June 10, 2010


Creating Light Leaks on Photographs using GIMP

Light Leaks are a product of film in the camera being exposed due to a hole/gap in the cameras body letting in light. It is sometimes used aesthetically in photographs creating a sense of vividness or soft blurs of colour – usually red. In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create these light leaks in the GIMP!

Making light leaks on Photographs in GIMP

Making light leaks on Photographs in GIMP

1. Starting & Quick Masking

  • Firstly open your image that you’ll be applying the light leaks.
  • Using the Quick Mask we can select the areas where the light leaks will be, go Select –> Toggle Quick Mask (Shift + Q).
Starting and Quick Masking

Starting and Quick Masking (Click to view larger)

2. Using the Gradient Tool:

a. Radial & Linear

  • Grab the Gradient Tool: FG Only – White and either Radial or Square Gradients.
  • Now, using the gradient mask around the edges of your image in the places you’d like to have the red/orange.
  • As shown below, it is ideal to use both Linear and Radial to precisely mask:
Using the Gradient Tool - Radial and Linear

Using the Gradient Tool - Radial and Linear (Click to view larger)

b. Square

  • If you are in a rush – using the Square Gradient is ideal and covers each edge.
  • You may need to zoom out a bit to apply the gradient mask evenly:
Using the Gradient Tool - Radial and Linear

Using the Gradient Tool - Square (Click to view larger)

3. Applying the Quick Mask

  • Now to get your selection, go Select –> Toggle Quick Mask (Shift + Q).
  • You now have your selection and can apply curves to it: Colors –> Curves:
  • As shown below: Bring up the brightness on all (RGB/Value), then RED increase, GREEN decrease, BLUE decrease:
  • If you’d like to experiment with colours simply go Colors –> Hue/Saturation and shift the HUE!

Adjusting the Brightness - Curves (Click to view larger)

  • RED – Increase
RED Channel - Increase

RED Channel - Increase (Click to view larger)

  • GREEN – Decrease
GREEN Channel - Decrease

GREEN Channel - Decrease (Click to view larger)

  • BLUE – Decrease
BLUE Channel - Decrease

BLUE Channel - Decrease (Click to view larger)

That’s it!


Final Product

This technique of quick masking can also be applied to any gradient colouring you choose to do with a soft graduation/diffuse on an image, so keep it in mind as a simple trick to enhancing images.

If you get stuck anywhere just comment below!

If you’d like to use these photographs please Contact Me!

Please comment below if you have any questions and I’ll answer them ASAP!

All images on this site are copyrighted© – All Rights Reserved.

Written by Mike

Michael Scott is the publisher and photographer behind Scott Photographics! He is very passionate about his photography and enjoys sharing the best of his experiences for others to enjoy too! Contact Mike via email!
Read more from Featured, Gimp, Tutorials
23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 19 2016

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Michael!

    I spent all morning trying to get beautiful light leaks before I checked out your post. I love your tutorials and should have checked here straight away…

    As always – very helpful, very well explained and the result is even more beautiful than I could have envisioned it.

    Thanks again!!

  2. molly kaur
    Jun 30 2012

    how 2 download dis lomo photo effects ….
    any 1 noes the URL plzz send

  3. Jun 25 2012

    Hey Katie,

    You should be able to use multiple gradients, make sure the Quick Mask is toggled (Shift + Q) and the radius of the gradient or lengths are minor adjustments.

    The FG only, is just the way I say the gradient: foreground colour to transparent, eg. White (foreground) & Transparent (background).


  4. Katie
    Jun 14 2012

    Hi, I don’t quite understand how to get the FG only tool…it isn’t an option on the gradients in my gimp. And, how do you select multiple places to set a gradient? It would only let me drag one line, and if I dragged another, the one previously laid would disappear. Thanks!

  5. Mar 10 2012

    Hey Tamsin,

    The quick-mask method is just an easier way. You could instead create a new layer, use the brush tool (with colour) to paint around the edges and however you like, and then change the mode of the layer to soft light or similar.

  6. Tamsin
    Mar 8 2012

    I love light leaks! But is there any way to achieve a similar effect without using quick mask? Unfortunately, I have pphotoshop elements 8., which doesn’t have quick mask.

  7. Jan 9 2012

    Hi Caroline,

    I have not experienced this before myself? Why is it not possible for you to save it as a .jpg? Does an error message appear?



  8. caroline
    Jan 8 2012

    this was great great help! however, i have a question. since uploading it as an .xcf file won’t work, what can i upload it as? i’ve tried png and a few others, but even if they do work, it doesn’t show the light leak layer, but the original image. any help? thanks. :)

  9. Oct 10 2011

    Hi Rike,

    Sorry for the late reply! In the past I have been able to save things as .png files first, then I would reopen it and save it as a .jpg.

    Let me know if you are still having troubles.


  10. rike
    Oct 3 2011

    Thanks for sharing this trick. :)
    But I have a problem with saving the photo. it doesn’t save it as a jpeg… do you know what I can do??

  11. Danielle
    Feb 25 2011

    4 words: YOU. ARE. THE. BEST :) ;)

  12. Jan 14 2011

    Great to hear Georges!

  13. Jan 13 2011

    Thank you so much for doing this! Although I have found that to colour a certain area, sometimes you need to invert the selection, not sure if that’s because I did something wrong, but i don’t really mind (:
    I’ve been using it way too much so quickly!

  14. Jan 11 2011

    Always great to hear, thanks Lea!

  15. Lea
    Jan 11 2011

    Thank you so much!
    If been looking for something like this for ages!

  16. Michael
    Jul 14 2010

    Hi Megan,

    you might have some troubles with the Gradient/Blend Tool – check settings: White, Reverse(I use both directions for different angles), Radial. Also check out my gradient lines, that should achieve the rounded edges. However the selection is feathered so it doesn’t matter too much what shape it looks.

    If those do not work you could try another method:

    Duplicate layer, set top layer to color, then adjust to desired colours, and use a mask White, and use the gradient tool with FG: Black to leave only the corners in that colour.

    If that isn’t the problem, then comment below or email me!



  17. Megan
    Jul 14 2010

    Hi! I absolutely love what you’ve done with this photo and the light leaks. I’ve tried several times to follow the tutorial, but instead of lighting the edges it turns the center the hints of red that I want on the edges. Also, in your tutorial it shows the edges being rounded for the color effects and I can’t get mine to do that. What am I doing wrong?

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