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Extensive clipping course

Clipping a render from an image has been discussed in numerous occasions, and no wonder. It's a very important skill. I thought that it would be good to sum up every way to do it in one tutorial and enhance it with images.

The following tools can be used for clipping:

A talented image manipulator can use all of these tools and knows their minuses and plusses.

Shaped selection

Rectangular and ellipse selection suit clipping regular shapes. You can use SHIFT -key with both of these, so that the selection becomes as wide as it's high (i.e. rectanlge -> square, ellipse -> circle).

+Easy when clipping regular shapes.
-Doesn't suit complex patterns.

Lasso -tool allows you to draw the edges of the selection yourself. It's hard to use this stabily enough with mouse, so having a pen tablet is nearly essential.

+Great tool if you have a pen tablet (I guess...)
-Inaccurate with mouse.

Automatic selection

Magic wand irreplaceable, if the background is solid coloured and clearly different to the clip (and vise versa of course). The Magic wand selects an area that is coloured solid. If you have, for example, an oragne area in left and right and you click the right one with the wand only the right one is selected.
Color selection is much like Magic wand, but it selects the same color from the whole image. If you use this tool as in the example above, both orange areas are selected.

+Fast and fairly accurate, if either the clip or the background is monocoloured.
-Such situation is rare. For example lossy compressed images (like JPG for instance) disort the colours a bit.

Scissors search for edges in an image. The selection will be lousy, if the image is even only a bit blurred. Selection is made by clicking anchors on the clip's edges. The tools locates the edges between the anchors. When you reach the point where you started, hold down SHIFT and click on the clip.
Scrissors come in question if you have to clip something from a compressed image.

+Easy, fast and accurate tool if the edge of the clip is clear.
-Doesn't work as wanted if the edge is disorted.


AKA Beizer selection is suited for selecting curvilinear objects. Click on the edge of the character to be clipped, rather on a corner, if there is/are. Then, if the edge is curvilinear, hold down the left mouse button and drag the pointer to some direction. The GIMP now creates an arched path for you. When you drag the pointer, two lines appear from the anchor, in the ends of which, there are dots. By dragging these dots you can adjust the shape of the path afterwards.
If the edge is straight, click sharply on the next position, and you'll get a straight path. This also allows you to create corners to your path. When you're ready, click
Valitse -> Polusta
More infromation about Paths

+Accurate and multifunctionomical
+Selection can be saved
-Takes time and patience


My favourite selection tool. It allows you to use basic drawing tools (such as Pen, Brush, Gradient, Smudge...) to create and edit a selection. When you click the Quickmask symbol, which is located in the lower left corner of the document window, a red cover appears on the document. The red area indicates the area that is NOT selected at the moment. You can erase areas of the mask by drawing on it with white (the tool doesn't matter). If you accidentally erase too much of the mask, just draw the mask back with black. You can also use grey, allowing you to make semi-transparent selections. Other selection tools can aid your work with Quickmask also. When you're ready (i.e. everything but the character is covered with red), click the Quickmask icon again. The character is now selected and you can clip it off the image.

+Very versatile and accurate tool.
+The selected and the unselected areas differ clearly.
+Selection is also available with half opacity.
+Other selection tools can also be utilised.
-Requires time and patience.

Additional infromation.

Anti-aliasing certainly bothers those, who have just left MSPaint behind. It is a genius feature that makes the curvilinear edges smooth. Most of the selection tools support anti-aliasing. Enable it from the tool's options.

Feathering the selection:
This can be used, when you want to make the edges soft and "dreamy." You can find it not only in the tool options, but also from
Select -> Feather

Adjusting the size:
When you've completed your selection, you can expand or contract it.
Select -> Contract or Expand

Selection to path:
GIMP can convert the edge of the selection into a path. This is handy, because it allows you to save your selection for later needs or draw a line along the edge.
Select -> To path
Works also vise versa, you can also create a selection from a path.
Select -> From path
Additional infromation about paths.

Color to alpha
You can change a color from an image into alpha (transparency) like this:
Layer -> Transparency -> Color to alpha
Generally alpha is indicated by grey grid.

Hard-to-detect edge?
If the edge of the character is hard to locate with plain eye, you can utilise the accuracy of your computer on this. You can duplicate the image and try to make the edges easier to see by for instance:
Then you can make your selection on this layer and then select the original layer. Now clip the selection and you'll have a clip from the original layer.
What do you think? Let me know! (Tutorials are rated as 10 being the best)


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