6 min read

The next step would be to play around with Layer Modes which, I believe, is one of the most exciting aspects of graphic design. Let’s leave layer “lower shine” for awhile and let’s get back to layer “upper shine”, and change its layer mode to make it look more appealing and following a scheme in accordance to the color of the sphere. To do this, let’s select “upper shine” layer on the Layers Window and right above the Opacity Slider is a dropdown menu containing lots of interesting layer modes, each having its own distinct advantages. You can play around and choose whichever suits your vision the best. I chose Overlay for that matter. Ever since I’ve started GIMPing, this layer mode has been my best friend for a couple of years already, it works like a charm most of the time.  I wonder though why on some applications, applying the overlay layer mode does different results.  As in the case of Photoshop, the closest I could get with GIMP’s overlay is the Screen mode.  You’ve got to play around a bit and see which works best for you.

Do the same thing for the “lower shine” layer, choosing Overlay as the layer mode.  Then, whenever you see fit, you can duplicate the layers to achieve a multiplied effect of the mode. I did that because it felt that something was still missing in the luminous aspect of the shine. So I selected each layer, duplicated them both and voila. To duplicate a layer, you can either right click on the layer name and choose Duplicate Layer from the choices or just press the Duplicate Button on the bottom part of the Layers Window.

Creating Pseudo-3D Imagery with GIMP

Duplicated Layers

Next, we’ll add additional highlights to better emulate specular reflections. And again, we’re exploiting the Ellipse Select Tool and another new technique called Feathering. I don’t know exactly the definition of feathering in CG, but as far as my experience goes, feathering is a technique from sets of tools where you soften the edges of a selection creating a subtle transition and blurred edges.

Create a new layer at the top of the layer stack and call it “blurred shine”, then give it a Layer Fill Type of Transparency, just like what we did with the previous layers.  And with layer ‘blurred shine” active, let’s create an elliptical selection on the upper left hand part of the sphere, just where the sharp shine has been cast.

Creating Pseudo-3D Imagery with GIMP

Creating the Specular Selection

With the selection active, right click on the Image Window and choose Select > Feather, then input a value for the feather and the unit to be used. I used 50 pixels. You might have noticed now that the selection seemed to have become smaller, and that’s alright, that means you’ve done it right.  And with the marching ants still active, grab the Bucket Fill Tool over at the Toolbox Window or press SHIFT + B to activate it. Change your foreground color to something close to white or simply pure white, then with the Bucket Fill Tool active, click on the active selection. Tadaaaa! You just created a replica of a specular highlight, though not so close enough. What’s great about feathering selections as opposed to applying a blur filter is that you only blur the selection border and not the entire selection.

So, say, you have a picture of yourself and you wanted your face fade out smoothly on a vast landscape that you have photographed. Simply create a selection around your face, then apply a Feather to that selection, invert the selection and delete the outer parts, thus leaving only your face and the landscape behind (supposing you have your picture on a separate layer above the landscape layer.)

Creating Pseudo-3D Imagery with GIMP

Feathering the Selection

Creating Pseudo-3D Imagery with GIMP

Applying the Color with the Bucket Fill

Whew, that was pretty quick, isn’t it? I hope you agree with me on that.  If so, let’s create another one, though smaller and placed just on the left of the blurred shine.  Create a new layer for this new blurred shine and name it “small blurred shine”.  Follow the same procedure for the feathering and color-filling. I used the same feather value for the smaller selection (even though it obviously is smaller), just so it almost affects the center of the selection, blurring the whole selection already, which is what I like for this part.

And then, just like what we did with the upper and lower shine respectively, we’ll change the Layer Modes to Overlay and duplicate the layers as we see fit.  Doing so results in this image:

Creating Pseudo-3D Imagery with GIMP

Blurred Shines Overlay

Our sphere now looks a lot better than it had been when we first added its color. However, the shading still looks a bit flat and volumeless. To deal with that, we’ll simulate the strength with which the light diffused our sphere object, creating deeper shadows on the opposite side of the light source.

Duplication of layers is not only a matter of multiplying the effects of layer effects or such, but it can also be a good way to trace your changes, or better yet, as safe backups where working on the duplicate doesn’t affect the original one and you can go back each time to the untouched layer anytime you want to see the differences that have been made.  But be careful though, the more layers and contents of each layer you have, the more computing memory will be consumed and will eventually cause a system slow down.

Let’s select the “sphere” layer and duplicate in once.  Automatically, the duplicate layer which is now named “sphere copy” becomes the active layer.  Right Click on “sphere copy” layer and choose Alpha to Selection to create a selection out of the fully opaque sphere.

Next step is to shrink the selection such that we create a smaller elliptical selection inside the sphere.  To do this, right click on the Image Window and choose Select > Shrink.  Then on the pop up window that appears, type in an appropriate value for the shrinking. I chose 50 pixels.

Creating Pseudo-3D Imagery with GIMP

Shrinking the Selection

Creating Pseudo-3D Imagery with GIMP

Shrinked Selection

Remember how we moved the selection last time? I believe you do. To translate/move our selection, grab the Ellipse Select Tool and activate the selection by clicking on it (clicking the middle portion of the selection makes this easier) until you see your cursor change into crossed arrows, this means you have just activated the move tool for the selection.

And since the light is coming from the upper left direction, we would want to move the selection over to the location where the specular reflections are and where the lightest shading is.  Thats because later on, we’ll be using this same selection to create shadows on the opposite side of the shade.  Now go ahead and drag the selection over to the upper left portion of the sphere.


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