Creating a colored tiles background

Introduction

I always wanted to share my GIMP skills and tricks with the world, so here is my first tutorial-like post on how to create a tiled background I had for my desktop wallpaper for a couple of months.

color-grid-light-repeat

Obviously the original has a lot more work into it, but after reading this post you will have a feeling about how I did it. I guess I will have to create video tutorials to satisfy all the needs and have a walkthrough from the beginnings to the final image(s). But for now, let’s read!

Create the foundation – the tiles for the background

As I want to create a 1920 x 1200 pixels large image, with tiles being 50 x 50 pixels each, I will have 38,4 x 24 tiles on the picture. Let’s make that 40 x 25, and we will centre and crop the final background.

So we want 40 x 25 tiles. Each should be 50 x 50 large and coloured with a solid colour. If we think before we do anything, we can imagine ourselves filling each tile with a random colour. Now filling 50 x 50 large blocks until we are satisfied is really tiring.

Let’s make the tiles 1 x 1 pixel each, and when we are satisfied, we will scale up the image. This way, we can spray the small image with 1 pixel large random pixels.
So let’s just create a 40 x 25 image:

Create a 40 x 25 image
Create a 40 x 25 image

Zoom in and turn on the grid if you want to see the pixels.

40 x 25 image
40 x 25 image

Fill with colour

What we are looking for is a tool that can put pixels on the canvas in random colour and with a little airbrush like jitter.

Pick the paintbrush tool, select the pixel brush and draw some strokes:

Standard paintbrush
Standard paintbrush

The standard paintbrush looks nice, but we want jitter – so let’s enable maximum jitter:

Pixel paintbrush with maximum jitter
Pixel paintbrush with maximum jitter

This is really nice, let’s add some colour to it! First, set the current gradient to a HSV blend from background to foreground colour to have a nice rainbow gradient.

Hue 360
Hue 360
Hue 0
Hue 0

After that, switch back to the paintbrush and choose custom brush dynamics and set the colour mapping to random. Now put some colour to the canvas:

Spraying colors to the canvas
Spraying colors to the canvas

This is just what we need. We could use the pencil tool too, but if you switch to it, set the same options and draw some lines, you can immediately see the difference:

Paintbrush versus Pencil tool
Paintbrush versus Pencil tool

The paintbrush puts colour onto the canvas where you move the mouse – but the pencil snaps to pixels and thus fills the whole pixel with 100% of the actual random colour. That way, with the pencil you get saturated, bright pixels – while with the paintbrush you mix several random colours (and saturation and brightness at the same time) into one pixel.

After the little sidetrack, finish the background – spray colours until you are satisfied. You simply have to continue spraying until you see no brighter pixels.

Finished background
Finished background

Scale up the image, so we can start working on the final image. Use no interpolation, so each pixel will end up as a 50 x 50 block.

Scale up the image 50 times larger
Scale up the image 50 times larger

Defining the look of the image

This is the time when you have to decide what look you want to create from this. You can go with a single colour look, a gradient or a rainbow like view you have already.

If you do not want to reduce the amount of colour variety, you should just reduce the saturation a bit. For the other two ways, we have to add a new layer with the hue blending mode. Try and fill the new layer with a solid colour:

Blue hue overlay
Blue hue overlay

Or a create a full image gradient and use the same hue overlay mode:

Gradient hue overlay
Gradient hue overlay

I will stay with the gradient overlay, but reduce the Opacity of the layer, so I will have some random colours around.

Add the grid

If you want to see a grid between the tiles, you can render it with the Filters > Render > Patterns > Grid dialogue. Create a new layer and render the grid on it. After that, you can freely adjust the overlay mode and opacity of the grid layer, so the desired effect will appear.

Rendering the grid
Rendering the grid

I have used two grids – one black and one white, so the tiles will not look flat.

Finishing touches

You could divert your route at the beginning, but from here, it is really a matter of fine tuning and customizing the image. Gather all the artists inside you and complete the image. Here is my quick version:

Colored Tiles
Colored Tiles

Feel free to download and use the image – or grab the “source” and see how I did it.
I hope you liked this post, please leave some comments!

2 thoughts on “Creating a colored tiles background”

  1. I am always looking for ways to play with gimp thanks for the lesson I will be coming back looking for more.

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