How to Make a Torn Paper Edge in GIMP

This tutorial will show you how to add a torn paper effect to images in GIMP. This is a very simple technique suitable for GIMP beginners, but because it uses a small brush size, it can take a while if you apply this technique to large borders. If you spend some time on this, you will be rewarded with convincing results.

In this tutorial, we’re going to apply a torn edge to a piece of digital Washi tape that we made in another tutorial. For this tutorial, we’ve given the tape straight edges so we can fully demonstrate how to get the ripped edge.

You’ll also need a copy of the free and open source GIMP image editor, and if you don’t already have it, you can read about it and get a link to the download website in our GIMP review.

If you have a copy of GIMP and downloaded the ribbon, or have another image you want to work on, you can skip to the next section.

  1. Use the free selection tool to apply a jagged edge
  2. Use the Smudge Tool to feather the edge
  3. Add a subtle shade

Use the free selection tool to apply a jagged edge

The first step is to use the Free Selection tool to blend the rough and jagged edges onto the paper.

Select “File” > “Open” then navigate to your file and click on “ Open “. Now click Free selection tool in the Tools palette to activate it, and click and drag to draw a jagged line around the edge of the ribbon or piece of paper you are working on, then drag the selection without releasing your mouse button around the piece of paper until you return to the starting point. Now you can release your mouse button and go to . to go Edit > Clear to delete an area within the selection. And finally, for this step, go to Select > No to deselect.

Next, we’ll use the Smudge Tool to add a pointed edge typical of torn paper.

Use the Smudge Tool to feather the edge

This step is the time consuming part of this technique and it is very easy to try and speed up the process by changing some settings. However, the torn paper effect is most effective when kept very subtle, which is why I recommend sticking to the settings I describe.

First select the Smudge tool and in the Tool Options palette that appears below the Tools palette, set the Brush value to 2 . Hardness 050 size to 1.00 and indicator to 50.0 . Then you can work more easily if you add a background layer. Click the New Layer button in the layers palette and click the small green down arrow to move this layer down. Go to Tools > Standard colors and then inside Edit > Fill BG color to fill the background with solid white.

With a solid background you can zoom in on the edge you are working on – there are several ways to do this. Using now Smear tool , click inside the border, and while holding down the mouse button, drag outward. Then you have to keep doing random outward strokes. At this zoom level, you should see the edge start to soften and light faint bursts of color are falling off the edge. However, when you zoom back to 100%, a very lightly shaded edge is added that resembles the fibers of torn paper.

In the last step we add a very subtle shadow that adds some depth and helps emphasize the effect of the ripped edge.

Add a subtle shade

This last step helps to add some depth and can enhance the effect of the ripped edge.

First right click on the paper layer and select Alpha to selection, then add a new layer and move it below the paper layer by pressing the green down arrow. Now go to section Edit > Fill with FG Color .

Now we can soften the effect a bit in two ways. Go to page Filters > Gaussian Blur and Blur and set the vertical and horizontal blur radius margins to a . Then lower the opacity of the layer to about 50% .

Since my ribbon is slightly transparent, I need to go one step further so that this new shadow layer darkens the ribbon’s color. If you are also using a translucent top coat, right click on it and choose “Alpha to Select” again. Now click on the shadow layer and go to Edit > Clear .

You should now have a pretty convincing torn paper edge and you can easily apply this technique to all kinds of designs you’re working on.

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