GIMP Tutorial – Rainbow Smoke

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GIMP Tutorial – Rainbow Smoke

We have been entering the age of e-cigarette. Typically, an e-cigarette is able of resulting more smoke than conventional cigarette. As a photographer or image editor, you sometimes are interested to play your creativity seeing a huge amount of smoke coming out from someone’s lips.

One of creative ideas you can do with smoke — especially if the smoke is in a huge number — is to turn the smoke into colorful smoke, like a rainbow.

In GIMP, you can do so by setting the gradient type on the Blend Tool to “Full saturation spectrum CW”. But first, you need to create a transparent layer and create a layer mask of the transparent layer.


Since you want to edit a smoke photo, the very first thing you need to do is to prepare the smoke photo itself. If you have a smoker friend, you can ask him/her to be your model and take a photo of him/her. The end result of the editing process would be perfect if you use a black background on your photo.

Bonus: Most essential GIMP shortcuts

Getting started

  • Launch GIMP and open your photo by going to File -> Open.

  • Create a new transparent layer by going to Layer -> New Layer. On the appearing pop-up dialog, select Transparency on the Layer Fill Type section.

  • With the new transparent layer selected, click the Blend Tool on the Toolbox panel.

  • Set the gradient to “Full saturation spectrum CW”.

  • With the Blend Tool selected, click on certain spot on the canvas area and drag to another spot to apply the gradient (see the screencast below).

  • With the transparent layer selected (which now has been filled with the gradient), go to Layer -> Mask -> Add Layer Mask. On the appearing pop-up dialog, select the Black (full transparency).

  • Change the layer mode to Overly.

  • Make sure the background color is black.

  • Select Paintbrush Tool on the Toolbox panel and set the brush type according the smoke area you want to brush. You can use a combination of brush types and sizes on the brushing process.

  • With the Paintbrush Tool selected, brush the smoke area. To recover the area you have brushed, you can use Eraser Tool.

  • Once you are done with the brushing process, set the opacity of the transparent layer.

That’s it. Following is the example of the photo I edited.

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