How to Draw with Gimp – Digital Art Coming to Life

How to Draw with GIMP Digital Art Coming Alive
GIMP is a fantastic image manipulation software that can do anything you can think of to a photo, from retouching to making photorealistic collages.

The program boasts one of the best brush-based editing styles and tools, and you can use it for digital drawings.

Version 2.10 saw the software include an incredible MyPaint library to give more realistic painting effects.

Photographers understand the technical aspect of how to draw with Gimp, but note that GIMP isn’t built for drawing, and its official documentation states it clearly.

Having highlighted this disclaimer, I will share some drawing apps with a few free open-source ones.

Here are the best ways if you want to know how to draw images with Gimp.

How to Draw Freehand with Gimp

Freehand drawing is the most straightforward way, but it can be tough to execute this with your mouse.

A graphics tablet will be necessary for anyone who is serious about getting into digital sketching and drawing or paint.

Graphics tablets transform the entire process of using GIMP, thanks to the handy shortcut buttons and pressure-sensitive stylus.

Starters don’t need to break the bank for fancy designs, as small affordable ones give good results.

While you can do serious brushwork using a mouse, it will take you longer, and you don’t want to be demotivated because of your working pace.

Here’s the caveat: The tablet might fail to work immediately with GIMP, forcing you to learn the use of pressure sensitivity in this program.

Once you do this, what’s left is learning various brushes and how to use them.

MyPaint brush gives the most impressive visuals but you can also use the Pencil tool, Paintbrush tool or Ink tool.

You can find the former in the section with the last three tools.

MyPaint brush uses MyPaint library, an open-source collection, but you can use it for more things other than painting.

It boasts numerous brushes that can recreate any drawing media, including pastels, charcoal, pencils, and blending tools.

Before we dive into detailed steps, you need to a little preparation to make things easy and smooth.

Here are a few steps to follow:

  1. Launch the GIMP software.
  2. If you are using a photo or sketch as a template for the drawing, click on Open under the File menu to find the image file.
  3. If drawing without any image, choose New under the File menu to start a new file.
  4. Head to the Layers panel and click Background then type 50 (the digits) in the Opacity field, if you opened a photo or sketch for the drawing.
  5. Doing this makes the photo or sketch semi-transparent, which allows you to see your work clearly when you start drawing.
  6. You don’t want to draw on the layer accidentally, so click the Lock box.
  7. Press the Shift, Control and N keys on the keyboard at once to open a dialog box.
  8. In the Layer Name area, type Drawing, and choose Transparency before clicking OK.
  9. You can zoom into your image using the Zoom menu below the image window.

Steps for Drawing with the Paintbrush Tool

Choose the Paintbrush Tool in the Toolbox, and select Circle 03 under the Brushes panel if you want to draw a very thin line.

The digits near the brush show the diameter of the brush in pixels – it means that this brush size has a diameter of 3 pixels.

Use a short stroke to drag your brush slowly on the canvas, while examining its width as you compare with the background image.

You can choose a smaller or larger circle brush if needed.

Use short and even strokes to draw lines on the artwork using the mouse.

Ensure you aren’t tracing the original work, instead use your background image to guide you as you work on the new drawing.

Press Ctrl-Z if you need to undo brush strokes where necessary.

Pressing the keys once undoes a single brush strokes, but you can do it repeatedly if you want to delete more strokes.

Drawing with GIMP - Digital Art

Drawing Using Strokes

Freehand drawing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

There are other methods like drawing using strokes in GIMP.

The stroke method helps you create a path or selection and use the program to trace your outline in a pattern, solid color or any of the brush-based tools like MyPaint brush.

Use any of the Paths or Selection tools to create a shape template.

Selections are straightforward and quick, while Paths create better flowing, freeform shapes easily.

Using Selections

Selections are ideal for drawing the simplest shapes you can create using Gimp’s Rectangle Select or Elliptical Select Tools.

The Fuzzy Select tool also has selections you can use if drawing on images that have somethings in their backgrounds for better results.

Upon creating your selection, click the Edit menu and choose Stroke Selection.

You will use Fill Selection if you want to create solid shapes instead of outlines.

The process is similar for both but it is impossible to use a paint tool to fill.

You can set your options in GIMP by choosing from patters and solid colors to paint tools like MyPaint system, which is names Mybrush in some versions.

GIMP applies the selected foreground pattern, color or brush settings once you click on the Stroke option.

Using Paths

If you decide on the Paths option, you will access the Stroke and Fill Path commands under the Tools Option.

Check the shapes of your path and once you are satisfied, click on the Stroke Path.

GIMP allows you to select from similar options like applying solid colors, patterns, and paint tools to go with the shapes of your path.

The Fill Path tool doesn’t allow you to apply paint, thus it is ideal to fill all shapes by hand when using MyPaint brushes to draw.

Steps to Draw in GIMP using The Paths Tool

Head to the Toolbox and choose Paths Tool.

Click on a tool where you need the first spot of the new line to start or appear – you are creating an anchor point.
Click on the next point to create a 2nd anchor point. You will see a line that connects the two points. Keep drawing the line to create more anchor points.

Drag any anchor point to move the location and the connecting line automatically adjusts itself.
Click on the line joining two anchor points if you want to bend it.

Pressing Enter closes the path, and the first and last anchor points connect – avoid closing Enter if you aren’t ready to close a path.

Select Stroke Path from the Edit menu to create a new line from path you’ve drawn – this opens the Choose Stroke Style options.

Click on Stroke Line and key in the width you want, or you can choose Stroke with a Paint Tool and then Paintbrush before clicking the Stroke button to apply it to the line.

In the Layer menu, click New Layer to start drawing a new path.
Applying a stroke to a path on a layer transforms all paths on the same layer to the stroke you choose.

Steps to Follow When Using Shapes to Draw in GIMP

Click on the Layer menu to add another layer to the drawing.
Click the Ellipse Select Tool or Rectangle Select Tool if you want to draw using shapes.
To create a shape, drag your ideal tool over your canvas.

Click on the Edit menu, then Stroke Selection and key in a size (in pixels) in the Stroke Line section.
You want to use the same value as the brush tool – for instance, if the brush tool pixel was 3, use 3, or you can choose Stroke with a Paint Tool to replicate the paintbrush value to the shape before clicking on Stroke.

Click on the Rotate Tool and choose the shape if you want to change the orientation – this opens the Rotate panel, and you can move the Angle slider if you need to rotate your shape, then click Rotate to create a copy of the same shape in a new layer.

Click on the New Layer in the Panel and click Delete Layer.

Other Drawing Applications to Use Instead of GIMP

Tens of drawing apps exist that you can use professionally or for other tasks.

Here are three of the most recommended:


Inkscape can be mistaken for GIMP’s companion, but there are no known connections between them.

It is another open-source graphics application and is FREE.

While GIMP focuses on raster graphics, Inkscape majors on vector graphics, making it perfect for your graphic design illustration needs.

It doesn’t excel in freeform drawing, though.

You can combine it with sketches made using Sketchbook or MyPaint to get a neat and structured all-digital workflow if you take this direction.


Sketchbook is one of the best free-drawing, illustration, and painting applications that has a paid version.

It was formerly called Autodesk Sketchbook and initially free to use.

Autodesk bought the program and made it a company of its own.

It boasts a responsive drawing engine and unique interface.


You guessed right: MyPaint is the mother to MyPaint brushes available in GIMP.

There isn’t a doubt that you can use the tool in GIMP, but using it on its original application is more enjoyable.

Its design was meant for drawing and painting from the launch.

MyPaint offers numerous features unavailable in GIMP.

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