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Short tutorial on creating floating hacker heads to display on blog aggregators like


Usually a high quality image is not needed, it will be resized to a small size and a drop shadow will be added, so small defects will not be noticed; A high resolution image is prefered, the processing will be simpler and you will not need a very skilled hand. Select the source image based primarly on how it reflect your personality or attitude, not necessarily on quality.

In this tutorial I will use a poor image made with the crappy camera on my phone, as the focus is on the tools and methods.


In the first step, we need to cut the head on contour. Different methods are available: (do not forget to add an alpha channel to the layer, we want deleted regions to become transparent)

1. The Magic Wand

This is most usefull when the background contain large area with uniform colors, highly contrasting with the subject (not the case with the image used in this case). Use "Select contiguous regions" and ajust the treshold as needed.

NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 001.jpg

2. Cut on path

Use "Select shapes from image". Eventually work at a high zoom and add short segments. The results are good when the contrast between background anf figure is high.

NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 002.jpg

3. Quick Mask

This is a very powerfull tool, it may be overhelming for a simple hackerogotchi. Toggle Quick Mask, erase the face, toggle Quick Mask off, invert selection and remove it.

NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 003.jpg NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 004.jpg NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 005.jpg

note: i left the selection unifinished on purpose, the scope of this tutorial is to be quick.

4. Erase

This is the tool i use mostly. Select rectangular regions of the background and delete them. Then zoom in and use the eraser on the contour.

NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 006.jpg NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 007.jpg

Of course, you can use a combination of the tools described above.

The result should be something like:

NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 008.jpg


Scale the image down, for Planet Fedora it should be something around 80x80 px. After scaling, the images become blurry, so sharpen it.

NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 009.png

Add a small drop shadow.

note: most beginers are tempted to use the default value proposed by GIMP, do NOT do this, is too large for a hackerogotchi, use smaller values. In this case I used X and Y offset of 1 px and a blur radius of 4 px.

NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 010.png

An alternative is to use a perspective shadow (but for consistency with other people on Planet Fedora, a drow shadow is prefered)

NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 011.png

End result

In the end, you should have something like this:

NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi 012.png NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi nicu.png


Expect the task to become simple in the future, as the upcoming GIMP 2.4 will include SIOX a foreground extractor tool (article )

Still too scary?

If the process look scary, just post a raw picture (or a link to it) on your blog and ask readers for help. Or just ask me to do it for you.


A screencast featuring my own style of work:

NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi screencast.png File:NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi headchop.ogg Download video, OGG Theora, 13 MB]


If you want something special, do NOT folow my tutorial and allow your imagination to go wild:

NicuBuculei Hackerogotchi me.png

Nicu Buculei 2006