Gimp is a free image editor made available under the GNU open source licence that offers many of the tools of Adobe Photoshop. It is ideal for Graphic Designers who are just starting out and who need to set up on a budget and there is more information about it in this overview of Gimp.
As with any type of software, there is a learning curve before a Designer will be comfortable using the application smoothly, but many common and popular effects can be produced quite easily with just a little knowledge. Practising on simple effects can also be a good way to start learning about the different tools.
Make a Shiny Plastic Button
Glossy plastic button effects grew up on the web with the propagation of Web 2.0 design and 1000greatideas.com shows this technique used on several buttons and the logo. These effects have now also moved into print and Gimp can be used to quickly replicate this technique.
This explanation shows the steps to take but does not specify hard and fast settings where they appear, to encourage new users to experiment with new settings for themselves. If something doesn’t go as planned, a design can be taken back one or more steps by clicking on the Edit menu and selecting the undo option that appears at the top of that list.
Firstly a Designer should open a new document set to a suitable size, depending on how they intend to use the final design. The illustrated example is set at 640px x 480px as it is merely a demonstration piece.
Then select the Rectangle Select tool, click Rounded corners in the options palette, setting the corner radius as required, and then draw a lozenge on the canvas. This is then filled with a color by clicking Edit->Fill with FG Color. The color should be a mid tone and not too light.
In the Layers palette, select the new layer and click on the create a duplicate layer button, the fourth button in the bottom bar of that palette.
Now select the Paths tool and click once on the canvas outside of the lozenge, about half way up the height. A second node can be placed on the lozenge by clicking at a midway point and dragging slightly. This pulls a handle from the node and causes the path to curve. This horizontal line can be finished by clicking outside of the lozenge on the other side.
The path is completed by adding three more nodes that turn the path into a distorted rectangular shape that is wider than the lozenge and extends below the bottom.
Clicking on Selection from Path in the options palette makes the path a selection with a moving dashed line and, having ensured that the top layer is selected in the layers palette, clicking Edit->Clear removes the part of the lozenge within the selection. This won’t be obvious because the lower layer is still visible.
With the top layer still selected, the Designer now has to click the Lock Alpha Channel checkbox that appears in the layer palette just above the list of layers. This prevents any changes to this layer affecting any pixels that are transparent.
The Designer now needs to select a background color that is a lighter shade of the foreground color that was used to fill the lozenge. By selecting the Blend tool and ensuring the gradient button is set to FG to BG, the top layer can be given a gradient.
This is simply done by clicking once just inside the top of the lozenge and dragging a vertical line down to about the middle of the lozenge – releasing the mouse button draws the gradient. Switching the foreground and background colors can give a different effect.
This could be considered finished, but one final step that adds a little depth is to resize the top layer slightly. This is done by clicking the Scale tool, checking the little chain link graphic besides the dimensions fields is not broken (clicking it toggles it) and then clicking a few times on the down arrow besides the height or width field, before clicking Scale.
By selecting the Move tool, the top layer can now be moved down and across slightly so that there is a fine border visible around the top layer that gives the visual impression of a slightly bevelled edge.
The glossy button graphic is now complete and can be exported into another format for use in other designs. This is quite a simple technique that produces an attractive result, while introducing new Gimp users to several different tools. By experimenting with the tools and the many different options available, Graphic Designers can produce a wide range of variations on this technique.