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Turn your car into a Dream Machine using Gimp - If you’ve ever wondered how they make cars look as good as they do in magazine adverts, then here we will learn how to get a good deal of the way towards creating a professional-looking advert for a car of your choice.
We are going to change the colour of this sports car and take it from its current background to a nice reflective showroom-style backdrop. This project requires a good amount of time and features some reasonably difficult steps, so don’t attempt this one until you’ve got a good understanding of Gimp and what exactly it can achieve.
Have a look at a few of our previous Gimp tutorials here if the program is new to you.
Step 1 Our first step is to cut out the car - if we want to really show off the car we have to remove all the clutter around it that may distract the eye.
Duplicate the background layer before you start and rename it ‘Car’, as this layer will eventually contain just that. Since the car is quite a complex and curvy shape, use the Path tool (there's a useful tutorial here on using Gimp's Path tool) to create an outline around it, and when you have done so invert your selection and delete the surrounding area on the new layer.
Step 2 Now that you have your car isolated from its original image you can place it in a new scenario. You could place it in a new location, but to really focus all of the viewer’s attention on the car it is good to place it on an abstract background.
The easiest way to create an effective environment for the car is to use the Gradient tool. Create a new layer between the car and the original Background layer then rename it.
Select the Gradient tool and set the foreground and background colours; I used black to a mid grey so as to keep things simple. Then in the left hand pane change the ‘Repeat’ setting to Triangular Wave so you can have the gradient run through more than once if you like. Now, in your new background layer, click in one area and drag a long line in the direction you want the gradient to run in order to create a smooth background.
Step 3 Now to either enhance or change the colour of the car. Both of these tasks require the same initial step of returning to the Paths pane, right-clicking the path you drew earlier and selecting ‘Path to Selection’. Now, if you wish to merely enhance the current colour create a new layer called ‘Car Colour’ and change to the Bucket Fill tool. Select a colour similar to the paint already on the car and fill the selection.
Change the Layer Mode to ‘Colour’ and apply a Layer Mask to reveal all the parts of the care that should not be painted. If you want to change the colour altogether, duplicate the existing car Layer then use Colours>Desaturate to make the car greyscale.
Now create a third layer and fill this selection with the new colour you want to use. Use the different Layer Modes to make the colour appear how you want then right-click the layer that you just coloured and select ‘Merge Down’ to combine it with the greyscale layer. Now use a Layer Mask to remove the areas that should not be painted such as the headlights and tires.
Step 4 Now to do some smaller jobs on the car. First we want the hub caps to look a bit brighter, so use the Lasso tool (‘F’) to circle one, and then add the other by drawing around it whilst holding shift. Copy these tires with Ctrl and C then paste them with Ctrl V and right-click the floating layer in the Layers pane and select ‘New Layer’.
Change the Layer Mode to overlay and the contrast should be increased, with the highlights looking that little bit brighter. Use a Layer Mask to remove any bits of tire you have accidentally copied then move the layer to the slot above the Car layer and merge it down.
Step 5 The blue sky that is reflecting in the windscreen is betraying the fact that the picture was originally taken outside, so we have to remove this to make the image more convincing.
Select the Lasso tool and roughly select the window, then create a new layer and fill the area you have selected with black using the Bucket Fill tool. Then deselect the window using Control, Shift and ‘A’ before using a Paintbrush to colour any areas you were unable to select accurately such as the window frame and between the windscreen wipers.
Change the Layer Mode to ‘Saturation’ and the windscreen will now be greyscale, and the blue sky and any of the car’s original colours that may have been showing through the window will be gone. You can merge the layer containing the window tint back into the car at this point to keep things tidy.
Step 6 Now for the most difficult part of the job to get right; we are going to create a reflection of the car in the floor to make the picture that little bit special. Because the view of the car in this photograph is from a higher position and facing a corner of the car this is quite tricky, but with enough tinkering it will eventually look convincing enough.
To begin with merge the Car Colour layer down into the Car layer and then lock all your current layers by pressing the (currently) empty button between the layer thumbnails and the visibility button. This means that nothing you do will alter these layers, and by reducing the number of layers we have active we are less likely to make a mistake.
Step 7 We need to do the reflections piece by piece in order to make them possible; if we were to just copy the car and invert it we’d never be able to get the reflection to adhere to the base of both the front and the side because of the angle the shot was taken from.
So, use the Lasso tool to select the bodywork around the rear tire, but not the tire itself, and copy and paste it into a new layer before renaming it (there are going to be a lot of layers floating around soon so this is imperative). Right-click the newly pasted image and select Layer>Transform>Flip Vertically, then press Shift and ‘M’ to switch to the Move tool and drag the car part towards the bottom of the screen.
Step 8 This is where Gimp lags behind propriety graphics manipulation programs; while software such as Photoshop has a ‘Free Transform’ tool to perform several functions with the one tool, in Gimp you have to use several tools and constantly switch between them. It really is best to learn the shortcuts for these tools before approaching this task; we will probably be using the Scale (Shift and T), Shear (Shift and S), Move (M) and Rotate (Shift and R) tools depending on the car you are using and how each piece of reflection matches up.
Place the piece of car we copied before near the skirt of the car and then press Shift and ‘S’ to activate the Shear tool, place your mouse near one of the vertical edges of the box surrounding the piece and then click and drag your mouse up and down until you have what should be the bottom of the car in the reflection parallel with the real car’s bottom.
The best way to check this is to use the move key to drag the piece towards the car and see if the lines match up. If the piece you are currently working with has somehow become longer than the section of the car you are trying to reflect then use Shift and T to activate the Transform tool and resize using one of the corner tags. In the screenshot above, you can see that the base of the piece and the car run alongside each other, meaning that the reflection from this section should be reasonably accurate.
Step 9 Do the same to each progressive segment along the side of the car until you have a full side. It doesn’t matter if all the reflections in the metalwork match up, just as long as the body shape remains intact.
Copy the tyres and match up the top of the reflected tire to the bottom of the original, then begin to construct the full reflection using the tire as a starting point.
Use the Shear, Rotate and Transform Tools where necessary to correct the angle of the reflections and create a uniform side of the car.
Step 10 You can now merge the layers comprising the side reflection since they are now all matched up and start on the front reflections. Once you have matched all these reflections up you can merge them down into the reflections layer too.
Now to create a realistic reflection effect open Filters>Distorts>Ripple.
Set the Period setting high enough to prevent the effect being too erratic, we want a gentle undulation here, and put the amplitude up enough to create a noticeable effect but again nothing too extreme.
I used settings around 90 for the Period and then about 5 for the Amplitude, so you can see that you don’t need particularly harsh settings to get a clear effect.
Step 11 Obviously that reflection is far too vivid and crisp to be real, so what we want to do now is combat this problem using the Gaussian Blur filter. So open Filters>Blur>Gaussian Blur and set the radius quite high, we only want the colour and shape to show really, not the individual details.
Step 12 Now set the layer opacity for the reflections down quite a bit, around 30% should be enough if your car is a colour that contrasts clearly with your background like mine.
Create a Layer Mask on the Reflections layer and use a straight black to white gradient tool to fill it so that the lower edges are more transparent than the areas nearest the car.
In my image this meant placing the black in the bottom right corner and progressing quickly through a short gradient (with the repeat now turned off) to the white in the top left.
Step 13 Now create a new layer between the car and the background and name it Shadow. We are going to use this layer to do exactly as the name suggests; we are going to draw in a shadow. Equip a soft-edged paintbrush with black as a foreground colour and then draw under your car where you believe the shadow would go.
You can soften the edges of the shadow using a soft-edged eraser set to around 40% opacity, then when you are happy with the shadow’s shape, reduce the layer’s opacity setting until it looks believable. Place the Reflections layer between the Shadow and the Background layers so that the shadow will go over the top of it.
And there you have it - a gorgeous car fit for an advert.