Reader Tutorial: How to create an awesome action picture in GIMP


This tutorial is a remake from a Photoshop tutorial, that can be found at It was written by Paulo Canabarro. This tutorial is intended for people that have a general idea of layer masks, as layer masks are a big part of this tutorial.

Some things you will need before we get started: A few pictures, that were shot in the “burst” mode of your camera. (See step 1 for more info about this)

Step 1

The most important part about this whole tutorial, is having pictures that will work. To get the pictures that are needed, use the “burst” mode setting on your camera. On my camera (Sony) its found under the “menu” button. On your camera, it could be located in a different area. In a short description, the “burst” mode takes pictures for as long as your capture button is held down. There are some things to know about this option though. If your not in good lighting (at least on my camera) the photoshop will be blurry, which is why I recommend a well lit, outdoor setting. It's all trial and error, so just find out what works for you.

Camera Burst

Step 2

Load all your photos into GIMP, and find your first image. This would be the one that's either coming in from the far left, or far right. In my case it will be coming in from the right.

Step 3

Find your next image in the order, and select the whole document (select>all) Then copy the image. Move to your original image (the one in step 2) and paste it in. Make this floating selection, and new layer by clicking the new layer button.

Import Layer

Step 4

Repeat for each image. Keep selecting them, and pasting them until there all in the document.

Step 5

You may notice that one image does not line up perfectly, that will be fixed.

Step 6

Hide all the layers except for the bottom layer, and the next one up. In my case this will be the background layer, and layer 1.

Hide top

Step 7

Select layer 1. Make a selection around the subject, make sure to get any shadows that are casted by the subject. This is important when adding the layer mask. Right click on the layer that you just made the selection on, and add a layer mask. Make it a black layer mask.

Create Selection

Step 8

Your layer will disappear, but don't worry, we will get it back. Make white your foreground color, and fill that selection. There is the subject now in view, but without the background it originally was on!

Selection Dissapears

Step 9

This part is important. If you don't click on the layer image, before you move the image to line it up, you will move the layer mask, which is not what we want to achieve. Make sure the image thumbnail is highlighted with white.

Created Layer Mask

Step 10

Move your new selected layer, to match it up with the background picture. Don't worry if parts of it don't line up, you can fix it with the layer mask.

Step 11

After you have lined it up, select your brush tool, and change your foreground to black. Remember black hides, white reveals. It's all trial and error now, trying to get the look you like, perfect. Remember to reveal the shadows, to make it look good. You can play around with layer opacity, to easier view areas you need to reveal and hide. (Note: If your layer mask doesn't seem to be working, remember that you selected your layer, and unselected your layer mask in a previous step, so remember to reselect your layer mask by click on it in your layers panel.)

Lower Opacity

Step 12

Once you have completed this with your first image, complete it with all the other layers you have. Here is what my GIMP layers looks like:

Finished Layers


My layer masks didn't need to be changed very much because my images lined up pretty well.

You can do this tut with as many, or as little pictures as you would like, though I recommend more then 3 pictures, and not too many pictures that they are overlapping and you can't tell what's going on. I also did not use very many pictures, because the goal was to get the technique across. If at all possible, use a tripod, it makes the lining up process a lot easier. This can be done with any kind of image that shows movement.

If you have any questions about this tutorial, or would like to contact me, you can email me at

Gimp version

Written by