Create A Line Distortion Effect with GIMP

Create A Line Distortion Effect with GIMP 1024 602 Nick Saporito

In this tutorial I’ll be demonstrating how you can use GIMP to create a line distortion effect where the subject image is comprised of horizontal lines that flow in the shape of the depicted subject.

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The following is just a brief overview of the steps taken to achieve this effect. I recommend that you watch the video tutorial at the top of the page for complete step-by-step instructions.

Line Distortion Effect

The first thing we have to do is open our subject image with GIMP. For this tutorial, I used the following stock photo from Pixabay…

Subject photo

Click to be taken to the download page

To follow along with this tutorial, please down the copy that is sized at 1,920 pixels wide.

Make sure the subject layer has an alpha channel, then add a new layer to the image, fill it in with black, then position behind the subject layer. Then use the Paths tool to crop the subject from the background of the photo, revealing the black later behind it.

Step 1

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Next, we will remove the color data from the image by going to Color > Saturation and bringing the saturation down to 0.

Step 2

Now we will use the Curves feature to manually add some contrast to the image.

Step 3

Then we will give the image a Gaussian Blur of 3%.

Step 4

Now we will add a new layer above the subject layer, fill it in with black, and we will add some stripes to this layer by going to Filters > Render > Pattern > Grid. Make sure your presets match those depicted in the screenshot below.

GIMP render grid menu

Once applied, you should have a series of alternating black and white horizontal lines…

Step 5

With the stripes layer activated, go to Filters > Map > Displace and match your presets to those depicted below. Make sure you choose the subject layer for both Aux inputs.

GIMP displacement map

Manually adjust the horizontal and vertical displacement until your image looks something like this…

Step 6

As you can see, the lines have now flowed into the shape of the subject.

Copy the striped layer, then go to the subject layer and add a black layer mask. Paste in the copied stripe layer, anchor the layer, then apply the layer mask.

Step 7

One final tweak we’ll make to the design is to go back to the Curves and manually adjust the contrast some more so that the designs blends into the black background a little better.

Step 8

If you’d like to add a hint of color as I’ve done in the thumbnail design, simply add a new layer on top of the image, fill it in completely with your desired color, then set the blend mode to Soft Light.

GIMP line distortion effect

And with that, we have completed our line distortion effect! If you have any questions or run into any problems, simply leave a comment below. As always, thanks for watching!

Get Started with GIMP!

Want to learn more about how GIMP works? Check out The GIMP Series – a comprehensive collection of over 60 videos where I go over all of the major tools, features and function in GIMP and explain what they do, how they work, and why they’re useful.

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Nick Saporito

Designer, content creator, and the founder of — an educational media platform for learning about graphic design.

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