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How to Create a Detailed Coloring Picture from a Photo

This tutorial will show how to make a detailed coloring in picture (that is, a picture which is mostly an outline in black and white) in GIMP, a free photo editing and design program. Coloring pictures can made from almost any photo, although some will look better with this method and others are better suited to the simpler method explained in this tutorial. Screenshots of the technique in progress are included below.

Adjust the Photo Colors

Open the photo. Good photos for this technique have contrasting colors and strong shadows. However, the photo used in the example screenshots is not an ideal photo for this technique and it still works well.

Resize or shape the photo, if necessary, using the Rectangle Select tool to remove excess background. Select an area around the central image, then open Image → Crop to Selection.


Then, open Colors → Brightness/Contrast. Change the value of Brightness to -50 and the value of Contrast to 50, then press OK. Now, open Colors → Desaturate and select Luminosity, then press OK.

Simplify the Photo

Open Colors → Posterize. The number of posterize levels equals the number of colors or shades allowed in the picture. Any colors that currently fall outside that range will be rounded to the closest color. Try to select as few colors as possible, without removing too much detail. In the screenshots, 7 colors were chosen. In this case, the front part of the orchid has divided into too many colors, because of its original shading. These seperate sections will each be outlined in the next step, which might not be the desired effect, but can later be erased.

Outline the Picture and Adjust Levels of Black

Now open Filters → Artistic → Cartoon and change the values. Mask should be set to 20 and Percent Black to 1.00, then press OK. This process may take a few moments.

Open Filters – Enhance – Despeckle. Click on Recursive (and deselect Adaptive, if necessary). Adjust the Radius to 3, Black Level to -1 and White Level to 255. This may take the program a few moments to complete.

Now open Colors → Threshold. This process converts the whole picture to simple black and white and moving the arrow will adjust the amount of black. Move it to the far left, then press OK.

Finally, since this method can be over zealous in creating lines, select the Eraser tool (the pink button, in the fourth row from the top), adjust the Scale (size) to an appropriate level in the toolbox menu, and erase any lines that aren’t necessary.

Now, print out the final picture and color it in. Coloring can be good for relieving stress and promoting creativity, as well as keeping children busy and quiet. Make these images of almost any kind of photo, including flowers, family photos, photos of famous places or artworks, and more.


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