Creating Simple Dice with GIMP

In my previous article I drew those red dice myself, using GIMP. Since I really enjoyed figuring out how to do it, and actually doing it, here is a little tutorial.

The numbers and sizes are arbitrary, so feel free to adjust things if you think they look better. I am no artist. I am sure someone could take this further to make it look better, perhaps by making the pips look indented, or adding some transparency effect so the dice look clear. I am a GIMP newbie.

Step 1: Make a Face

In GIMP, create a new 300x300 image and fill it with a dark red. I used c30808 for this. This will be the base color of the dice, so if you want differently colored dice, choose whatever color you like.

Plain 300x300 image.

Step 2: Make Pips

Next we use the ellipse selection tool (e) to make pips. In the settings, set the ellipses to a fixed size of 75x75.

Ellipse size fix.

Create the ellipse and move it to the upper left-hand corner. Use the arrow keys to nudge it to position (5, 5) — or just type in these values.

Pip selection.

Use bucket fill (shift+b) to fill the selected area with white, or whatever color you want your pips to be. Keep doing this to make pips in each corner. The positions should be (5, 220), (220, 5), and (220, 220). This makes the 4 face. Put a fifth pip in the middle, (112, 112), to turn it into a 5 face.

5 pips

Step 3: Make More Faces

You now have one face of your die. The 1, 2, 3, and 4 faces are the same as the 5 face, but fewer pips. In the layers dialog name the current layer "5". Now, duplicate the layer (shift+ctrl+d) and name this new layer 4. Use either the paintbrush tool (p) to paint your base color over the middle pip, or use the selection tools to remove it.

Keep duplicating layers and removing pips until you have 5 faces: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Layers dialog showing 5 faces.

Duplicate the "4" layer and create two more pips to make the 6 face. You now have 6 layers, each containing a single face. Here is my .xcf when I was done: dice-faces.xcf.

Step 4: Map it to a Cube

Now comes the fun part, the real guts of the drawing. You are going to map these layers onto a cube. Go to Filters -> Map -> Map Object. Map to "Box" and select Transparent background and Create new image.

The mapping interface.

Under the Orientation tab adjust the rotation. For the first die, try something like (20, 40, -5). If you enable Show preview wireframe you can see your adjustments live. Just don't make these values too high or it will make the next step more difficult.

Under the Box tab set the Front, Top, and Left faces to different layers. Note that the opposite sides of a die always add up to 7. That is, 1 is opposite to 6, 2 is opposite 5, and 3 is opposite 4. Here is how a typical die looks.

Die faces.

If you are really picky, you might want to pay attention to the orientation of the 3's, 2's, and 6's and flip those layers accordingly.

Hit Preview! to see your work. If you are happy, click OK. Autocrop the new image with Image -> Autocrop Image.

A single die.

Step 5: Make More Dice

Do this a few more times with different faces at different orientations. I will make just one more for the example.

Create a new 640x480 image with transparent background. Copy and paste your dice into this image. After each paste, make a new layer (shift+ctrl+n), so each die gets its own layer. Use the Move tool (m) to adjust the dice into a sort-of mid-roll. Whatever looks good.

Dice are positioned.

Step 5: Make Shadows

The last part left is the shadow. First, merge the visible layers (shift+m), then duplicate the remaining layer. Call this new layer "Shadow".

Go to Colors -> Brightness-Contrast. Set contrast to -127. This will be the shadow. If you want a darker or lighter shadow, open the same dialog again and adjust the brightness. Next scale the shadow layer vertically by 50%. You want the width to remain the same.

Select the Sheer tool (shift+s) and sheer the layer in the X direction -100 pixels. Move the shadow layer to the bottom. Now use the Move tool (m) to move the shadow into an appropriate position.

You can add a penumbra by applying a Gaussian blur to the shadow layer: Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur. I blurred mine by 5 pixels.

Finally, you might want to autocrop the layers, then fit the image canvas to the layers, which will get rid of the excess border.

Final step.

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Chris Wellons