April 24, 2010


How to make see-through text to image in GIMP

A really simple little trick to adding normal text to an image and making it look interesting! This technique can be used for nearly any photograph, however it is a lot easier to see the text with less detailed and contrasty photographs.


See-Through Text to Image!

1. Starting

  • Open your chosen image in GIMP
  • Now, add a New LayerFill with a colour that matches:
  • I used a Dark Blue: 004754

Open Image, then add a new layer with colour (click to view larger)

2. Adding Text

  • Grab the Text Tool – make a text box,  same size as image
  • Type your ‘text’ in capitals
  • Settings: Font:Franklin Gothic Heavy, Size: ~260px, Justify: Right, Spacing: 0, -90, -20 (roughly)
  • Space out your text best as possible, as shown:

Adding Text (click to view larger)

3. Selecting

  • Now on Text layer, go Right Click –> Alpha to Selection
  • Then, go Select –> Grow
  • Set to 1px (outlines are left over if not done)

Selecting (click to view larger)

4. Deleting

  • Now, delete Text (Edit –> Clear)
  • Then on Colour layer: Press delete again (same selection)
  • You should now have See-Through Text and the Image below!

Deleting (click to view larger)

5. Adding a Border (optional)

  • You could add a border to define the edges better.
  • Same selections as step 4 and 5, go Select –> Border:
  • Set to ~3px:

Adding a Border (click to view larger)

  • Grab the Paint Bucket: FG Black, make sure ‘Fill Whole Selection‘ is checked:
  • Then fill in your selection!

Border Result! (click to view larger)

That’s it :)! 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
41 Comments Post a comment
  1. Joel
    Jun 21 2017

    Even 7 years later this is still super useful. Thanks so much.

  2. Jun 8 2017

    Dear Nancy,

    Thank you for your feedback, I am very glad the tutorial was of help :)

    Kind Regards,

  3. Nancy
    Jun 7 2017

    You’re a rockstar! I searched many other forums with no luck, then this one talked me through the steps perfectly. Thank you!

  4. Aug 22 2014

    Thanks for an excellent tutorial. I got a bit stuck on point four but the comments sorted it out!

  5. Jun 13 2013


    To make the solid colour layer slightly transparent – adjust the opacity of the layer to around 90%, which will be a slider (out of 100) located in the layers toolbar.


  6. blu3nine
    Jun 13 2013

    This is Great! Thanks so much.
    One question…How can I make the solid color layer be slightly transparent?

  7. George
    Jan 28 2013

    You rock! Thank you very much!

  8. Alison
    Jan 10 2013

    Wow! This loks a hell of a lot easier than what I have seen on youtube. can’t wait to try it! Do you have anything for putting multiple images?

  9. Camille
    Aug 7 2012

    Perfect tutorial! So glad I stumbled on your site you were one of the few tutorials on this subject I could find…

  10. Aug 6 2012


    It depends on your file size, what resolution it is, as this will determine what font size you will need to fit it all in.

    There are many free fonts out there and dafont.com is a very good resource, you should find an appropriate one there.



  11. Faith
    Aug 3 2012

    Hi Mike. I’ve followed your tutorial and was wondering when you mentioned that your font size was 260px, how did you accomodate such a big size? When I tried that out, it was way too big for the screen. I’d like to have more of the image in my text, but I can’t find a font big enough (I’m on a Mac, by the way) or the font size is too big. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  12. Dec 5 2011

    Hi Gaucho,

    This is simply because the selection sometimes leaves a small outline from the text area and is not desirable. There are other ways to achieve this without deleting edges, however this is the easiest!



  13. Gaucho B. Agregado
    Dec 3 2011

    Hi Mike,

    lots of fun and learning I get from your tutorials especially here, but I was only picking the right explanation on what is the use of alpha to selection and select->grow?. can you give some simple words to this?



  14. Tiffany
    Nov 14 2011

    OMG Thanks You SOOOO MUCH FOR THIS! I have been looking everywhere for something like this where i dont have to use Adobe Photoshop! Thanks SOOO Much!!

  15. Nov 5 2011

    Hi Matt,

    Simply save your piece: File –> Save As (Shift + Ctrl + S)

    But to deselect: Select –> None (Shift + Ctrl + A)

    Good Luck,


  16. Matt
    Nov 5 2011

    first time using gimp. Thanks for the tutorial. One problem as a newb, what do I do after step 5 as my border is still flashing/highlighted, i just want to see the finished piece and save it.


  17. Jul 21 2011

    Hi Mary,

    To find Alpha to Selection, you can either:

    1. *Right Click* on your layer in the layers sidebar.


    2. Go Layer –> Transparency –> Alpha To Selection

    If you need any more help with your labels, you can comment or email me!



    michael[at]scottphotographics[dot]com or


  18. Mary
    Jul 18 2011

    I have tried following your instructions to the letter but fail to find Right Click –> Alpha to Selection in section 3.

    I am struggling to get to grips with Gimp because I want to put together my own product labels, with nice images and appropriate wording. Currently have basic labels and need something smarter.

    Is it possible for someone to ever understand all of this? I’m not a dimwit, just feel like one.

    Hope you can help.

  19. Apr 13 2011

    Hi Tapsy,

    I’ll have a look into it for you, but I think you might be right it is a .gif with some images changing underneath it! Looks very cool:)

    I’ll see what I can do!



  20. Apr 13 2011

    Hi Zach,

    For Step 4:

    You are deleting the text from all layers here:

    1. Delete the Text Layer
    2. Now to take the text outline out of the coloured layer (in the Screenshot it is called “New Layer”), just select (*Click*) that layer and press delete or Edit–>Clear
    3. You should now see through to your photo/image!

    If you are still stuck just comment or email and I’ll have another look for you!



  21. Tapsy
    Apr 12 2011

    Hi. This is so helpful. I really wanted this tutorial. But, can you make & upload a tutorial of see-through text to so many images(more than one image) & it should be in a .gif format? Please show us this tutorial too. I really want to learn this one. Here’s a link of the image type I’m talking about:—–>

    Thanks for everything in advance… :)

  22. Aug 27 2010

    Hi Kali,

    To fill in the border, use the Paint Bucket: FG Black (or whatever colour), with the option ‘Fill Whole Selection’ ticked, and then click inside your border selection.

    If you have anymore troubles just comment or email.



  23. Kali
    Aug 27 2010

    Found this very helpful, thanks! I’m a bit confused as to how to add the border. I got the border up there, but how do I fill it in with black? I decided I don’t want a border anyway, but it’d be good to know for future reference.

  24. Aug 26 2010

    Thanks Ying:)

  25. Aug 26 2010

    This was SO helpful! Thank you :)

  26. Aug 4 2010

    Hi Zach,

    When deleting the text – you need to delete both the text and the outline selection of the text on the coloured Layer so the image can see through.

    So, make the text selection, then press delete to remove the text, and now choose the other layer which has your colour, press delete again. Should now see the text outline.

    *In my screen shot I have my colour in the layer called “New Layer”*

    You could also uncheck the ‘eye’ on the text layer after you have made the selection, then on the Colour Layer (my “New Layer”) press delete and this should achieve the same effect!

    If that is all too confusing for you still just let me know via email or comment below!



  27. Zach
    Aug 4 2010

    Hi. I am new to gimp and am having trouble following your tutorial. I made it through step 3 just fine and I think I got the first part of step 4. But what exactly do you mean by “Then on Colour layer: Press delete again (same selection)”. I have tried a few things here and it is not working. Thanks!

  28. Jul 31 2010

    Hi Michael,

    firstly check the layers you are on when deleting – colour,text? With the Mac ‘delete’ it doesn’t work properly so I changed the assigned short key to ‘\’ for ‘Clear/delete (Edit–>Clear)’ (here is a screenshot: https://www.images.scottphotographics.com/how-to-make-see-through-text-to-image-in-gimp/clear-delete-mac-shortkey.jpg )

    Just comment below or email me if you have anymore trouble!


    Michael Scott

  29. Michael
    Jul 31 2010

    There’s not enough information about how to delete the text. I’m using 2.6 on a mac and you say to delete the text. However, when I delete the text, it also removes the alpha to selection and all I’m left with is the background color. Is it you, me or the mac? Thx,

  30. Michael
    Apr 27 2010

    Thanks for the feedback, I’ll check it out :)

  31. Gwen
    Apr 27 2010

    Have had trouble getting to this site today, had to go the long way round, just thought I’d let you know in case there is a problem with the new tutorial ?
    Great tutorials, one of my favourite sites

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