How to Make a Torn Paper Edge in GIMP

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How to Make a Torn Paper Edge in GIMP

How to Make a Torn Paper Edge in GIMP
Text and images © Ian Pullen

This tutorial is going to show you how you can add a torn paper edge effect to a graphic in GIMP. This is a very simple technique that is suitable for complete newbies to GIMP, however, because it uses a small size brush, it can take a little time if you're applying this technique to large edges. If you spend a bit of time on this though, you will be rewarded with convincing results.

For this tutorial, I'm going to apply the torn edge to a piece of digital Washi tape that I created in another tutorial. For the purposes of this tutorial, I've given the tape straight edges so I can fully demonstrate how to achieve the appearance of a torn edge.

You'll also need a copy of the free and open source image editor GIMP and if you haven't already got a copy, you can read about it and get a link to the download website in our review of GIMP 2.8.

If you've got a copy of GIMP and have downloaded the tape or have another image that you want to work on, then you can press onto the next page.

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Use Free Select Tool to Apply an Uneven Edge

Use Free Select Tool to Apply an Uneven Edge
Text and images © Ian Pullen
The first step is to use the Free Select Tool to apply basic rough and uneven edges to the paper.

Go to File > Open and then navigate to your file and click Open. Now click on the Free Select Tool in the Tools palette to activate it and then click and drag to draw an uneven line across the edge of the tape or paper item that you're working on and then, without releasing the mouse button, drag a selection around the outside of the paper until you're back to the start point. You can now release the mouse button and go to Edit > Clear to delete the area inside the selection. Lastly for this step, go to Select > None to remove the selection.

Next we'll use the Smudge Tool to add the feathered edge typical of torn paper.

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Use the Smudge Tool to Feather the Edge

Use the Smudge Tool to Feather the Edge
Text and images © Ian Pullen

This step is the time consuming part of this technique and it's very easy to try and speed the process up by changing some of the settings. However, the torn paper effect is most effective when it is kept very subtle and so I do advise you to stick with the settings that I describe.

Firstly, select the Smudge Tool and in the Tool Options palette that appears below the Tools palette, set the Brush to "2. Hardness 050," Size to "1.00" and the Rate to "50.0". Next, you'll find this easier to work on if you add a background layer. Click the New Layer button in the layers palette and click the little green down arrow button to move this layer to the bottom. Now go to Tools > Default Colors, followed by Edit > Fill with BG Color to fill the background with solid white.

With a solid background in place, you can zoom in on the edge that you are going to work on – this article shows the different ways that you can do this. Now, using the Smudge Tool, click inside of the edge and, holding the mouse button down, drag outwards. You then need to continue making randomly angled strokes outwards. At this zoom level, you should see that the edge starts to soften and slightly indistinct spikes of color stick out from the edge. However, when you return to 100% zoom, this has added a very lightly feathered edge that resembles the fibers of torn paper.

In the final step, we'll add a very subtle drop shadow that will add a little depth and help accentuate the torn edge effect.

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Add a Subtle Drop Shadow

Add a Subtle Drop Shadow
Text and images © Ian Pullen
This final step helps to give a little depth and can strengthen the effect of the torn edge effect.

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

We can now soften the effect a little in two ways. Go to Filters > Blur Gaussian Blur and set the vertical and horizontal Blur Radius fields to one pixel. Next reduce the layer opacity to about 50%.

Because my tape is slightly transparent, I need to take one more step to stop this new drop shadow layer darkening the color of the tape. If you're also using a semi-transparent top layer, right click on it and again select Alpha to Selection. Now click on the drop 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 sorts of designs that you work on.

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Your Citation
Pullen, Ian. "How to Make a Torn Paper Edge in GIMP." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-to-make-torn-paper-edge-1701698. Pullen, Ian. (2017, March 3). How to Make a Torn Paper Edge in GIMP. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-make-torn-paper-edge-1701698 Pullen, Ian. "How to Make a Torn Paper Edge in GIMP." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-make-torn-paper-edge-1701698 (accessed October 21, 2017).