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Straight Lines And You - Beginners GIMP Tutorial

written by: Jesma•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 9/2/2009

GIMP is an open source image manipulation tool for Windows and Linux, but many new users are easily confused about how to use it to the fullest. In this GIMP tutorial we explain how to create an old classic: The Straight Line

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    MS Paint Functions with Photoshop Power

    GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a highly powerful and complex tool, very similar to Photoshop, and in some ways better. Not only is it completely free of charge, being open source, it is available for Windows and Linux operating systems as well. Even better is the fact that dozens of independent enthusiasts are constantly working to make GIMP better, while hundreds others design scripts and plugins to make the GIMP experience even more powerful.

    But, if you're a user new to GIMP, you might be missing some of the familiar tools from the far less sophisticated image software out there - like Microsoft Paint. Even that antiquated and elementary program has the ability to make straight lines from point A to point B, but GIMP doesn't appear to have that functionality at all...... or does it?

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    So Simple They Forgot to Make it Obvious

    I'm not going to lie - I used GIMP for a very long time without ever knowing how to make straight lines easily. The fact is though, that not only does GIMP have the ability to make straight lines, it has the ability to use these straight lines with many of it's complex tools.

    It would make sense for one to be able to make a straight line using a the basic paint brush tool, so let's start with it.

    This simple image was made entirely with the GIMP paint tool and the straight line modifier. How?

    Step 1: Select the Paint Brush tool. Make a single mark on the canvas - this will be the starting point of your first line.

    Step 2: Hold down the shift key and move the cursor around the canvas. You will see the "ghost" image of where the line will go. Click anywhere on the page to create the line from our starting point to there.

    That's the only trick to it! The all-powerful shift key. The line will mimic the size, opacity, and shape of whichever brush you choose, so you won't end up with awkward circles with lines connecting them.Make Straight Lines With GIMP Tutorial 

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    Fun With Lines!

    There are several tools besides just the Paint Brush which can be used to make straight lines. The technique is exactly the same, too. Simply hold down the shift key to create a line from point A to point B. Here are some more examples:

    Dodge / Burn GIMP tool straight line 

    I made this pink image using the gradient tool and the line is from the Dodge/Burn tool, and the shift modifier:

    GIMP Straight Line Eraser This is a bucket filled gray image with the Sand Dunes eraser brush used to create the X.

    GIMP Tutorial - Straight Lines All of the lines in this image were made with a round white Air Brush on a blue background, using shift to get straight lines.

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    The Straight Line Tool List

    GIMP tools capable of straight lines Currently there are eight GIMP tools that can use the shift key monitor to get straight lines. These include:

    The Pencil tool, the Paint Brush tool, the Eraser, the Airbrush tool, the Clone tool, the Blur tool, the Smudge tool, and the Dodge tool. If you're confused about what those tool icons look like, they're the ones shown here on the left, inside the pink boxes.