Draw a straight line with GIMP

2 Ways To Draw A Straight Line with GIMP

2 Ways To Draw A Straight Line with GIMP 800 470 Nick Saporito

Being able to draw a perfectly straight lines may sound like a trivial task, but doing so in a raster-based environment (such as GIMP) can be surprisingly perplexing to some as it’s somewhat of a hidden feature. In this tutorial we’ll be going over two different ways in which you can draw a straight line with GIMP, using paths as well as brush strokes.

In short, you can draw a straight line in GIMP by using the Paths Tool to draw a straight path, and then stroke the path.

This can also be accomplished using the Pencil or Brush tool and holding Shift on your keyboard before clicking on the canvas. The benefit of this method is that it allows you to lock your lines onto a horizontal or vertical axis. Let’s dig in!

Draw A Straight Line with GIMP

The following video tutorial will walk you through both processes for drawing straight lines with GIMP:

Continue on for the written instructions.

Table of Contents

  1. Draw straight lines using the Paths Tool
  2. Draw straight lines using the Shift key

Option 1: Draw straight lines using the Paths Tool

To draw a straight line with GIMP, create two points on your canvas using the Paths Tool. Then, navigate to Edit > Stroke Path and choose the size/thickness of your line. Press the Stroke button when finished. This will create a line going through the two points you created.

Let’s first go over how to draw a straight line using the Paths Tool, which can be accessed in your toolbar or by pressing the letter B on your keyboard.

With the Paths Tool enabled, click on your canvas to create a point. This point will represent the starting point on your line:

First point

Clicking once will create the first point, or the start point of your line.

Now bring your cursor over to where you’d like the second point to be and click to place it. This will represent the endpoint of your line.

The tool will automatically place a line between these two points:

Point two

The second point will represent the endpoint of your line.

However, this line is not part of the design. It’s essentially a visual guide. To make this guide (or path) into a line we’ll have to apply a stroke to it using the Stroke Path feature.

To access it, navigate to:

Edit > Stroke Path

The menu should look something like this:

Stroke Path

The Stroke Path menu will allow you to create a line that follows the path of the two points.

The presets chosen in the screenshot above are as follows:

  • Stroke line: Solid color
  • Antialiasing enabled
  • Line width: 3 px

The Line Width value represents the thickness of the line that will be drawn. You can increase or decrease this size to suit your own needs.

Once applied, press the Stroke button, and a stroke (in the color you’ve chosen as your foreground color) will be generated along your path:

Stroke line

The color of the line you draw will be determined by your chosen foreground color, noted in the screenshot above.

You may have to deselect the Paths Tool to get rid of the guide/path in order to see the straight line you’ve drawn with GIMP.

Option 2: Draw straight lines using the Shift key

To draw a straight line with GIMP, grab the Pencil Tool and click on the canvas to create a point while holding Shift on your keyboard. Drag the line in the direction you’d like it to go, then click again to end the line.

Now let’s go over a different method in which the Brush Tool and Pencil Tool can be used to draw a straight line with GIMP.

Typically, when you draw a line with the Brush or Pencil tools, it’s rarely perfectly straight. This is because the line follows the path of your hand movement, which usually isn’t a perfectly straight. However, there is another way to draw with these tools, allowing you to draw a straight line if need be.

Let’s use the Pencil Tool (keyboard shortcut: N) for example.

Hold Shift on your keyboard and click once on your canvas to create a point. There should now be a guide line originating from the spot of the point that tails your mouse movement:

Pencil line

While still holding Shift, simply click again to create another point, which will then complete your line:

Drawn line

A straight line drawn with the Pencil Tool.

While drawing, you can hold the Control key to lock the line onto the horizontal or vertical axis to draw perfectly straight line:

Straight lines

Holding Shift and Control will allow you to draw straight lines that follow 15 degree increments.

You can also draw diagonal lines using this method as well as your lines will be locked into 15 degree increments.

This method can also be repeated using the Brush Tool (keyboard shortcut: P) which will also allow you to draw a straight line with GIMP using brush settings of your preference. Check out my tutorial on how to use those tools if you need further assistance.

Which Is Better?

The benefit of using the Path Tool method is that you can change the thickness of your line after it’s been drawn, if need be. Changing the thickness when using the Pencil or Brush tools would mean undoing/erasing the line and starting over with a different brush thickness.

On the other hand, the benefit of using the Pencil/Brush tools is that you can lock your lines onto 15 degree angles if need be.

If you have any questions or need clarification on any of the steps taken in this lesson, simply leave a comment below.

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Nick Saporito

Hi, I'm Nick— a Philadelphia-based graphic designer with over 10 years of experience. Each year millions of users learn how to use design software to express their creativity using my tutorials here and on YouTube.

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1 comment
  • Richie Nakata

    awesome tutorial, thanks for sharing this. Very helpful not just for the beginners.
    I am using Gimp with a XP-Pen drawing tablet since, maybe four or five years ago and use it for digital painting, Gimp can do some painting effects, but it is more of a photo editor.
    I prefer Krita (also open source / free, digital painting and drawing focus).. I think the brushes and workflow are better.

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