GIMP Rotate Tool

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GIMP's Rotate Tool is used to rotate layers within an image and the Tool Options offers a number of features that affect the way that the tool functions.

The Rotate Tool is quite easy to use and once the Tool Options have been set, clicking on the image opens the Rotate dialog. In the dialog, you can use the slider to adjust the angle of the rotation or click directly on the image and rotate it by dragging.

The crosshairs that appear on the layer show the center point of the rotation and you can drag this as desired.

Do remember that you need to ensure that the layer you want to rotate is selected in the layers palette.

The Tool Options for GIMP's Rotate Tool, many of which are common to all the transform tools, are as follows.


By default, the Rotate Tool will operate upon the active layer and this option will be set to Layer. The Transform option in the GIMP Rotate Tool can also be set to Selection or Path. Before using the Rotate Tool, you should check in the Layers or Paths palette, which is active as this will be what you apply the rotation to.

When rotating a selection, the selection will be obvious on the screen because of the selection's outline. If there is an active selection and Transform is set to Layer, only the part of the active layer within the selection will be rotated.


The default setting is Normal (Forward) and when you apply the GIMP Rotate Tool it will rotate the layer in the direction that you would expect. The other option is Corrective (Backward) and, at first glance, this seems to make little practical sense. However, this is an incredibly useful setting when you need to adjust horizontal or vertical lines in a photo, such as to straighten a horizon where the camera wasn't held straight.

To make use of the Corrective setting, set the Preview option to Grid. Now, when you click on the layer with the Rotate Tool, you just need to rotate the grid until the horizontal lines of the grid are parallel with the horizon. When the rotation is applied, the layer will be rotated in the reverse direction and the horizon will be straightened.


There are four Interpolation options for the GIMP Rotate Tool and these affect the quality of the rotated image. It defaults to Cubic, which generally offers the highest quality of the options, and is usually the best option. On lower spec machines, the None option will speed up the rotation if the other options are unacceptably slow, but edges may appear visibly jagged. Linear offers a reasonable balance of speed and quality when using less powerful machines. The final option, Sinc (Lanzos3), offers a high-quality interpolation and when quality is especially important, it may be worth experimenting with this.


This only becomes relevant if parts of the area of the layer being rotated will fall outside of the existing borders of the image. When set to Adjust, the parts of the layer outside of the image borders will not be visible but will continue to exist.

Therefore if you move the layer, parts of the layer outside the image border can be moved back within the image and become visible.

When set to Clip, the layer is cropped to the image border and if the layer is moved, there will be no areas outside of the image that will become visible. Crop to result and Crop with aspect both crop the layer after rotation so that all corners are right angles and the edges of the layer are either horizontal or vertical. Crop with aspect differs in that the resulting layer's proportions will match the layer before the rotation.


This allows you to set how the rotation is displayed to you while you are making the transformation. The default is Image and this shows an overlaid version of the layer so that you can see the changes as they are made. This may be a little slow on less powerful computers.

The Outline option just shows a border outline which can be quicker, but less accurate, on slower machines. The Grid option is best when direction is set to Corrective and Image + Grid allows you to preview the image being rotated with an overlaid grid.


This slider allows you to reduce the opacity of the preview so that layers below are visible to varying degrees which may be useful in some circumstances when rotating a layer.

Grid Options

Below the Opacity slider is a drop down and input box that allow you to alter the number of grid lines that are displayed when either of the Preview options that display a grid are selected. You can choose to alter by the Number of grid lines or Grid line spacing and the actual alteration is made by using the slider below the drop down.

15 Degrees

This check box allows you to constrain the angle of rotation to 15-degree increments. Holding down the Ctrl key while using the Rotate Tool will also constrain the rotation to 15-degree increments on the fly.