Gimp Tips - Woodcut

Here we're going to take a photograph and give it a line-y woodcut sort of look like you might see on a stamp or in a colonial era illustration.

  1. Picture of my beautiful wife, Libby This beautiful woman (photo by Tim Howley) is my wife, Libby. I took this picture of her and made a fake stamp out of it once. This is how I prepared the image.
  2. The same beautiful woman in grayscale The first step is simply to switch it to grayscale by selecting Image|Mode|Grayscale.
  3. Now the background has been painted out with white Applying this treatment to the background would just be distracting, so I painted it out with white, leaving just the beautiful woman.
  4. Contrast up so that dark areas are black and light areas are white You want areas where there are no lines going across as well as areas that are all filled in, so you have to tweak the brightness and contrast until the light areas are truly white and the dark areas are black. I did this by using the color picker to identify the value of some of the darker areas and the value of the area on her forehead that I wanted to be white. Those values turned out to be 30 and 180. So in the curves tool (Colors|Curves) I slid the lower dot over to (30,0) and slid the upper dot over to (180,255).
  5. Pattern of horizontal lines of alternating lightness Next I added a new layer on top and filled it with a pattern of lines like the one pictured here. It has to be a pattern that shifts from black to a value around 170 and back smoothly. The thickness of the pattern depends on the image you're using. You usually want to have about 50 to 60 lines covering your whole image. This pattern file is what I used and simply did a pattern fill on the new layer.
  6. Picture of Libby broken into horizontal lines When I set the mode for that new layer to Addition, it starts to look like it's heading in the right direction. Flatten this down to one layer (Image|Flatten Image).
  7. Curves tool set for the final adjustment Next I went into Colors|Curves and I slid the bottom point over to (171,0). 171 is one point brighter than the brightest color in the line pattern I used.
  8. The photo now looks like a woodcut This is the result. Realisticly, if you were making an actual woodcut, the lines wouldn't all be perfectly horizontal, but this gives the idea and looks pretty good.
  9. A little color added to soften it up In black and white it looks a bit stark. Colorizing it softens up the look a little. After shifting it back to Image|Mode|RGB you can color it however you want.