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5 Gimp Photo Editing Tricks for Print-on-Demand Sellers

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Despite having autism, I am passionate about writing about various subjects. I also love to travel and do crafts.

Here's a photo I altered with the faux metal transfer technique

Here's a photo I altered with the faux metal transfer technique

One of the forms of side hustles for artists, graphic designers, and other highly creative people is print-on-demand, or POD. Most of the experts use something that helps their products stand out from others: photo editing software.

This article focuses on GIMP Photo Editor, which is a cheap alternative to Photoshop and some others. Designers either starting out, on tight budgets, or both will LOVE using those tricks with it to add uniqueness to their graphics.

Key Tip

Make sure that your fonts and graphics are for commercial use. If you're using photos, I highly recommend stills of plants and photos of animals as opposed to landmarks. Photos of mountains and trees are fine, but err in the side of caution and alter them if needed. If a natural or geological feature is a public landmark, steer towards more generic sights to photograph instead.

"If you try to sell - or use in a promotional way - a photo, painting, or drawing of the Lone Cypress Tree in Monterrey, CA," advises Elke Clarke, a Zazzle PRO designer, "You will be in trademark violation and could face a lawsuit."

Taking jabs at popular culture is fine, as long as you're not only refraining from doing so at others' expense and as long as you don't use any copyrighted typefaces, slogans, or graphics.

5tricksgimpphotoeditorpod

The illustration above is based on a dream I had in 2021 about a creepypasta hack of Super Mario 64. But knowing I couldn't use the titular Nintendo character, I settled on drawing and coloring by hand two versions of the background of the winter underground level, with the ice floes, quicksand-snow, and moving crates. I even hand-drew and colored the pair of eyeballs. I enhanced each scanned illustration with GIMP.

5tricksgimpphotoeditorpod

Another graphic shown above is also based on one of my dreams, this time, one from 2010 about a British PIF featuring what apparently was the titular character of Alice in Wonderland. But I decided to refrain from using an image or even drawing her, let alone the Disney version.

With my pledge to keep images on my POD merchandise as G-rated as possible, I couldn't draw or alter an image of Alice with her singed, black arm disintegrating a la Tex Avery. Neither could I use the lyrics of Squire Parsons's "Oh What a Moment," which I heard the instrumental version play in my dream.

Instead, I hand-drew and colored the hot-air balloon and hand-colored the background. I enhanced both scanned artwork on GIMP and made a screaming onomatopoeia with a red commercial-use font.

The ideal images to use in POD products are generic, for commercial use, and are public domain. It sounds dowdy, but you'll make good with the copyright enforcers and open doors to creativity like never before.

Trick #1: Faux Glitter Glue

First, open up your image, preferably set against a transparent background (alter it if necessary and to avoid infringement).

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Next, add a new layer and trace around the image with a round brush in black. (I set it to 100% force, 0% hardness, and no spacing. You could always right-click the native layer, select "Alpha to Selection," add a new one, right-click the image, select Edit, and select "Stroke Selection" to outline it in black, but tracing it by hand lends the design an organic look, as if it's a glitter glue-outlined fabric applique.) Duplicate the layer.

Then, open a glitter background either obtained from a site for public domain images or Ctrl+A and then Ctrl+C). Open the image with the black border and paste the graphic between the duplicated image layer and the black border. (Click on duplicate layer and hit Ctrl+V.) Anchor, move, and distort if needed and click the green highlighted "Add New Layer" button.

This is a photo of a cruise ship from my 3-night cruise I took in January 2019. I took great care in removing the background and editing out the ship logo and name to prevent copyright infringement and add uniqueness to the graphic.

This is a photo of a cruise ship from my 3-night cruise I took in January 2019. I took great care in removing the background and editing out the ship logo and name to prevent copyright infringement and add uniqueness to the graphic.

Next, right-click the black border layer and select "Alpha to Selection." Right-click the glitter layer and click on "Add Layer Mask." Ensure that it's set to black (full transparency). Then, fill the layer mask in solid white. Click and then hide the black border layer. Export the image as .png with transparent background.

Here's the image of the cruise ship, now outlined in gold glitter. It also works VERY WELL with text, and graphics and wording made with this technique lend themselves to Christmas merch, as mine attests.

Here's the image of the cruise ship, now outlined in gold glitter. It also works VERY WELL with text, and graphics and wording made with this technique lend themselves to Christmas merch, as mine attests.

Trick #2: Simple Variegated Glitter Background

Making a glitter background on GIMP is SO SIMPLE: just fill with your favorite solid color or gradient, click on RGB Noise, and that's that!

But here's another way to add faux glitter to your POD graphics. First, fill with a white or light-colored gradient and then click on RGB Noise (I prefer only changing the correlated noise.) Next, add a new layer. Click on the Brush tool and select "Confetti" in the Brush Dynamics tool. Choose a contrasting gradient of choice and paint all over the background. Then, click on "Reshow RGB Noise" and select a value different from the one you set for the background.

Add 1-2 additional layers of confetti, each with differing RGB values and brush sizes (or shapes), if needed. Next, fill a new layer with a light-colored gradient and reduce opacity just to make it appear shiny.

This sky blue glitter background looks OK, but I bet you (and your customers) would have a hunch that it needs something MORE.

This sky blue glitter background looks OK, but I bet you (and your customers) would have a hunch that it needs something MORE.

This is the same background, but I added layers of confetti, each with different RGB noise values, overlaid with the CD gradient in Vivid Light at 21.5% opacity.

This is the same background, but I added layers of confetti, each with different RGB noise values, overlaid with the CD gradient in Vivid Light at 21.5% opacity.

Trick #3: Another Variegated Glitter Effect

Just as in Trick #2, fill background with a light solid color or gradient and add RGB Noise. Next, select the Brush Tool; select a brush (preferably with spacing in between strokes, such as Confetti); select a Dynamics setting that paints in solid black; and paint all over the background. Next, right-click that layer and click "Alpha to Selection." Not all the strokes will be selected, but this will add uniqueness to the background.

Create a new layer and fill with a gradient of choice. Click on any tool other than the Gradient Tool and deselect (Shift+Ctrl+A). Alter that layer with a different value of RGB Noise. Repeat with 1-2 additional layers. Next, add new layer; fill with a highlighting gradient; (Normal mode is fine, but I suggest experimenting with other settings to get the shine desired.); and reduce opacity.

This is just one of several public domain clipart images (and commercial-use fonts) I altered using this technique. It can be seen in merchandise geared towards ballet pianists.

This is just one of several public domain clipart images (and commercial-use fonts) I altered using this technique. It can be seen in merchandise geared towards ballet pianists.

Trick #4: Faux Image Metal Transfer

Open an image of choice (please no intellectual property such as landmarks, logos, etc.). Edit if needed. Add a metallic gradient layer underneath it. Next, slightly reduce opacity and grunge the image via the Eraser Tool (use Basic Dynamics and spaced bristles) if needed. Doing so also lends uniqueness to the designs and make it appear is if it's transferred to a metal surface.

Here's a photo I altered with the faux metal transfer technique (using the CD gradient). Originally taken in WY during a road trip in 2016, note that it's free from any noticeable landmarks, logos, and so on.

Here's a photo I altered with the faux metal transfer technique (using the CD gradient). Originally taken in WY during a road trip in 2016, note that it's free from any noticeable landmarks, logos, and so on.

Trick #5: Vector-Based Background on Solid Clip Art

Select a black or white-and-transparent background. Alter solid-colored areas if needed. Next, add a new layer under it, and fill with any background. Merge layers if needed.

Open a solid-colored clip art image (such as a silhouette). Copy and paste it as new layer. Then, right-click it and select "Alpha to Selection." Next, right-click the background layer and select "Add Mask Layer," in black (full transparency) mode. Fill it in solid white, hide the image with the original clip art, and save as .png image.

This graphic, which utilizes this trick, is used for youth sports merchandise geared towards athletes' parents, regarding on how they should act on the car ride home.

This graphic, which utilizes this trick, is used for youth sports merchandise geared towards athletes' parents, regarding on how they should act on the car ride home.

Resources for Fonts and Images

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 talfonso