How to make a Cosmic Wallpaper in GIMP

This tutorial will hopefully help inspire you to create your own custom wallpapers and produce a great results in the GIMP.

Cosmic Wallpaper in GIMPCosmic Wallpaper in GIMP


1a. Background

  • Open a new document with the settings: 1600×1200, 300ppi (or 72 should be fine), Transparency
New DocumentNew Document


  • Download this image off Flickr (courtesy of skiwalker79)
  • Open the image in GIMP as a layer, File –> Open As Layers (Crtl + Alt + O)
  • Use the Scale Tool (Shift +T) to fill the whole background:
Scaling Background ImageScaling Background Image

c. Noise (Optional background)

  • Using HSV Noise you can imitate space – Fill the ‘Background’ layer with Black:
  • Go, Filters –> Noise –> HSV Noise, with similar settings as shown:
Noise BackgroundNoise Background

2. Light Stream – Brush

  • Create a New Layer ‘Light Stream’:
  • Download this rectangular brush (.gbr, ~360kb) and put it in your brushes folder (Resources/Share/GIMP/2.0/Brushes)
  • Grab the Rectangle Select Tool and make a selection the height of the document and around a third the width:
  • Now, use the Brush Tool with the brush ‘rectangle long’, settings as shown: Brush Dynamics: Random (no Hardness), Apply Jitter: 1.00, Use color from gradient (Standard):
  • And simply brush horizontally about 6 times in the selection:
Light Stream - BrushLight Stream – Brush

3. Motion Blur

  • To make it more Streamlined go, Filters –> Blur –> Motion Blur
  • Settings as shown: Linear, 256, 90°
Motion BlurMotion Blur

4. Scale – Rotate

  • Use the Scale Tool (Shift + T) to make it more stream like and stretch across the page:
  • Settings (roughly): 1600 x 2500:
Scale HeightScale Height

  • Use the Rotate Tool (Shift + R) to turn it 45°, as shown:
Rotate 45 DegreesRotate 45 Degrees

5. Add Colour

  • Create a new layer ‘Colour’, set Mode to Overlay:
  • Grab the Gradient/Blend Tool with Full Saturation Spectrum, Linear:
  • Stroke across the light stream:
Add Colour GradientAdd Colour Gradient

  • If you do not like the red sides you can Layer Mask them out:
  • Right Click on ‘Colour’ > Add Layer Mask
  • Select White:
  • Use the Gradient/Blend Tool: FG Only: Black, Linear, as shown:
  • Make 2 strokes (red arrows):
  • Apply Layer Mask after.
Add Layer Mask to ColourAdd Layer Mask to Colour

6. Masking Light Stream

  • You might like to mask the ends of the light stream.
  • Right Click on ‘Colour’ > Add Layer Mask
  • Select White:
  • Use the Gradient/Blend Tool: FG Only: Black, Radial, as shown:
  • Stroke as shown (red arrow):
  • Apply Layer Mask after.
Masking Light StreamMasking Light Stream

7. Adding Clouds/Nebula

  • To add “Nebula” create a new layer ‘Clouds’, fill with Black (use Paint Bucket).
  • Then go, Filters –> Render –> Clouds –> Difference Clouds:
  • Settings as shown: Randomize, Tilable, Detail: 15:
  • Set layer ‘Clouds’ to Mode: Grain Merge:
:Adding Clouds/NebulaAdding Clouds/Nebula

8. Adding a Lens Flare

  • Create a new layer ‘Lens Flare’, fill with Black (use Paint Bucket).
  • Now go, Filters –> Light and Shadow –> Lens Flare:
  • I positioned mine on a bright spot – by hovering your mouse over a spot you can get the coordinates (bottom-left of window).
  • Then set the layer Mode to Screen
Adding Lens FlareAdding Lens Flare

9. Adding an Ubuntu Logo (Optional)

  • Download this Ubuntu Logo ( ubuntu logo vector): Download (72kb)
  • Open in GIMP, go Image –> Mode –> Grayscale
  • Then drag the layer onto your Cosmic Wallpaper.
  • Scale to fit the Light Stream (Shift + T).
  • Then set the layer to Mode Overlay and Opacity to ~60%.
  • Just download the .XCF (at bottom) if this is too confusing!
Adding an Ubuntu LogoAdding an Ubuntu Logo

10. Vignetting

  • To attract the viewers eyes inwards to the centre you can add vignetting:
  • Create a new layer ‘Vignetting’, set Mode to Overlay:
  • Grab the Gradient/Blend Tool with settings as shown: FG Only Black, Radial
  • Stroke as shown (red arrow):

That’s It!

Download the .xcf file here!

If you get stuck anywhere just comment below!


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