Sunday, February 21, 2010

GIMP Tutorial: Make Your "Own" Distressed Paper or Pirate Map Fabric

Pirate map

Click image to enlarge

Wanted Poster

Step 1:

Open a new transparent drawing (I used 640 x 640 px with 300 dpi). With the Rectangle Select tool, create the size of paper or map that you want to use and center it on your transparent image.

Fill the selection with white, using the Bucket Fill tool.

Go to Select - Border and add a 15px border with "Lock selection to images" edges checked.

Step 2:

Go to Filters - Artistic - Cubism. You can follow the settings given below or choose to make yours smaller or larger (if you make the cubism larger it will require additional editing: removing semi-faded areas, etc.).

You should end up with something looking similar to this:

We'll need to clean the edges up a bit.

Step 3:

Turn off the selection: (Select - None or Shift+CTRL+A).

Add a Gaussian blur of 3 px to the paper layer.

Apply Colors - Curve as follows:

You'll end up with something similar to this:

Step 4:

Select the Fuzzy Select tool and click on the white paper area to select it. Create a new transparent layer and fill the selection with white on the new layer using the Bucket Fill tool. Then take note of the following instructions:

If you want to use this as paper and make it look worn and crumpled, I followed this Photoshop tutorial by Janee and converted it to GIMP parameters. The conversion for GIMP for each step is as follows:

  • Part A: New Layer is Shift+CTRL+N

  • Part B: There are no Reflected or Diamond shapes for Gradients in GIMP, I used Bi-Linear the most, and a little bit of Radial. Pressing D will change your foreground/background colors to default black and white. Don't forget to set the Gradient (Blend) Mode to Difference in the Toolbox dialog.

  • Part C: No conversion needed, and you really can't go wrong with overkill. Almost every "overkill" of difference gradients I attempted worked out fairly well in the following steps. Don't be intimidated by finding perfection in the crumple pattern. You'll see when you follow up in steps D and E.

  • Part D: For the folds to stand out : Filters - Distorts - Emboss.

  • Part E: Curves is found at Colors - Curves. Tinker with curves until you're satisfied.

  • Part F: (DON'T USE) If you use my cubism parameters above, you really don't need to do any cutting out. This step is really good for large size edges.

  • Part G: (DON'T USE) Drop shadow can be found under Filters - Light and Shadow - Drop Shadow. However, this is very important to note. You don't really want to apply a drop shadow on the crumpled gradient layer because we already have our paper size defined on the original layer under it. So do not apply either "Steps F or G" at this point. I am only making references to them to identify the GIMP conversions.

Here is my example after following Janee's instructions using GIMP conversions:

The "overkill" difference gradients using Bi-Linear and Radial (Looks like one mad crazy storm, doesn't it?):

(Note the paper is still selected)

Now the Filters - Distorts - Emboss effect with settings: Azimuth - 135, Elevation - 45, and Depth - 4:

Finally add a bit of Colors - Curves to lighten it up and smooth out wrinkles and make some folds more pronounced:


Then the result:

Set the Layer Mode to Multiply.

Keep in mind, if you don't like how my settings are working out for your folds, you can always manipulate the Emboss and Curves settings to suit yourself, or lower opacity levels to reduce contrast, including changing from Multiply mode to perhaps Overlay mode to increase lightness or even opt out of using Curves, entirely.

My goal here is to lead you to doing these things on your own, not trying to make the "perfect" paper crumple. That's something I hope you readers take upon yourself and perhaps show me a few tricks of your own.  I would love to see your results, so send me a link to your uploaded images if you have a site you upload to. :)

Step 5:

Now to add texture and color. Select the original paper layer (should be bottom-most background layer) and keep the paper selected.

Using the Fill Bucket tool, select a background color of #8e7f60. This should give it the brown paper bag look (lighten or darken the color to suit):

To give the paper an aged look, we'll start by adding a new layer and texture. Add a new top-most transparent layer, with the paper still selected, layer mode to Overlay.

Using the Bucket Fill tool, change the fill type to Pattern and fill the selection with the provided pattern below (save to .gimp-2.6/patterns folder):

Lower opacity of the layer to about 60. You should now have something similar to this:

Any additional layers with text and markings on the paper should be in Multiply or Overlay mode.

Step 6:

If you want page curls, select only the corner area in approximation of how big you want the page curl to be. An example (using the bottom-most paper layer using the Free Select tool with mode set to subtract from the current selection select all but the corner you want to have the page curl):

Change your foreground and background colors to: #8e7f60 and #463e2e.

Go to Filters - Distorts - Page Curl and apply these settings:

The result creates some residual pixel litter which we need to clean up. You should now have a page curl layer above your original paper layer. Select the original paper layer and you'll see what I am talking about. Simply select the Fuzzy Select tool, click the paper area to select it, go to Select - Invert and press delete, then Select - None to remove the selection. The result should be similar to the following:

Add a drop shadow (Filters - Light and Shadow - Drop Shadow defaults):

Step 7:

Paper shadowing involves a simple layer mask. Shadowing gives the paper additional depth and makes it look more appealing. Select the original paper layer once again and duplicate it.

On the duplicate copy layer (above original layer) right click the layer and select Add Layer Mask and choose the White (full opacity) option and check Invert layer. Change the layer mode to Multiply.

Press the D key to restore black and white defaults.

Using the Blend (Gradient) tool with mode set to Difference, run a couple of diagonal gradients from top left to bottom right. To give you an idea of how my layers are set up and the end result of shadowing, I have provided a screenshot of my layers dialog with the image.

Click image to enlarge it

Step 8:

If you want to make it look more like a cloth-like pirate map instead of paper, either remove the top-most layer (or turn it off by clicking on the eye) and replace it with a new layer using a fabric or weave type pattern, instead. Make sure the new layer mode is set to Overlay and the paper area is selected!

I used the pattern offered below (save it to your .gimp-2.6/patterns folder - refresh patterns dialog):

Image result using the canvas pattern:

All that's left to do is decorate them with text or maps.


  1. uhmm so i think i like janee better....
    juss saying...
    and where is your patterns below????! i didnt see any..unless im blind..but im pretty sure im not since ive been reading your whole guide out loud to my cousin..who is confused by all your spifty word use..maybe tone it down a little on your "trying to sounds smart" words..thanks buddd! (:

  2. Like Janee better? No problem! Anyone that can make the tutorial translation work for you is a plus in my book. (Part of the reason why I added her link to the tutorial, methinks.) ;)

    Spiffy word use? I happen to be a teacher using typical GIMP jargon. The patterns are there (although small), so "juss sayin'".

    If big words intimidate you, pack a dictionary. I do. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I think this is a great tutorial.
    Can't say I'm having any problems with the word length... I thought it read very well

  4. Great tutorial.  The only question I have is, say you want to take a photo and make it look like it's crumpled, when and how do you apply the photo to the paper?

  5. Been looking for this tut but i keep having problem at the Embossing step. Your  paper is white and mine for some reason keeps coming out black. I see the wrinkles but why is my paper black. I did the tut as explained with the first layer as you did, added the new  transparent layer filling it with white. i Did the gradients and when i went to embosss i see the wrinkles but the paper is black. and when i do the curves iitbecome nothing but a black piece of paper. ugh what am i doing wrong? i must have overlooked something.  please help.

  6. Ok, this is my own followup to the previous comment. I finally figured it out. but now i am stuck again. i am at step 5 and following your instructions does not give your result. I have the 2 layers, the one on the top has the wrinkled effect and the bottom is the white paper. all i get is the colored paper without the wrinkles.  from what i understand the top wrinkled layer is still selected meaning the marching ants are around it and  then i go and click the bottom layer and fill that with paint? if that is the case, i don't get nothing but a colored layer with no wrinkles. please help, thks

  7. Did you set the wrinkle layer to multiply mode? I'm running through the tutorial again to see if I can duplicate the problem.

  8. Thank you so much for this tutorial.  I offered to make an invite for a western theme birthday-party for my father-in-law.  I'm still busy getting it right, and the working will be in Afrikaans, but you asked anyone who used your tutorial to share, "I would love to see your results, so send me a link to your uploaded images" - so I stuck mine up at

    I only read the comments later on, and I had trouble with the image.  I didn't even think of putting it down to a lower level - I'll still play around, just wanted to let you know that someone really enjoyed and benefited from your tutorial.

    Thanks again,

  9. Hey Vernon! You're quite welcome. And thanks a bunch for showing me the results of doing the tutorial, I really appreciate that. :)

  10. Gotta love the admins sense of humor and personality.......

  11. Great tutorial, thanks! I had some troubles reproducing the steps, but if you read carefully you will end up with the same, very good, result. I simply missed some small steps..

  12. Bi-Linear and Radial???
    Like,... where?

  13. Thank you. I was finally able to get it figured-out. My colors are a little-off though. But just a tiny bit. I do appreciate your tutorial and will try to keep learning from it.

  14. Just in case someone reads this and asks the same thing:



If you intend to comment to complain about being unable to perform certain steps with tutorials, please explain where you are in the step process and what step you are unable to get to work correctly, instead of saying something like, "I can't do this!". Your comments will help get tutorial corrections made and help give clarification to future viewers who may have trouble in the same locations. Thank you. :)