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Rank 4
14 Sep 2008
Maple Syrup United States
PostedFeb 11, 2011 10:51 pm

[TUTORIAL] How To Make Your Own Renders

Comprehensive, yet beginner friendly! And it won't cost you a dime!

*NOTE* ~ I have included bracketed letter codes written in GRAY beside each significant topic. Use these to jump directly to that part of the guide by pressing CTRL+F then copying the letter code into the 'Find' box that should appear in your web browser! ...if you cannot see these codes, someone tell me so I can change the color, eh? Wink


----- Personal comments
----- What is a render?
----- What do I need?
----- Link to GIMP
Part One: The Beginners Handheld Guide to the Basics [qqqqb]
----- How To Get Started [qqqqc]
----- Continuing The Process [qqqqd]
----- Where'd my path go? Bringing invisible paths to life [qqqqe]
----- Almost Done [qqqqf]
----- Fixing Mistakes, Finalizing, and Saving Your Render [qqqqg]
Part Two: Advancing Your Skills [qqqqh]
----- Path Curves [qqqqi]
----- Feathering your render: Two Methods [qqqqj]
---------- Method One [qqqqk]
---------- Method Two [qqqql]
----- Removing Backgrounds Instead of Renders [qqqqm]
----- Multiple and Intersecting Paths [qqqqn]
---------- Learning About the Path Window [qqqqo]
---------- Multiple Renders From the Same Image [qqqqp]
---------- Using 'Subtract' to Edit and Create New Renders [qqqqr]
---------- Using 'Add' to Create New Renders and Preserve Edges [qqqqs]
---------- Intersecting Paths [qqqqt]
----- Fixing Problem Areas On Your Render [qqqqu]
----- Summary Example [qqqqv]
Final Comments [qqqqq]


Yes, this is a VERY long guide, but after you go through the basic process once or twice, you should only need this guide as a reference source in case you forget something. You may also come back and explore the later portions of the guide if you want to learn more and further advance your skills. Don't worry though - the fundamentals of the rendering process are actually pretty simple.

IF YOU ARE A TOTAL BEGINNER and just want to learn the basic tools and skills needed to make renders, then I suggest you at least go through all of Part One and the 'Path Curves' section of Part Two. The rest of the guide exists to give you more options and take your skills farther if you choose to do so.

No matter what your goal is, just take your time and go step by step, and you shouldn't have any real trouble or confusion - I have tried to cover most questions and problem issues that may arise either in the instructions or in the various PROTIPS you'll see in this guide. The guide is written in a somewhat 'progressive' fashion - later sections will often build upon examples and ideas presented in previous sections. This means that if you skip to later sections of the guide, you may need to refer back to a previous section and at least skim over it to gain a proper understanding. Also, instead of just listing steps to follow all the time, I will often talk you through a process and try to explain a little bit about what exactly is going on and why we are doing it. This style does increase the size of the guide a bit, but should prove helpful in your actual understanding of the 'how' and 'why' of each step.

To begin, we should first know what a render is. So what is it? The word has a number of meanings, but for our purposes we will use a somewhat 'unofficial' definition. In the photo-editing world a 'render' has come to be defined as a 'cut out.'

Explanation: A picture has been made of a person, character, object, or whatever. The picture also has a background, which could be scenery, colors, or anything. You can use photo editing tools to effectively 'cut out' the person, character, or whatever, removing them from the background of said picture. You can then copy and paste the character into a different picture, or do any number of other things with it. The portion of the picture that you 'cut out' has come to be known as a RENDER. Many people love using renders to make forum signatures, avatars, or any other kind of digital 'art.'

You can find many renders on the web, but I am making this post as a tutorial for making your *own* renders - cuz sometimes you just gotta do it yourself. Anyone can cut things out, but getting a nice-looking final product can be tricky. It *sounds* like it should be easy, but if you don't know how to do it, it can be hard to make your render look GOOD. No matter your skill level or experience with photo editing, I hope to help you learn to make renders that are cleaner than a basic half-arsed 'cut out,' and that have fewer jagged edges, so they come out looking smooth. Keep in mind that practice makes perfect, other rendering methods exist that you can use, and that I am not a professional and I do not have any formal graphic design training - this is meant as a fairly extensive, yet beginner-friendly guide compiled from my own learning experiences.

You can find some more basic examples of some of my own rendering work HERE - these were all done using *the exact methods* I am sharing with you in this guide. Smile

What You Need:

- A photo editing program
- A computer that can run the photo editing program
- A picture that you can make a render from

That's it! You can use various photo programs, but this tutorial is based off of GIMP version 2.6.11, which I use for pretty much everything nowadays. GIMP is totally free to download and use!!! Get it here ~ [qqqqa]

Part One: The Beginners Handheld Guide to the Basics [qqqqb]

Welcome to the world of rendering! Never tried it? Clueless? Tried but failed? Let's see if we can change that! Very Happy

How To Get Started: [qqqqc]

Once you have GIMP installed on your computer, what you need is a PICTURE!!! Find whatever kind of pic you like!

- A higher-resolution picture will generally result in a better render! Don't have a big pic? Smaller-resolution pictures can also work great for smaller projects like forum avatars, and even forum signatures. The particular methods I'm showing your here will not work well on VERY small pics - you have been warned!

- Start GIMP.

- Click 'File > Open,' browse to find your picture, and open it.

As an example for this tutorial, I will be rendering this somewhat low-quality pic of a Desert Eagle pistol from Wolfteam. Yes, the gun is somewhat pixellated ('rough' looking) already. Use a smoother looking pic to get a smoother looking render! Here's my starting picture ~

Continuing The Process: [qqqqd]

After opening your picture, you should see it in GIMP's display window. Next ~

- Find GIMP's 'Toolbox.' If you cannot see it, try pressing the TAB key, or Ctrl+B. It looks something like this ~

- In the toolbox, find and press the 'Paths Tool' button. It looks like this ~

There are other tools you can use to make a render, but 'Paths' is one of the best ways in GIMP in my opinion, as it will automatically 'blend' the edges somewhat to prevent jagged borders. It also allows you to save your progress anytime (discussed a little later), and gives you an easy way to add various edits to your render as covered in later sections. This tutorial will use Paths almost exclusively.

- After selecting the 'Paths Tool,' look below the toolbox area, where you should see some options for the path tool ~

- Make sure the 'Design' option is selected.

- Now move the mouse over to your picture.

- Zoom In on the edge of what you want to render (Ctrl+Mouse Wheel Up OR select 'View > Zoom' at the top OR use the Magnifying Glass Tool in the Toolbox).

- Zoom WAY in - to the point where you can make out each pixel.

This is the rear sight on top of my desert eagle after zooming in ~

- Now left click exactly on the edge where you want to cut - a small circle will appear. This is the start of your 'Path,' and the circle is called an 'anchor point.'

- Here's the tedious part - start cutting out your render! REMEMBER - precision and attention to detail here will GREATLY affect your finished product.

- Follow the edges of what you want to cut out, and left click to make anchor points along the way. Use the scroll bars on the bottom and right side of the window to move around, and zoom out occasionally to get your bearings if you need to. GIMP will automatically link your anchor points with a line - this line is called a Path. Be careful at corners, curves, and bends of any type - you generally want to avoid having *any* part of the background inside your Path line. You *will* have to use your own judgement in certain areas that are... questionable, but don't worry TOO much as you can edit out mistakes later.

- Continue making your path around the entire portion you want to cut out.

- If you place an anchor point in the wrong place, you can left-click and hold an anchor to drag it around to the right place.

- If you find that you need to ADD an anchor to a portion of the path you have already made, go select the 'Edit' circle in the paths dialog (or you can just hold the Ctrl key instead). After doing either of those things, simply left click *on* your path where you want the new anchor to be located. Remember to re-select the 'Design' circle if you want to continue your path making after that.

- If you find that you need to DELETE an anchor from a portion of the path you have already made, hold Ctrl+Shift, and while holding those, left click on the unwanted anchor to delete it from your path. GIMP will automatically recreate the path based on the adjacent anchor points.

- To CONTINUE an unfinished (Open) path, make sure to left click one of the anchor points on the ends of your path before proceeding. If an anchor point in the middle of your path is active (Selected) and you left click away from your path line, you will begin a NEW portion of path line, instead of continuing your current one.

- The 'Move' option in the Paths dialog can be used to move your entire path - not something we need for this. Don't bother.

- You might notice if you hold left click and drag (instead of just tapping left click) *when making* an anchor point that you can drag the mouse around to make curves in your path. You can also get the 'curve' effect by left-click-dragging your path line (not an anchor point). Explore this feature now if you want to, but it's not entirely necessary for us beginners. Curves *are* covered in Part 2 of this tutorial if you're interested - it's worth it!!! In the meantime, if accidentally making curves annoys you or you just don't want curves at all, turn them off by checking the 'Polygonal' box in the Path Tool dialog.

*****IF ALL ELSE FAILS, UNDO!!!!!!****** You can undo ANY mistake you just made by going to 'Edit > Undo xxxxx,' where xxxxx is your previous action. CTRL+Z is the keyboard shortcut for this command - use it often and repeatedly if necessary. The opposite command, REDO is also available with 'Edit > Redo xxxxx' or the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Y.

Bringing Invisible Paths To Life: [qqqqe]

- You may inadvertently PANIC if you accidentaly select a different tool when creating your path. It WILL look like your path has *disappeared* if you, say, select paintbrush from the toolbox while you are path making. DON'T PANIC. Open the Path window by selecting at the top of the screen 'Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Paths.'

You should now have a box that looks something like this ~

Now move your mouse over the left edge of that box. You are looking for a square outline that looks like this ~

Left click that box. An eyeball should appear there, and now your path line is visible again! Hooray!!!

To make your anchor points appear again, Right Click on the eyeball, then Left Click 'Path Tool' from the options that appear. Now you have anchor points again! YAHOO!!!

Almost Done: [qqqqf]

- Keep adding anchor points until you have went around your entire render. You should eventually end up near your very first anchor point.

- With either the first or the last anchor point selected, HOLD CTRL and Left Click the other anchor point. This closes your path and finishes your basic render!

- Now you can zoom back out to see your work. Your picture will probably have a large amount of anchor points... =P

- Check for any other parts of your render that may need cutting out. In my example, the background is still showing through the trigger guard of the desert eagle ~

- Using the Path Tool, I once more zoom in and start a new portion of path to cut the background away from this area. Here is me cutting out that area ~

- The process is done the same way as previously explained, and be sure to close any new path lines like this by Ctrl+Left Clicking at the end to close the Path and complete the Path Line.

- Repeat this process for any other areas that need cutting away.

Here is my FINISHED path ~

- Next step is VERY important - If you haven't yet done so, *****SAVE YOUR WORK!!!!*****

- Click 'File > Save As.'

- Make *SURE* to save as GIMP .XCF image (*.xcf) format or your path might be lost!!!! You will find this option in a drop down list you can open at the bottom of the save dialog ~

I *highly* recommend keeping your .xcf file for later use - you may spot errors that need fixing later on, or you may want to experiment with your path line and/or other effects later, and you don't want to have to do your render job all over again to make this possible! The later portions of this guide will assume that you paid attention here and have some saved .xcf files handy!!!

- At this point, if you ever re-open the .xcf file you just saved, you will probably have to follow the 'Bringing Invisible Paths To Life' section built into the PROTIPS above to see the path you made!!! You can also save in this manner while in the middle of your path making process - *highly* recommended for larger render jobs or if you otherwise don't want to make the entire path in one sitting. ^^

Now you are ready to make your render usable! FINALLY!!!

- Find the Path dialog under the Toolbox area. To get this dialog, you will have to again select the Path Tool from the Toolbox if it is not selected already. Also, follow the 'Bringing Invisible Paths To Life' section instructions if you cannot see your path line.

- Left Click the box that says 'Selection from Path.'

Now you will see the 'marching ants' selection line closely (though maybe not precisely) following your path line. This is a good thing. Here is a sad attempt at showing you a resemblance of what you should see now ~

- Next, at the top, choose 'Edit > Copy' or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+C.

- Now choose 'Edit > Paste As > New Image' or use keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+V.

TAAADAAAAAAA!!!!! The checkerboard pattern you see will be transparent after you save this file later, meaning you HAVE JUST MADE A RENDER! Gratz!

Fixing Mistakes, Finalizing, and Saving Your Render: [qqqqg]

- Now double check your work.

- Your render could have MISTAKES! =O These include cutting out part of your render unintentionally, leaving part of the background in (easy to do around certain edges or if you miss certain background 'holes' - such as my trigger guard area), or just misplacement of anchor points.

- You can check things more easily by adding a layer behind the render you just pasted as a new image. To do this, on your pasted image choose 'Layer > New Layer,' then mark the 'Background color' circle on the the dialog window that pops up. Click 'Ok,' then click 'Layer > Stack > Lower Layer.' This will give you a background color to check your work against. Also try making different background colors that contrast your render - at the very least try to check it with a white background, then check it with a black background. Use backgrounds of another color if needed - you can always use the Flood Fill (paint bucket) tool in the toolbox to accomplish this. After inspection, click 'Layer > Delete Layer' to remove the background color. ...that's an easily explained and simple way to do this, even though there are many options and methods... =P

- You can use the Eraser Tool (or even the Smudge Tool) with a 'fuzzy' brush to clean up stray edges after you have pasted your render as a new image. You'll find these tools in GIMP's toolbox if you'd like to try them out now. We will explore further use of the smudge tool much later in the guide (the section titled Fixing Problem Areas On Your Render). I personally try to adjust my path line to fix mistake areas instead of using other tools, but do whatever works best for YOU!

- If you see any mistakes, go back to the other window where you did all your work and you have the 'marching ants' line following your Path. Undo the 'Selection from Path' to remove the marching ants. Now zoom in and drag your anchors around to fix any problems (see PROTIPS above for how to add and delete anchors if needed), make new paths to cut away other areas that you may have missed, and adjust anything else you think needs adjusting.

- Alternately, you can also open the file you *SHOULD* have saved a moment ago and follow the 'Bringing Invisible Paths To Life' instruction section above to get back to a point where you can edit your path and fix mistakes.

- Once you have fixed any mistakes, re-save your Path work, again in the .xcf format. Then once more follow the above instructions to make 'Selection from Path' and copy and paste the render as a new image.

- Now all that's left is to save your render! While your newly pasted image is selected as the active window, Pick 'File > Save As'

- THIS time *BE SURE* to select the .png format from the save drop down box!!!!! GIMP lists it as 'PNG Image (*.png).' The .png format will keep the area around your render transparent (which, again, is the 'checkerboard' pattern you'll see).


Now just open that .png file, copy it, and paste into your desired image anytime you want to use your new render!

lawl at my PRO EXAMPLEZ!!!!! Laughing

At this point, we've covered a very basic, yet effective way to make renders. Lets move on to Part 2 and see if we can learn a little more!



Rank 4
14 Sep 2008
Maple Syrup United States
PostedFeb 11, 2011 10:51 pm   Last edited by FrenchToasty on Feb 12, 2011 1:08 am. Edited 6 times in total
PART TWO: Advancing Your Skills [qqqqh]

Now that you know a basic way to make renders, lets explore a few more options. I will still try to walk you through step by step for the most part, but I will assume you know and understand the ideas and processes covered in Part One. Because of this, I may not explain EVERY single step, but if you went through Part One, then you should have no real trouble with most of Part Two. The multiple and intersecting paths section is a little confusing, but I think you'll manage just fine! This section will cover ideas about ~

- Using path curves and why they are great
- Feathering your render
- Removing backgrounds instead of copying and moving your render
- Making multiple and/or intersecting paths and why you may need them
- Fixing problem areas ON your render


Path Curves: [qqqqi]

Curving paths can be your BEST friend at times - they're great because they are easy to use, are infinitely adjustable, and can save you a TON of time. Just be careful, and you will find path curves indispensable as your rendering skills progress.

As an example, lets render something a little different for this - KIRBY!!!!

Ok... consider how many clicks it would take to render Kirby using the method described in Part 1... and how long it would take you to do it.... Shocked Now, lets see the magic of path curves.

- We're still using GIMP, so open the Kirby pic there and select the path tool.

- MAKE SURE the 'Polygonal' box in the path tool dialog is UNCHECKED.

- Go around the edge of Kirby and make a few anchor points. We will be connecting these points with CURVES, so keep that in mind and place anchors in appropriate places - in corners, spaced out around a big curve, you get the idea. You'll learn how to do this easy with a little practice.

- DON'T WORRY about what your path LINE looks like at this point. The line may go way outside or inside of what you are rendering, and that is FINE. We just want some anchors.

Here is my Kirby pic after placing some anchor points ~

- Now zoom in on a segment of your path line.

- Left click *ON* your path line

- HOLD left click and now drag the mouse around - CURVES!!!

Experiment with this a little, and you'll notice that each anchor point will have two adjustment boxes (technically called 'handles' but I call them adjustment boxes =P), one for each connected path line segment - they are the little blanked out squares connected to the anchor with a dotted line, like this ~

To make the curves do what you want them to, you will need to drag the adjustment boxes around. Each path line segement is controlled by ONE adjustment box from EACH adjacent anchor point, meaning a curve is shaped by only TWO adjustment boxes. You CAN just drag the actual path line around and GIMP will move each adjustment box along with your cursor movements depending on which part of the path line you drag... but I recommend dragging the actual BOXES to get a more precise curve since moving one box will not move the other box in the way that dragging the line unintentionally can.

If you don't understand, this pic shows you the adjustment boxes for a particular path line segment ~

You can use the boxes to make almost any sort of curve, even 'S' curves if you want. There are some limits, but let's try it out and see what happens. Very Happy

- Choose a path line segment you want to curve.

- Left click and drag the path line to get the adjustment boxes into a place you can reach them (they are directly on top of an anchor point until you drag the line). You may have to left-click-drag near EACH end of your line segment to make BOTH adjustment boxes available.

- Drag each box until you get the path line to curve around and match up with the edge of your render.

- Repeat with the next line segment, and the next, and the next until you're done!!! You can edit your path to include as few or as many anchor points as you need - just do whatever works best for you.

- Just because you can make curves doesn't mean you should. Sometimes a straight line is still best - just follow the edge of your render and use what works. Straight lines will work especially well on certain 'hard' or 'man-made' items like parts of a combat trooper's gun, a fantasy warrior's spear shaft, building structures, and the like. Doing an entire render with straight lines can be very effective on 'pixellated' pictures such as my Desert Eagle example in Part One - it can be hard to keep curves from including parts of the background in especially pixellated pictures. I find that most renders will contain a combination of both straight and curved path lines, so again, just do what is necessary to follow the edge of your render.

- It's perfectly fine to make curves *while you are in the process* of placing your anchor points. In my Kirby example, I waited to make my curves until I had finished my path line, but do whatever works best for you. In order to keep confusion to a minimum in larger or more complex render jobs, I recommend you just make the curves as you go along instead of waiting until the end.

- If two adjacent anchor points are SELECTED (they will be blanked out instead of solid color) and you try to drag the path line that connects them, you will MOVE the whole line segment instead of CURVING it. This can occasionally be useful, but it's annoying when you do it on accident. To fix this hold SHIFT and left click one of the anchors to unselect it. Now you can drag the line around all you want. ...Or you could just USE THE ADJUSTMENT BOXES instead. =P

- Moving an anchor point will distort the curves adjacent to that anchor point! The farther you move an anchor, the more noticable this will be. So, if you move an anchor point connected to a curving path segment, you'll probably need to adjust your curves again to get them juuuust right.

- Keep in mind we still want to do our best to avoid including background areas inside our path line, and we want to avoid getting parts of our render outside the path line.

- The adjustment boxes can be a little tricky in some situations - however, PRACTICE! Trial and error, making mistakes, and gaining experience is all part of the process - keep it up and you will figure out how to make the curve you want every time!

- Don't get over excited!!! Sure, that edge looks... almost like a curve... but don't force a single curve onto an edge that has random variations! Baggy clothes are usually one example of this, as they tend to billow out at one area and sink in at another. Follow the EXACT edges if at all possible! Make separate curves for each significant bump, bend, dip, or whatever to get the best and most accurate results.

- Sometimes you may need extra anchor points ON a curve to make it work. To keep a SMOOTH curve when this is necessary, avoid having 'dips' or 'spikes' at your anchor points. If you cannot make this work, try moving the offending anchor point(s) a little, or even move nearby anchor points a little to fix it. If all else fails, try adding or deleting an anchor point nearby and try once more to make a proper curve. In a smooth curve, the adjustment boxes for one anchor point will be nearly (or perfectly) opposite of each other. Again, practice makes perfect! These pics help to explain what I mean ~

- Re-read the tips from Part One if you have any troubles! ^^

Now your render is ready to be cut! That was easy!

Follow the steps we did in part one to cut out your render (selection from path, copy, paste as new image) and go through the 'Fixing Mistakes, Finalizing, and Saving Your Render' section in Part One to finish up! Remember, go back and adjust anchor points to get an optimal result if needed, and don't forget that you can use the eraser tool if you like (preferably with a 'fuzzy' brush) to clean up stray edges of your render once you paste it as a new image.


Feathering Your Render: Two Methods [qqqqj]

First, you should know that this step is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL. All that feathering your render does is add a *slight* transparency effect to the edges. This *can* degrade the quality of certain portions of your picture by blurring out small areas at the edges, so be careful!!!

The reason you may want to feather is that it can help your render 'blend' into any type of background that you decide to place it against. So, lets continue with our Kirby picture to see how this works.

Method One: [qqqqk]

Method One involves working with a render you have already completed and saved as a .PNG file.

- Open your finished render in GIMP - again, this should be a .PNG file if you paid attention in Part One!!!

Now we want to select just our render graphic. 'Select All' won't work for this, so... what to do, what to do...? Ah, here we go!

- At the top, choose 'Layer > Transparency > Alpha To Selection.'

This will select only your render - exactly what we want! You should now have the 'marching ants' selection line around your render. Now for the feathering!

- Go up and click 'Select > Feather' at the top. (sorry for using the wrong screenshot - this SS is from the original Kirby pic instead of the render - but it still shows what you need Embarassed)

- Left click 'Feather' and see the dialog that appears next.

- For our purposes, we only want a *slight* feathering effect, so lower this number to 1 or 2 pixels instead of the default 5 pixels and click OK.

- Now 'Edit > Copy' then 'Paste as New Image' just like you do when you've finished a path and are cutting out a normal render job.

- That's it! Now you can save your feathered render as a separate .PNG file if you like. You won't really be able to tell much difference in your image at this point. Here's some examples ~

No Feathering ~

One Pixel Feathering Method One ~

Two Pixel Feathering Method One ~

Twenty Pixel Feathering (!) Method One ~

You probably cannot *see* any difference in the first couple pictures, but if you try saving the examples and pasting them into a real background instead of a white web page, it really can help make your render blend in better. It's a small effect, but helpful at times - I usually go for a one-pixel feather on my own projects. The 20 pixel version is just an extreme example so you can really SEE the white web page blending through the render. ...yeah, I should've put my examples against a real background blah blah blah... >_<

Method Two: [qqqql]

Method Two involves doing the feathering BEFORE you cut your render from the background image. Just add in the steps to do the feather effect described in Method One AFTER making the 'Selection from Path' in a normal rendering job and BEFORE you copypaste your render as a new image.

- Finish your path as normal and check for mistakes

- Now go back to your picture that has your path line work completed

- Go ahead and click 'Selection from Path' in the Path Tool dialog

- Instead of copypasting your image, add in the feather effect as described in Method One.

- NOW copypaste your image like you normally would.

Feathering at this stage can produce odd results, sometimes even better ones! Why? Well, feathering creates a 'fade' transparency effect on BOTH sides of your marching ants selection line. By using feathering in Method One, you can only see the effect ON your render since there is nothing on the other side of your selection line. Feathering at Method Two's earlier point will actually include a *small* part of the background with your render (depending on how much feather you use), and can help hide tiny mistakes you may create with an inaccurate path line for your rendering work. I actually find myself using this method more often than I should, even if it does make an imperfect render. ^_^;

You'd think this method would be something to avoid at all times, but small amounts of Method Two type feathering (usually one pixel or two at most) won't hurt much - in fact, it'll turn out just fine much of the time. It can sometimes even give you a better blending effect than Method One - you'll just have to try it and use your own judgement. If you want to try something random, extreme feathering before you actually cut your render can give you some surprises and interesting 'fade' effects as you'll notice in the example below. This is another reason why you should hang onto .xcf files of the original picture with your path line already in it - this way you can experiment with Method Two on renders you have already completed.

Here are some examples using the same Kirby render from above ~

No Feathering ~

One Pixel Feathering Method Two ~

Two Pixel Feathering Method Two ~

Twenty Pixel Feathering (!) Method Two ~

Again, the 20 pixel version is just an example so you can see what's happening when you feather. In this example of Method Two, I would again probably use just the one pixel feather as a final render - I can see a little too much of the background showing with the two pixel feather. Look VERY closely and you will too.

I think that's about all you should need to know when it comes to feathering! Let's move on to the next section.

- You can use either method of feathering you like, a combination of both methods, or no feathering at all. If you follow my (unprofessional xD) methods, feathering is just an OPTIONAL step.

Removing Backgrounds Instead of Renders [qqqqm]

What we have covered so far has involved cutting a render out of a picture and placing it into a new image. There is another option that many render artists use, partially for the sake of staying true to the original image, and partially for other reasons. This other option will also make your rendered image the same dimensional size as the original image while retaining proper placement of single objects OR multiple objects that you may be rendering out of the same image (we'll cover multiple renders from the same image in the next section). All that this option involves is DELETING the background instead of COPYPASTING your render as a new image. In this section, I will explain to you how to do this in case you prefer your final render results in this manner.

- First, go ahead and complete all your path line work so that you are ready to cut your render. If you want to remove the background on a render you have already completed, open the .xcf file that has your finished path work and proceed.

- Next, to make this process work, we need to know if your image has what is called an 'alpha channel,' because without one, deleting any part of your image will NOT result in transparency but rather a solid-color background.

Don't worry if you don't know what an alpha channel is, all that matters is that we need one. To see if we have one already, open the 'Layers' dialog by pressing CTRL+L or choosing 'Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Layers' at the top of the screen.

After that, you should see something like this (taken from my Kirby example above) ~

Now, you will note the name that is BESIDE the small thumbnail of Kirby in the picture above - where it says 'Background' (your picture might have a different name). This name tells us all we need to know - if the name (in my case, 'Background') is in normal type, then it already has an alpha channel. If the name is in bold type, then it does not have an alpha channel. Following this, it's easy to tell that my Kirby does NOT have an alpha channel since 'Background' is written in bold. So, let's add one!

- Go to 'Layer > Transparency > Add Alpha Channel'

That's all - your layer name as mentioned above should now be in normal type instead of bold, meaning you now have an alpha channel. Pic below shows that my bold type is gone! ~

Now go ahead and make your path and anchor points visible if needed, then click the 'Selection from Path' button in the path tool dialog as usual. If you plan to add Method 2 feathering as covered above, go ahead and do it now.

- Next, go to 'Select > Invert' or hit CTRL+I (that's an i not an L). This will select your background area instead of your render - just what we want!

- Hit the Delete key or choose 'Edit > Clear'

Done! Now we have a render that is exactly the same size as the original picture. If you have multiple renders (see next section), they will all retain their original position. Nice. ^^ Results below ~


Multiple and Intersecting Paths [qqqqn]

The tools we will be learning about in this section are EXTREMELY helpful. I find that the main purposes for using the techniques we will go through below are ~

- Making more than one render from a single image
- Editing renders using added and subtracted paths - you won't have to change your original path work!
- Preserving edges on overlapping or intersecting items that you are rendering - especially useful for items that cross over one another and for rendering the dreaded HAIR!

This section can be a little confusing, but I have tried to explain it as best I can. You will understand the concepts below a lot easier once you actually try them yourself. As usual, just go step by step and you should be ok.

Learning About the Path Window [qqqqo]

Before we go any further, let's look again at the Path Window (not the path tool dialog) because you will probably be using this a lot. So far, we have only seen this window when 'Bringing Invisible Paths to Life.' If you don't remember how to get to this window, simply select 'Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Paths' at the top. This pic shows the Path Window - look below the pic to see what the numbers mean that I have written in ~

1. This shows the paths on your current image. I don't know the official term for these, but to avoid confusion, I will call them 'Path Layers' - in this example, there are three path layers. The selected path layer will be surrounded in blue and there will be a tiny picture of any path work that exists on each layer. If a path layer contains no paths, this picture will just look white. You can right click this area and get a number of options - choose 'Path Tool' at the top of the list to make your anchor points appear for the Path Layer you clicked.

2. This area is used to 'lock' Path Layers together. If the lock is off, this area will be white, and if the lock is on, this area will contain a picture of a linked chain beside each locked Path Layer. Left click the area to turn the lock on or off. This is used to perform certain operations on more than one Path Layer at the same time, such as locking two path layers then moving or turning them simutaneously. We won't really be using this, but experiment if you like.

3. This area toggles visibility for each Path Layer. If the Path Layer is visible there will be an eyeball here, if the Path Layer is not visible, the space will be white. Left click this area to turn visibility on or off for each Path Layer.

4. Click this to create a new, blank Path Layer.

5. Select a Path Layer, then use these arrows to move the Path Layer up or down in the list. Not that useful for most projects - I only use this to organize Path Layers if there a quite a number of them.

6. Click this to Duplicate the currently selected Path Layer. The main reason I ever use this in rendering is to edit a path yet keep the original as well. My original path work will be on one Path Layer and then I'll use the duplicate layer to edit the path into something else.

7. This button is called 'Path to Selection' - it's pretty much the exact same thing as the 'Selection from Path' button in the Path Tool dialog that we normally use. We will use a few more features of this button as we learn about multiple paths - hold your mouse cursor over this button to see some additional options -

----- Hold SHIFT and Left Click to ADD the area defined by the currently selected Path Layer into the 'marching ants' selection. This will be *amazingly* useful.

----- Hold CTRL and Left Click to SUBTRACT the area defined by the currently selected Path Layer away from any current 'marching ants' selection. This is also quite useful.

----- Hold CTRL+SHIFT and Left Click to make the intersecting areas from more than one Path Layer into a 'marching ants' selection. This... well, we won't really be using this for what we're doing.

8. Selection to Path. This will take any 'marching ants' selection, convert it into a path, and add it as a new Path Layer. Can be useful for some things, but I have not found many uses for this that will help us in rendering.

9. Paint Along The Path. This is the same as the 'Stroke Path' button in the Path Tool dialog. Useful if you want to outline a path, and can be handy when working with tools in the 'Fixing Problem Areas On Your Render' section later in the guide. Not much use in actually cutting out renders.

10. Pressing this will delete the currently selected Path Layer.

- You can 'dock' this window into your toolbox for convenient access! Simply press the arrow in your toolbox that I have circled here ~

~ then choose 'Add Tab > Paths' to make this window an easily accessible tab in the lower part of your toolbox! You can add other tabs for other things if you like. Handy!

Multiple Renders From The Same Image [qqqqp]

This is actually very easy! Let's use this image for a quick example ~

Now I would like to cut each picture of the girl (Marien from WolfTeam) out as a separate render.

- Start with the first render as normal (I cut the girl on the left), and do all of your path work and fix any mistakes. Go ahead and save your .xcf file and cut this one as a final render if you like, adding in feathering if desired.

- Now go back into your saved .xcf file, open the Path Window, ADD a new Path Layer and select it as the active layer - review the Path Window section above if you need to refresh your memory (adding a path layer is marked as number 4 in the Path Window section).

- Use this new Path Layer and do all your path work and mistake fixing on the second render (the girl on the right in my example). You can toggle the visibility on your FIRST path layer to 'off' if you find it distracting.

- Cut this second render by clicking 'Path to Selection' while your new Path Layer is selected and active, followed by the normal copypasting into a new image. Again, save your work and add feathering if desired.

That's about all there is to it! This keeps all your path information stored in one convenient .xcf file. If you have more objects to render separately out of an image, just make a new Path Layer for each separate object and render all the separate objects or characters that you want to! My results ~


-You can also select all your renders at once, then delete the background as described earlier so that all your renders stay in their proper place on the image! Skip down to the section about using 'Add' and I think you can figure it out from there. :3

Using 'Subtract' to Edit and Create New Renders [qqqqr]

In this section, we will look at using the 'Subtract' function with multiple Path Layers. This involves holding CTRL while clicking either the 'Path to Selection' or 'Selection from Path' buttons. The basic idea is to use a new path on a new Path Layer to remove part of a render that is already defined by a Path Layer you have previously completed. Confused yet? xD I'll try to show you what I mean.

For this example, I will use a render that I cut from the image below ~

To start with, I rendered the girl on the far right in this picture (Angela from Wolfteam) using all the normal processes we have already covered. Here is the resulting render ~

Now... I really don't like her backpack. It's too big and bulky, and I think she'd look a lot better without it. Instead of re-rendering the entire image, lets use the Subtract feature to fix her up.

- First open the .xcf file of your finished path work on the original image.

- Now open the Path Window, add a new Path Layer, and select the new layer so you can work on it.

- On this new Path Layer, make a new path around the part of the picture you want to remove - in this case, Angela'a backpack. If you can do this all on one Path Layer, great! If for some reason you cannot, then create and use as many Path Layers as you need to get the job done.

- Since we are removing the backpack completely, the only edges that will matter are the ones that CONTACT the original render. In other words, make a proper render path along the edges of the pack that border our original render - the 'outside' edges of the pack won't matter at all. Do normal rendering pathwork where the pack contacts the girl, but feel free to make the path line however you like around the outside edge. Just MAKE SURE your path line contains ALL of the portion you'd like to remove. I know it sounds confusing, but it'll make more sense once you try it out for yourself.

Now you should have the path work for your original render on one Path Layer, and the backpack (or whatever portion you want to remove) on a separate Path Layer. Here's what to do next.

- Select your ORIGINAL Path Layer

- Click the 'Path to Selection' button at the bottom of the Path Window *OR* the 'Selection from Path' button in the Path Tool dialog. You should now have 'marching ants' around your original render.

- Now Select your NEW Path Layer - in our case, the one where you made a path around the backpack.

- Next, HOLD CTRL and left-click the 'Path to Selection' button at the bottom of the Path Window *OR* the 'Selection from Path' button in the Path Tool dialog. This should SUBTRACT the area defined by your NEW Path Layer away from the selection you made from your ORIGINAL Path Layer. In other words, now the girl should have 'marching ants' but the backpack will NOT.

- For any additional Path Layers you made around objects you want to remove, select that Path Layer, then hold CTRL and left click either the 'Path to Selection' or 'Selection from Path' button to subtract the area defined by these additional Path Layers from the marching ants selection.

- At this point, add Method 2 feathering if desired, then copypaste your render into a new image as normal.

That's it! You've just made a smexy new render out of an old one without re-rendering the whole image, and without having to change your original work!

I actually used the above render in the title picture for this guide! Remember, if you spot anything else you want to remove later on, just repeat the procedure! This technique can be quite the useful time saver! Smile

Using 'Add' to Edit and Create New Renders and Preserve Edges [qqqqs]

In this section, we will look at using the 'Add' function with multiple Path Layers. This involves holding SHIFT while clicking either the 'Path to Selection' or 'Selection from Path' button. The idea here is to use a NEW Path Layer to ADD onto the selection defined by an existing Path Layer. I cannot overstate how useful this can be, especially in more complex rendering projects. The 'Add' function will help you preserve smooth and continuous edges on intersecting objects, and also give you the option of editing old renders into something else (similar to what we did with the 'Subtract' function). I also find the 'Add' feature absolutely indispensable when rendering intersecting strands or locks of hair.

Let's start with a basic example - a katana lying at an angle over it's sheath. Here is the original pic ~

I would like to render the katana *and* the sheath lying underneath. I can already see a problem with this though.... If you try to make a single path around both the blade AND the sheath, it could be very difficult to get a smooth and continuous edge across the intersecting objects. To help you visualize the potential problem, I'm including a picture below showing what I mean. I have outlined the paths for the blade in blue and the paths for the sheath in green - the potential problem is that the ends of the path shown by green lines on the same edge need to be in PERFECT alignment with each other to give us a smooth, continuous edge on the sheath. It follows that the ends of the path shown by the blue lines on the same edge also need to be in PERFECT alignment to give us a smooth and continuous edge on the blade ~

If they are not in alignment or your curves do not match up almost perfectly on each side, you may be able to tell quite easily when the render is complete. The intersection of the two objects will look.... a little off - one side of the object may look a bit wider or narrower than the other side, and it'll be far from smooth unless you have a really good eye for aligning things. While you may not care that much, you can easily make a render with better results by using the 'Add' function to preserve these intersecting edges.

To begin, let's render the katana blade *without* the sheath. So, go in and do all the path work required to make a render of just the blade. Since the blade is pretty much one long curve, you can use a minimal amount of anchor points, and carefully create a curve that will smoothly follow the blade egde. LEARN TO DO THIS, as it will greatly help you in rendering more complex things such as hair locks or strands - a single lock of hair curving in one direction (no matter how large it is) can often be rendered with only one path line curve on each edge of the lock. I rendered the actual BLADE (not the hilt) in our example with only four anchor points - two on either side of the hilt, one at the very tip of the blade, and one to help me make the small curve at the tip of the blade's sharp side. Once you have went around the first object (the blade in our case), feel free to cut and save it as a separate render if you like. Here is my result ~

Now to complete our render of both the katana AND it's sheath, go back to your .xcf file with your finished path work on the blade.

- Open the Path Window

- Add a New Path Layer and select it so we can work on it.

On this new Path Layer, render the sheath. Simply ignore the katana blade! Make your curves like you were going around the part of the sheath that you cannot see since it is below the blade. Again, the long, smooth edges can be done with a minimal amount of anchor points if you are careful. Once complete, you should have one Path Layer with path work around the blade and hilt, and another Path Layer with your path work around the sheath. Here is my work so far - I outlined my first Path Layer (the blade) in blue, and the second Path Layer (the sheath) in green to make it easy for you to see ~

- Next, select one Path Layer and left-click either the 'Path to Selection' *OR* 'Selection from Path' button. This will give you marching ants around the Path Layer that you chose.

- Now select the other Path Layer, hold SHIFT, and left click either the 'Path to Selection' *OR* 'Selection from Path' button. Holding SHIFT will tell GIMP to use the 'Add' function to add the contents of BOTH Path Layers together, meaning you will now have marching ants around BOTH the blade AND the sheath. At this point, add feathering if you like and copypaste your render and you're done! This preserves all the intersecting edges, edits your first render of just the blade into a brand new render, and looks super smooth. Smile

Use this technique ANYTIME you wish to preserve smooth, flowing edges on intersecting parts of a render. Crossed blades, any intersecting smooth-edged objects, hair intersecting with a character's body, ANYWHERE that it might help to preserve a continuous edge. Use as many Path Layers as necessary. When rendering something as delicate and complex as flowing, wind-blown hair, render the hair curving in one direction on one Path Layer, then make a new Path Layer and render the intersecting hair that might be curving in another direction. Make as many Path Layers as you need to accomplish this, then just hold SHIFT and add them all together at the end. This keeps each strand of hair flowing smoothly and gives you a fabulous end result!

- If you explore the menus, you may notice that there is an option to 'merge' the Path Layers together - DO NOT DO THIS!!! Look at the 'Intersecting Paths' section below to see why.

- When you remove the background instead of the render (see the earlier section) in an image that has multiple renders, use 'Add' to select all your renders at once. Then you can invert the selection and delete the background away from ALL of them at the same time and the renders will stay in their proper place!

So... why do we HAVE to use the 'Add' function? Why can't I just do all my paths on ONE Path Layer? Let's move on to the next section to see why that approach won't work.

Intersecting Paths [qqqqt]

You may not see the purpose of the 'Add' function above, and you may wonder why that you even need additional Path Layers to work with intersecting Path Lines. You will learn the problems with this here.

Let's go back to our katana example from the last section.

Suppose I rendered the blade from the katana picture with one path, then just made another path on the same Path Layer to go around the sheath. If you did this, you would not be able to 'Add' the paths together since they are already on the same Path Layer. Is this a problem? YES.

I have done this for you so you can see the ugly results. From my finished work in the previous example, I opened my .xcf file and did exactly what I told you NOT to do at the end of the last section - merged the paths from both Path Layers into ONE Path Layer. This gives me the same result as if I had just did all my path work on one Path Layer to start with. I then click the 'Path to Selection' button as normal.... but something looks a little different. I go ahead and copypaste my render anyway. Here is the result ~

You will notice that the intersecting area in the middle is GONE. Shocked GIMP automatically unselects the area where the paths intersect! For our purposes here, this is NOT what you want at all.

The point is, if you need to intersect paths like this for the sake of preserving edges or editing renders, BE SURE to make a new Path Layer for each portion of path that will intersect! DO NOT make path lines that intersect on the SAME Path Layer! Instead, make use of additional Path Layers and use the 'Add' or 'Subtract' functions to make your Path Layers work together - preserving edges and/or editing renders while keeping your original work intact!

- You may think you hate GIMP for treating intersecting paths this way... but you don't. It is this exact feature of de-selecting intersecting areas that allowed us to easily cut away the excess background from my Desert Eagle trigger guard waaaay back in Part One! ...and was also an unspoken part of some of my other render examples in this guide... =P If you will recall, all path work for the Desert Eagle was done on one Path Layer. We didn't even know about Path Layers then. The path around the gun was our initial path, and the path around the trigger guard area was treated as an intersecting path on the same Path Layer - the area inside the trigger guard path intesected with the area defined by the outer path, even though the path lines never touched. Thus the trigger guard path area was de-selected and removed from our final render. Think about it for a moment and it'll all make sense! When cutting away background 'holes' in your render (like my Desert Eagle trigger guard), you are really just utilizing de-selection of the intersecting path areas that lie on the same Path Layer. All those big words are confusing, but go back and re-read this paragraph slowly... it's kinda one of those 'eureka' moments when you finally 'get' this.... Very Happy

Fixing Problem Areas On Your Render [qqqqu]

This section will give you some tools to fix troublesome spots on your render. Sometimes a picture will have features that obscure a portion of the area you want to render, and you will probably want to fix them. These features can include any number of different things! One of the issues most often encountered is text in the original picture that lies at least partially over the area you want to render. Another frequently encountered problem are various 'floating' effects or objects from the original background, such as stray particles or windblown objects like leaves or flower petals, and can even include such things as clouds, fog, shadows, or other similar effects.

The tools I use most often to fix such problem areas are all found in GIMP's toolbox - the picture below shows you what they look like, and the associated descriptions below the picture help you understand what these tools can do ~

1. Clone Tool - This tool basically allows you to copy small areas using a brush and paste them somewhere else. This lets you copy a 'matching' area and paste it OVER a problem area to cover it up. To fix problem areas with this tool, select a brush of appropriate type and size, move your cursor to a 'matching' area nearby your problem spot, then hold CTRL and left click. This gives you a source area to copy from. Now, move directly over your problem spot and left click. Doing this will copy and paste the source area onto the spot you just clicked. If you left click and drag the mouse, your source area will also move along with your 'pasting' mouse movements! If you wish to keep the exact same source area, use repeated single left clicks instead of dragging.

I find the Clone Tool to be most effective when dealing with areas that have a texture or pattern, such as a woven cloth sweater, tree bark or the 'grain' of bare wood, or delicately patterned paint on any object. The clone tool will not 'blur out' such patterns like the other tools shown in this section can do.

The Clone Tool *does* take a lot of practice to use effectively - don't say I didn't warn you! The most relevant tool options (found in the bottom portion of the Toolbox when you have this tool selected) you will want to play around with are the opacity slider (a low number gives you a more transparent effect, a high number makes the effect more 'solid'), brush type (click the box beside the word 'Brush' to find fuzzy or hard edge brushes among other options), and brush size (you can choose certain brush sizes by default and use the 'scale' slider bar to adjust them further). You can experiment with the other options, but I usually do fine using only what I have mentioned here.

NOTE ~ the 'Healing Tool' in GIMP's Toolbox (it looks like a band-aid) functions in a.... 'similar' sort of way as the clone tool. Try it if you like, but I always end up just using the Clone Tool.

2. Blur/Sharpen Tool - This tool lets you use a brush to blur or sharpen an area. Pretty simple, but extremely useful. You can use single left clicks or left-click dragging with this tool.

This blur function is normally used AFTER using the other tools covered in this section. The purpose is usually to blend areas that look a little rough after being smudged, cloned, lightened, darkened, or otherwise 'worked on.' It can also be used to smooth pixelated areas if you like, and it can take care of certain small stray particles by blending them into the surrounding area. Be careful not to blur out any lines that SHOULD stay in your render! You can try using the sharpen function of this tool where areas you've worked on end up looking *too* smooth to match the surrounding area... though I find the best tactic is just to be careful with all of these tools and use them appropriately in the first place so that you don't end up with a mis-matching area that might need sharpening.

This is an easy tool to use, just don't get carried away! The most relevant tool options are opacity, brush type and size/scale, the blur or sharpen circles (mark whichever function you'd like to use), and the rate slider (a higher number will give you more of a blur/sharpen effect with each click or brush stroke, a lower number will give a lesser effect with each click or stroke). Again, experiment with the other options if desired.

3. Smudge Tool - Another self-explanatory tool, this lets you use a brush to smudge one area into another. Single left clicks won't do much here - you'll need to left click and drag. The effect is similar to what you get when rubbing your finger over wet ink in real life.

This is an *extremely* useful tool, and can be used to smudge surrounding 'good' areas over problem areas. You can use this repeatedly to completely cover up entire problem areas. You won't have any problems using this tool on 'smooth' areas, but it can destroy textures and patterns by smudging them out if you're not careful! Avoid this by using a very small brush, or just try to use the Clone Tool on textured or patterned areas if you cannot get Smudge to give you a satisfactory result. It usually helps to follow up any smudging by using the Blur tool to smooth out the areas you smudged!

This tool is not that hard for anyone to use, however it can really shine in the hands of a pro. Practice it and you can get some amazing results! The most relevant tool options are opacity, brush type and size/scale, and rate (again, higher number for stronger smudge, low number for lesser smudge). You will also find that the Fade Out and Hard Edge checkbox options for this tool can also be quite handy depending on the result you want to achieve. Experiment!

4. Dodge/Burn Tool - Lets you use a brush to lighten (Dodge) or darken (Burn) an area. Single left clicks or left click dragging will both be effective.

I don't use this tool as often in problem fixing, but it is quite handy in certain situations. Use it with an appropriate brush to recreate shading effects, lines, or even certain color gradients that you might've messed up with the Smudge Tool. If you learn to use the Smudge Tool properly, you probably won't even need the Dodge/Burn Tool for most things - I included it here so that you know it exists as a possible repair option. Mark the circles in the tool options according to what you want to do - mark 'Dodge' to lighten areas with each brush stroke, and mark 'Burn' to darken areas with each brush stroke. You can also generally define the types of areas affected with this tool by checking the 'Shadows,' 'Midtones,' or 'Highlights' circles - only one can be chosen at a time, and these should be pretty self-explanatory - for example, 'Shadows' should cause brush strokes to mostly effect only the darkest-toned pixels.

This tool can also be followed by the Blur Tool, and has an enormous number of applications - many people use this tool to help them color entire images with awesome shading and highlight effects! Still, it will likely not be one of your most-used tools for fixing render problems. The most relevant tool options are opacity, brush type and size/scale, the Dodge, Burn, Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights options, and the Exposure slider (higher number gives a stronger effect, lower number for weaker effect).

- If you'd like to use any of these tools in a straight-line brush stroke, left click once where you want the line to begin, then hold SHIFT and left click where you want the line to end. This is very useful when you want to preserve straight lines through your repair area, smudge along a straight area that should contain a color gradient, or any number of other situations where a perfectly straight brush stroke would be most effective.

- You can do repair work at any stage of the rendering process. Fix an image before you make your first anchor point, or wait and repair a totally finished render. It's completely up to you!

For a basic example, I will go back one final time to my katana render from the previous sections. The highly-polished sheath for the katana has a shadowy-looking reflection on it from the plant decorations in the upper right of the picture - scroll back up and look at it to see what I mean, or scroll down as I have included the original picture beside my finished example below for you to compare. Now, let's get rid of that bothersome reflection.

- First, I opened the image in GIMP, selected the Smudge Tool with a small, fuzzy brush, and zoomed in on the trouble area. I used 100 as an opacity setting, and I think about 70 for the rate setting.

- I carefully smudged the surrounding areas over onto the plant reflection, keeping in mind the shading and lighting already present on the sheath. This meant trying to smudge the lighter grayish-white looking areas where the light was shining in a way that was consistent with the surrounding area and followed the curve of the sheath. I then moved down a little and smudged along the darker part of the sheath at the bottom part of the problem reflection. Keep in mind that you want to do your best to create a result that is consistent with the surrounding areas! Don't smudge the lighter areas into the darker areas, or the darker areas into the lighter areas! Stay consistent with the lighting or other effects present on the original picture, and follow curves and lighting patterns with your brush strokes to achieve a natural-looking result.

- I wasn't able to get a perfect result using only the Smudge Tool, so I then switched to the Blur Tool with similar settings, only I used a smaller-size fuzzy brush. I then carfully blurred over the areas that I smudged to smooth them out. If you find yourself close to an outside edge, be careful not to blur the edge of your render! If the Blur Tool blurs out certain areas TOO much, try decreasing the blur rate or brush size, simply undoing your last few brush strokes and trying again, or switch back to the smudge tool and try some more careful smudging.

That's all there was to it, and now our problem reflection is gone! I didn't need the Clone Tool or Dodge/Burn at all. The result is still not quite perfect, but I was satisfied with it. Here's the original and the finished product for you to compare ~


- You can use any of these tools in harmony with Paths! Make a new Path Layer, then create a segment of path along the area you want to repair. Note that this has NOTHING to do with our rendering path lines and will not affect them at all. In our katana example, one short curving path line between two anchor points would probably be enough - curve the line right along the problem area, matching the slight curve of the katana sheath. Then select the path you just made and choose to 'Stroke Path' (or click the 'Paint along the Path' button in the Path Window). In the following dialog, choose the 'Stroke with a paint tool' option near the bottom. Now choose one of the above tools from the drop-down box you should see - a smudge is often a good start. Check the 'Emulate brush dynamics' box to make any options you have changed for this tool (such at brush type, brush size, rate, etc.) apply to the stroke you are about to put on your path. Now hit ok. This allows you to 'paint' along the small path you just made WITH any of the tools above! You can use this to, say, apply a stroke of smudging along a smooth path curve instead of trying to curve a brush stroke with hand/mouse movement alone. You can even move this path segment and stroke it again with another smudge, blur, or whatever you like if needed. You can then delete this Path Layer when you're done to prevent confusing it with your other Path Layers that contain your rendering paths. This offers you a very precise way to do repairs!

- You can also use a combination of these tools to do FAR more complex repairs. Is the top of your rendered character's head cut off by the image border? Maybe the tip of a boot runs off the bottom edge of the image and out of view? Increase the canvas size (at the top, click 'Image > Canvas Size') of the image if needed and use your artistic skills to clone or smudge the existing hair, boot tip, or whatever out and complete the cut-off object! Apply any tool you can and create a truly complete character! If you are artistic enough, you can even recreate entire limbs or other large objects using only these tools. Really. Shocked ...sadly, I'm not PRO enough to do this very well myself... =P This is NOT by any means staying true to the original image, but you can use these techniques to create opportunities for pushing your skills to the limit, finishing with a render that can be usable in many more situations and has that sweet 'complete' look! ...Minor repairs of this nature are not so bad, but extensive repairs are not a project for the faint of heart... xD

Here is basic example where I used ALL of the tools and techniques above to turn the image on the left (with parts of a leg and foot missing) into the complete render on the right. The original render was cut from the same screenshot I used for Angela back in the section on using 'Subtract' - look back and you will see that these missing parts were just areas covered up by another character in the picture ~

Pretty neat, eh? Smile

Summary Example [qqqqv]

Instead of just 'basic' examples, this section is just going to show you a slightly more 'real-world' example that uses *most* of the techniques covered so far. I'll quickly walk you through this render project and we'll be done with Part Two of the guide!

Here is my original picture (well, almost... this one is resized slightly smaller than the original) - for this project, I will render the anime swordswoman on the left ~

First off, I notice that this image will have a bit of flowing hair, and a blade overlaying the girl's leg. I decide before I even start that I will try to use multiple Path Layers and the 'Add' function to keep the intersecting hair lock and sword blade edges as smooth as I can.

So, I zoom in and start making path lines, curving them as I go. When I get to a part that I feel belongs on another Path Layer (usually an intersecting part where I would like to preserve smooth edges and size on both sides of the intersection - such as one hair lock flowing into another, or the hair going behind the girl's hand), I just skip on by and go ahead with completing the Path Layer I'm working on first. It works just like we did in our katana example, I'm rendering most of the forefront objects on this Path Layer, then I'll go back for the rest. I end up with all of the girl and most of her hair on the first Path Layer. Then I made a second Path Layer and made path lines around most of the hair locks I missed the first time. One of those locks crossed behind the sword, so I just made a third Path Layer that included the sword blade and a couple random strands of hair that were blowing off separate from the main hair locks. Here are pictures of my completed Path Layers - outlines in green show exactly where my path is for each Path Layer.

Path Layer One:

Path Layer Two:

Path Layer Three: - The parts that look like single lines are really two path lines covering both sides of tiny hair strands.

I tried to check my work for mistakes by cutting all this out and checking it against backgrounds of various colors. I then tried to correct my paths as needed to fix any problems.

I decided at that point that the girl needed some repair work. There were a couple of background particles floating in front of her in a couple small areas - the clone tool took care of that pretty easily. Her legs, and especially one foot, also had smoky, foggy-looking clouds on them. I fixed these by smudging the more natural looking areas around VERY carefully with various tool settings, so as to get rid of the clouds. I followed that up by going over these same areas with the Blur Tool to smooth things out. I got a little over-zealous on her shoe and nearly destroyed some of the darker lines that were on it.... >_< I tried to fix them back up, but I didn't do such a great job. Still, I managed to get to a point where I was mostly satisfied with my work. =) Below is a picture showing some before and after shots of my repairs ~

After that, I added my three Path Layers together with the 'Add' function and finished up. I made one version that included Method One feathering and one using Method Two. Here they are! ~

One Pixel Method One Feather:

One Pixel Method Two Feather:

And that's it! The above render is not perfect - some areas could be done a little better... but I like it... and this is just an example, so I'll save it in my stash and call it a day. Wink


Rank 4
14 Sep 2008
Maple Syrup United States
PostedFeb 11, 2011 10:51 pm

Part Three would hopefully contain methods for rendering special effects in images, such as fire, electricity, smoke, glowing objects of any sort, and things of that nature. I do hope to add Parth Three in the future, although I am not sure yet... we'll see how it goes. xD For now, on to...

Final Comments: [qqqqq]

*whew* Very Happy

There are a plethora of other options and methods, but I've went about as in-depth as I want to go for what has become a rather comprehensive guide. You can do many other things such as enhancing your render with lighting, extra sharpness, blurring, re-coloring, outlining, glow or shadow effects, and limitless other things that are not within the scope of this tutorial.
Again, take your time and go step by step and you should be fine. If you run into troubles, re-check the instructions and the PROTIPS scattered throughout the guide in red text. Practice with smaller, simple images first to get the hang of the process if you need to. If you like, you can try rendering all my examples yourself - just save the starting pics to your computer, open them in GIMP, and follow along with this guide. I'd say you can do better than me if you try! My versions here look ok, but I think I cut a few corners... besides, the purpose here was to show you HOW to render... NOT to boastfully display my own pitiful skills! Wink

If you want to do even more advanced rendering, try looking up more advanced tutorials and/or just try rendering larger, more complicated images to elevate your skills through practice. Learn how to better SPOT and FIX mistakes. Experiment! You never know what you can do until you try, and GIMP has many other features and options that might prove useful! All of the techniques I have shown you in my basic examples can be carried over to far more complex render jobs - if you become proficient at the processes contained within this guide, there shouldn't be too many render projects that might remain beyond your abilities. It's up to you how far you want to push yourself! ...I know I haven't covered rendering special effects yet (like fire, electricity, smoke, etc.), but I do hope to add a section about this in a possible Part 3 update. We'll just have to wait and see! xD

Just understand that a great rendering job will take TIME. Work on a project in bite-size chunks, a few minutes at a time, and you will be far less prone to frustration or boredom. It took me about a week's worth of short work sessions to render my anime swordswoman at the end of Part Two, and a couple more days to finish up the repair work I did on her!

There you have it! Feel free to leave feedback, corrections for any mistakes I may have made, and any other comments. And if you have a question - ASK! I will answer to the best of my meager abilities... which isn't saying much. xD

NOTE - Some pictures used in my examples were randomly found through Google Image search, while others are game screenshots or official art. Any rights that exist to these pictures are retained by their respective owners, and this guide is in no way trying to infringe upon any of these rights - my only intent is to offer a free and helpful resource to aspiring render artists.

Unless the mods tell me to do otherwise, I will also place a thread link that leads to this guide in the Fanart Forum of any Aeria game that I have spent significant time with as a service to that particular community - currently this means the guide is linked to ~

- Wolfteam
- DoMO

Although I cannot stop you from doing so, please do not steal my guide and claim it as your own! It's free - you don't have to steal it! xD It's kinda meant as a service to Aeria members, but you may link to it elsewhere, or even replicate all or parts of the guide elsewhere if you like. All I ask is that you give credit where it is due and please post here or otherwise let me know so that I can add the link to the list above. Thanks!


Rank 0
25 Jan 2008
Chicago United States
PostedFeb 24, 2011 12:36 pm
Good read, Brought back memories of my vector training days.


Rank 0
23 Dec 2010
Renton United States
PostedFeb 24, 2011 2:08 pm

Thank you!

thanks! this really help!^^ Very Happy


Rank 4
14 Sep 2008
Maple Syrup United States
PostedMar 04, 2011 10:56 am
Thx for the comments, I really hope this does help some people, at least a little!

Sorry for the delayed reply - I thought the system would notify me when somebody replied to this thread but for some reason it didn't... I just happened to check here and saw some new posts. xD

Also, no I have not even begun on any part 3... x_x After writing this big ol' guide, I've been on a break from all rendering projects for a while. =P


Rank 0
23 Dec 2010
Renton United States
PostedMar 04, 2011 11:56 pm


don't worry about it!^^

one question , when u save it i try uploading it with other photo editor so i can edit it but it only comes up with the gimp...Sad


Rank 4
14 Sep 2008
Maple Syrup United States
PostedMar 05, 2011 7:39 am
lady_yuri wrote:
one question , when u save it i try uploading it with other photo editor so i can edit it but it only comes up with the gimp...Sad  

First, are you just double clicking the file to open it? If you are, instead try to first open your other photo program, then open your picture from within that program.

Otherwise, this is usually a problem when working with .xcf files. As far as I know, .xcf files will generally only be recognized by GIMP - if you try to open them with other photo editors, it probably won't work. Some photo editors have a 'special' format that only they can read (.xcf for GIMP, .psp for Corel Photo Paint, etc).

The only way I know of to open GIMP-made images in another program is to save the image as a filetype that the other program recognizes. For instance, almost any photo program *should* recognize a .png file. The problem with this is that formats like .png do NOT save certain things, like path work.

This means you will most likely only be able to open finished renders that are saved as a .png file type in another program for further editing. You MAY be able to save an image from GIMP to work better in certain other programs... for example, you can *try* saving a GIMP image as a Photoshop file (.psd extension - you'll find it in GIMP's drop down list in the save dialog) and then be able to open it in Photoshop... but I don't have Photoshop, so I don't know how well this might work.

In my opinion the best solution is either A) use GIMP to complete your render and save as a .png file, then open that in another program, B) see if you can make your render IN the other program (different programs may or may not have 'path-like' tools to do this), or C) edit the picture in another program BEFORE you render, save it as a .png or .jpg or something, then open it in GIMP and make the render as normal.

I hope that helps a little, but I don't think it's possible to simply save things such as paths in GIMP and still be able to open and edit them in another program. Sad

Just ask if you have more problems. ^^


EOS Founder
29 Dec 2007
Queens United States
PostedMar 24, 2011 6:44 pm
what anime is them two females in?


Rank 0
16 Jan 2011
Valhalla United States
PostedAug 13, 2011 4:04 pm
looks very Complicated
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