easier to make and help save ink.

Scripts and Plug-ins needed for this tutorial are:

  • G'Mic - here (you will need this to follow the previous tie-dye tutorial located here.)

  • Layer Effects plug-in or script - found here.

  • Peace Sign brush - here (this brush is a converted PSP brush that I saved to a zip file - there were many brushes to choose from in DeviantArt - search under "Peace Sign brushes" for a different set other than mine)

  • I encourage everyone to use their own style and taste where clip art and pictures are concerned.

Getting Started:

Step 1:

You want to start this step off by using the finished background image from the tie-dye tutorial. If you have already done the tutorial, open the background image you created. Or you can copy and paste my finished image located here.

Step 2:

We are going to be using Rob A.'s GIMP Gold tutorial on converting our background into a green colored foil by creating a bump-map of the tie-dye background and using an environment map image of gold-like texture to give it a metallic look.

Step 3:

To simplify Rob's tutorial just a little bit, first we are going to create a new layer with white background above the tie-dye layer.

Step 4:

Highlight the new white background layer, and run Filters - Map - Bump Map and select the tie-dye layer as the bump map. (See settings below):

Step 5:

Save this image to your hard drive and open it in GIMP. This is the Gold environment map we will be using next:


Step 6:

With the top layer still highlighted, run Filters - Light and Shadow - Lighting Effects and pay very close attention to the tabs and their settings, shown below:



This is the gold environment map show in Step 5.



The bump map should be the bottom layer of the tie-dye image.



Do NOT click Metallic, as it will only darken your image, not brighten it.



Lighting alignment isn't entirely crucial, but it helps to have a default set-up to fall back on.



Tick "High Quality Preview", then select "OK" to run the effect.

Your end result should look like this:



Step 7:

Now that you have a gold luster image of the tie-dye background, we'll use Colors - Hue-Saturation to change it a bright and shiny foil green color (think Christmas themed colors, in case you're wondering why "green"):



With the Y (Yellow) Primary color selected, run the settings you see above to get it to green, using the Hue slider first, then adjust lightness and saturation. Your image should resemble this:



Step 8:

Did you save the Peace Sign brush to your .gimp-2.6/brushes folder? It's time to do that now, and then refresh your brushes in the brushes dialog.

Create a new black background layer above the green foil colored tie-dye background. Yes, you won't be able to see the image underneath, so slightly lower the opacity so you can make out the image under the black background layer.

Step 9:

Select the Airbrush tool, on the tools dialog,  select white for foreground color, set pressure to 100%, select the Peace Sign brush. Set the scale to a size where the peace sign is about (1/3rd) the size of the image and suitable for centering on the image without over-powering the entire image. See the settings below, then brush a solid white (crisp) peace sign into the center of the image (on the black background layer):



My image looks like this:



It wouldn't hurt to make it a little larger than shown here.

My layers at this point:



Step 10:

From this point, we will be using a metallic text tutorial by Penguin Pete, located here.

You need to apply the same steps to the peace sign, as you would if you were using text. I'll post a rundown of those steps below:

  • Using white text or image on black background (white peace sign on black background)

  • Apply a Gaussian blur of 16px (horizontally and vertically)

  • Colors - Levels "Input Level" settings are  , all others are default.

  1. Apply a 2nd lighter Gaussian blur at 7px (horizontally and vertically)

  2. Using Color Select tool, click on the black background, invert the selection.

  3. You can turn off the black background layer now.

  4. Make a new transparent layer above the black background layer.

  5. Highlight the new transparent layer and fill the selection with a dark gray/medium gray linear gradient.

  6. With the transparent layer highlighted, run Filters - Map - Bump Map, selecting the black background layer as the bump map.

  7. Perform a Colors - Curve (note Penguin Pete's curve settings - do play around with those settings a little bit to get a feel for the effects they create).

  8. I added a Layers Effect - Bevel and Emboss - Pillow Emboss (default settings), then run a drop shadow to suit.

  9. Then I ran Colors - Color Balance and set all three (Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights) to a deep red color (red slider to 100, , except all other defaults.
My Colors - Curves settings:




Colors - Color Balance settings:



Set all 3 ranges the exact same way as shown.

You should end up with something like this:



Step 11:

I added the word "PEACE" to the bottom of my card (image) using a serif font. Basically, you are going to be duplicating Step 10 above, but instead of using a peace sign, you'll be adding text. The same rundown of steps apply as you see in Step 10, including the pillow emboss and drop shadow at the end. If you want to colorize the word Peace, use Colors - Balance to adjust.

Your image, after this stage should look similar to this:



My Layers Dialog at this point (continued after the first 3 layers shown above):



Step 12:

(Note: A lot of people get confused over the Text along a path process on other tutorials. Keep in mind that after performing this technique several times, it gets easier to remember)  I used the tutorial by Gimper located here.

My final step for the card involved adding text along a path inside and center of  the outer rim on the peace sign.

First I created a path in the shape of the outer rim on a new transparent layer (topmost layer). Do not close this path! See example below:



Now using small text (about 18px), type a long text string, for example: "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Season's Greetings! Happy Holidays! Peace On Earth! Goodwill to All Men!" using any color of your choice, and select "Text to Path". If the text is either too short or too long, CTRL + Z and add/remove spaces and dashes from the text string, until it fits. Be patient with Undo and Path to Selection if you don't have a lot of RAM, while performing this last step.

When the text fits inside the peace sign, turn off the text layer (eye), open the Paths Dialog and select the new text path and then Path to Selection. Open the Layers Dialog and make sure the new layer is highlighted, select the Bucket Fill tool and the foreground color of your choice and fill the selection.



Finally add a slight drop shadow, size 2, offset 2, and you are done.



Using the Open Office Writer "quarter-fold" template:

Download the following quarter fold Christmas card template zip file here, extract it to your user/documents folder. Open xmas_card.ott in Open Office Writer and insert your images and text in the designated places. For an example of how my card was set up in Open Office, check out the pdf file here.

An interesting tidbit to note (at least for my machine and HP printer), I tested MS Publisher, MS Word, Paint Shop Pro, and Open Office Writer for printing the quarter-fold cards. Surprisingly, Open Office printed the cards with better quality than MS Word and Paint Shop Pro using the same standard/default print settings. MS Publisher tied for first, but overall, I chose the Open Office prints.

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