How to Make a Torn Paper Edge in GIMP

Add a tattered effect to photos using GIMP

It's possible to apply a torn paper edge effect to any graphic using GIMP. Because it requires the use of a small brush, the process can take a little time if you're working along large edges.

Instructions in this article apply to GIMP version 2.10 for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

How to Make a Torn Paper Edge Effect in GIMP

To make any image look like a photo with tattered edges:

  1. Open your image in GIMP and select Layer > Transparency > Add Alpha Channel to add transparency information to the image layer.

    The Add Alpha Channel command
  2. Open the Tools menu and then go to Select Tools > Free Select.

    The Free Select tool
  3. Click and drag to draw a narrow, jagged circle around one side of the image.

    Make sure the two ends of your circle touch to complete the selection.

    Click and drag to draw a narrow, jagged circle around one side of the image.
  4. Go to Edit > Clear (or press the Delete key) to delete the area inside the selection.

    Go to Edit > Clear (or press the Delete key) to delete the area inside the selection.
  5. Go to Select > None to remove the selection.

    The Select None command
  6. Repeat steps 2-4 along each side of the image.

    Repeat steps 2-4 along each side of the image.
  7. Select the Smudge tool. In the Tool Options palette, set the Brush to 2, the Hardness to 050, the Size to 10, and the Rate to 50.

    If the Tool Options palette is not visible, go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Tools Options to bring it up.

    The Smudge tool
  8. Go to Layer > New Layer.

    Steps 8-10 are technically optional, but adding an extra layer will make it easier to see the work you are about to do to the image layer.

    The New Layer command
  9. Set Fill With to White, then select OK.

    Fill the new layer with white
  10. In the Layers palette, click and drag the the new layer below the image layer.

    If the Layers palette is not visible, go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Layers to bring it up.

    Drag the fill layer below the image layer
  11. Click the image layer in the Layers palette to make it active, then zoom in on one of the edges by going to View > Zoom > Zoom In.

    You can also zoom in by pressing Ctrl + plus sign (for Windows) or Command + plus sign (for Mac).

    Click on the image layer in the Layers palette to make it the active layer, then zoom in on one of the edges.
  12. Place your cursor just inside one of the edges of the image, and then click and drag outside of the image. You should see a fine line drawn out of the image that tapers off.

    Place your cursor just inside one of the edges of the image, and then click and drag outside of the image.
  13. Continue making randomly angled strokes outwards along the edges to create a feathered effect that resembles the fibers of torn paper.

    Continue making randomly angled strokes outwards along the edges to create a feathered effect that resembles the fibers of torn paper.
  14. Go to Filter > Light and Shadow > Drop Shadow.

    Select View > Zoom > Fit Image in Window to see the whole image in the workspace.

    The Drop Shadow effect

    `

  15. Adjust the settings in the Drop Shadow dialog to add a subtle shadow effect to give your image a little depth, then select OK.

    Click the box beside Preview the see how the image looks before and after the effect.

    Adjust the settings in the Drop Shadow dialog to add a subtle shadow effect to give your image a little depth, then select OK.
  16. Once satisfied with the effect, right click the extra layer you added in the Layers palette and select Delete Layer.

    The Delete Layer command
  17. Go to File > Save As to save your image as a XCF file or File > Export As to save it as a JPEG.

    Go to File > Save As to save your image as a XCF file or File > Export As to save it as a JPEG.