Ocean Images – How to Make Water in GIMP

Recently, a thunderstorm knocked out our internet for 11 days. Given that I’m a blogger, forum administrator and somewhat of an all-around tech guy, I felt under-equipped without the Internet. Every few minutes, I thought “I wish I could Google that…”. I felt disconnected from the world, especially when seeing things on TV I hadn’t heard online first (that’s unheard of). So what does a computer guy do when he loses internet? He fires up GIMP and learns something new by himself. :D

Ok, so before I show how to create water, let’s take a look at what I did when I was Internetless.

Smoke on the Water - Deep Purple by Robert Wenger

The Ocean by Robert Wenger

The Ocean 2 by Robert Wenger

The Ocean 3 by Robert Wenger

Ok, so let’s make some water! Start with an empty canvas.

First, we need to add some substance to the water. Without adding a little bit of texture, the water is just smooth ripples and waves on one color. The effects just aren’t going to work well without some sort of texture. So let’s add some. Starting with a simple, white canvas, click “Filters”, “Noise”, then “Hurl”. Pick a randomization between 25 and 50. I picked 27 for this example. Now, click “Colors” and “Desaturate”. I usually desaturate by luminosity, but you can play around and try whatever you want with this setting. Here’s something similar to what you should have so far:

The first step to making water in GIMP

It’s not very impressive yet, but we’re getting there. Next, click “Colors” and “Colorize”. Decrease Hue a little bit so you get a nice dark blue-green color. Remember we’re aiming to get the color of the ocean. Increase Saturation so that the color is somewhat “stronger”, and decrease lightness so the colorize tool will colorize the white space too. For this tutorial, I’m using a hue of 175, a saturation of 63, and a lightness of -51.

Next, we need to make the noise a little less distinct. Apply a Gaussian Blur with a horizontal and vertical radius of 2. It’s under “Filters”, “Blur”, “Gaussian Blur”. It’s starting to look a little bit like a water texture now:

Step Two of Making Water in GIMP

Before we add the finishing touches, it helps to have something to contrast the water against. When we add some turbulence to the water, we need a different color to compare it against. I like to use a radial blend from transparent to black. To do this, make sure that black is your foreground color, then select the blend tool (mouse over tools in the toolbox to find the blend tool), change the gradient to “FG to Transparent”, click the reverse box next to the gradient, then change the shape to radial. Then, click in the center of the image and drag the blend tool to the edge of the image to add a black area encircling the water. The water should appear to be a sphere, like so:

Step Three of Making Water in GIMP

Now we need to add the motion to the water. This motion is the ripples and waves. Appropriately, the filters to create these effects are titled “Ripple” and “Wave”. They can both be found under “Filters”, “Distorts”. First, add ripples. Try an amplitude of 10. Then, add waves. I used 8 for the values for both the amplitude and wavelength. Now, there’s only one thing left – add some lighting and make the water stand out.

Step Four of Making Water in GIMP

To add lighting and the finishing touches on the water, we need to use some lighting effects. Lighting effects can be found under “Filters”, “Light and Shadow”, then “Lighting Effects”. Move the little dot in the image to just a little bit above the canvas, then click the “Bump Map” tab. Click “Enable bump mapping”, then click ok. Now, you should at last have some pretty cool looking water that looks something like this:
Step 5 of Making Water in GIMP

Now that you’ve got the basics down, try doing some other effects with the water. Try implementing water in another image. I discovered how to make water by experimentation, so if you experiment on your own with your own ideas, you should come up with some unique effects that you like better.

Let me see your creations!

4 thoughts on “Ocean Images – How to Make Water in GIMP”

  1. Hey thanks for this. I made one image using this as a texture/displacement map. It was a lot of fun to make. Cheers.

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