Let's try applying some special effects to a very ordinary photo - the digital 'mugshot' that I took of your face. Use that as the starting point for these FX - make a copy of the original for each separate effect and save your favorite half dozen effects into your folder. Experiment with the filters and other adjustments to find some effects you like. Note that some effects cause the processed image to appear in a new window. Here are some of my favorites - find some great effects of your own...

  1. Colors>Desaturate (makes greyscale image)
  2. Colors>Invert (inverts everything i.e. dark >light, red>cyan etc)
  3. Colors>Map>Value Invert (inverts brightness but not color)
  4. Colors>Map>Alien Map 2
  5. Colors>Colorize (see example below)
  6. Colors>Colorify (see example below)
  7. Colors>Retinex... (the default values work well: uniform, scale=240, scaledivision=3, dynamic=1.2)
  8. Filters>Noise>Spread...
  9. Filters>Edge-Detect>Edge...>(Sobel, amount=1, smear)
  10. Filters>Light and Shadow>Supernova
  11. Filters>Distorts>Emboss...
  12. Filters>Distorts>IWarp... (lots of fun to be had here... choose your settings then smudge the preview image...)
  13. Filters>Distorts>Mosaic...
  14. Filters>Artistic>Cubism...
  15. Filters>Artistic>GIMPressionist>Presets>MarbleMadness>Apply>Update>OK
  16. Filters>Artistic>Oilify... (oil painting effect - try changing 'mask size')
  17. Filters>Artistic>Soft Glow... (X files?)
  18. Filters>Map>Fractal Trace... (Wow!)
  19. Filters>Map>Map object...>Sphere
  20. Filters>Render>Nature>IFS Fractals (if you like fractals)
  21. Filters>Artistic>Predator *
  22. Filters>Decor>Old Photo... *
  23. Filters>Render>Lava (pretty, but no relation to original image) *
  24. Filters>Light and Shadow>Drop-Shadow *

Some of the effects listed above (marked *) run from 'scripts' (sequences of adjustments), meaning that you will not be able to undo them with a single Ctrl+Z. To solve this problem, they are set to work by default on a copy of the image or on a separate layer, so if you don't like the result you can just delete the copy or layer.

Of course, various effects can be combined together if you like - the possibilities are endless... As an example of combining two of the above effects, check out these four images:

  • The first image is unmodified.
  • The top-right image has been modified with Colors>Colorize - note that it contains a range of colors passing from near-black to the chosen color to near-white.
  • Bottom-left is an example of the 'colorify' filter , number 6 above, which gives colors from black to the chosen color.
  • Bottom-right shows the result of doing an invert (2 above) followed by a colorify in yellow followed by another invert. As you can see, this 'inverted colorify' gives a range of colors between white and the opposite of the chosen color. The last image shows how combining filters can be useful since this type of picture can be used as a background behind black text without making the text illegible.

Now that you have tried all those effects you should know how I changed the boring shot of me on the left (below) into the scary monster on the right...

Here's one more effect for you to try in the GIMP: warping. Choose Filters>Distorts>Iwarp to have the possibility of moving, enlarging, shrinking and swirling parts of your image. You could transform this handsome dog, for example, into the Fukushima version below it:

To use this tool you have to work on the preview image, so stretch the dialog box so that the preview image is large. You'll probably want to make the (invisible) brush bigger by increasing the 'radius' value. As you experiment you will probably make mistakes sometimes - you will find that 'undo' or Ctrl-Z will not work but that you can remove the effect that you have applied to a part of the image by dragging over it in 'remove' mode.

For more hints on using the Iwarp feature, visit this page.