Video Download – [.MOV] [.M4V] [.FLV]Lesson Document – [PDF]

Welcome to the GIMP class on creating scroll saw portraits using this great (and free) software. This class will last for 4 weeks with 2 lessons released each week. We will all work with the same image to create a portrait pattern (still to be determined). It makes it easier to troubleshoot problems that arise if we’re all on the same page. However, I encourage you to find a picture that you’d like to work on along side of this class.

Each class will include a video demonstration, as well as written out instructions. You’ll also find resource material posted with each lesson. This may include links of interest, or files you may download. I encourage you to ask lots of questions. That’s what this class is all about. If you find a technique that works better for you, we’d all love to hear about it. Also, feel free to upload files for evaluation.

This lesson is pretty much here to lay the groundwork. First lets go over what you can expect from this class:

  • Introduction – Introduction to pattern making and GIMP.
  • What Makes A Good Pattern – We discuss different styles of patterns and look at reference material.
  • User Interface Tour – A quick tour of the program. We’ll look at tool pallets and major sections of the program. We also discuss basic navigation through your project.
  • Creating a Workspace – We’ll create a workspace and do any of the preliminary tasks before we roll up our sleeves and dig in.
  • The Base Pattern – The meat of the pattern making process. We’ll use filters to establish a base pattern for us to work on.
  • Islands, Peninsulas and Lakes – The elements that make up scroll saw patterns. We’ll talk about how to handle delicate areas and create unique shapes that form our pattern.
  • Facial Features – We discuss various facial features and a couple tips to bring your portrait to life.
  • Final Touches – We wrap things up by checking our work and learn to export our pattern for distribution.

Why create your own patterns?

-There are lots of reasons why you’d want to learn to create your own patterns. First, you will make a pattern that nobody else in this world has. Being able to create something from nothing really gives you a sense of self satisfaction (plus it impresses your friends!)

-You may want to create a portrait of a loved one. Many people like personalized portraits of their pets or family members. This can be apart of a brag wall, or as a memorial for a loved one who has passed.

-You’ll be able to fulfill requests. Often times you’ll find fellow scrollers who do not have the ability to make personalized patterns for themselves. You’ll be able to help them out and create a pattern for them. That’s just good karma!

-And lastly, you can make some extra money with these skills. Word of mouth moves fast. Before you know it, you’ll have many commission pieces lined up. Offer your services at your next craft show. Nothing wrong with making a few extra bucks doing something you love. If nothing else, it will keep you in sawblades.

What is GIMP?

GIMP is a bitmap based graphics program that stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. GNU is a software licensing term that means that anybody can copy, modify, or redistribute this software as long as the same licensing terms remain with the new product. Basically it means it’s free!

GIMP is Open Source Software. A large community comes together and programs this software in their spare time. The source code is available for anybody to download, study, modify or improve. Since a large community programs the software together, no one person actually owns the software. This is why Open Source Software is free.

There are several advantages to open source software. First, obviously, is the fact it is free. Second, since a large community is programming the software, the program is always advancing and adding new features (assuming the community is active). Lastly, since the software source code is open to scrutiny, it is very unlikely that viruses or other malware can be inserted into the code. Someone will spot it and remove it immediately. So you can feel safe about downloading this great software.

Bitmaps vs. Vectors

There are two basic types of graphics out there. There are vector based graphics created by programs like Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, and Inkscape. Then there are bitmap or raster graphics like those created by Adobe Photoshop, Corel Photopaint and GIMP.

Vector based graphics are mathematical representation of an image. Vectors are composed of nodes which define the space in relation to other nodes to create shapes, lines and curves. These complex shapes are then layered upon each other in order to define an image. The advantage of vector graphics is the file size tends to be much smaller. You may enlarge or shrink down a vector graphic without losing quality because the nodes stay within the same relative position to one another. The mathematical formulas recalculate the image based on node information, so there is no information that is lost (or gained) during resizing.

Bitmaps are a rectangular grid of pixels (blocks of color) used to define a picture. The more pixels that are used in an image, the more information the image contains. This is called resolution. The higher the resolution is, the more detail you can pull from an image. You can enlarge a low resolution graphic. But since a low resolution only has so much information (number of pixels), when you enlarge it, it only spreads that information over a larger area. You do not gain additional detail by enlarging a low resolution graphic. (You can see an example here).

So why would we want to work with bitmaps? Most graphics you find on the internet, all digital photographs from cameras or scanned pictures, and most any other form of digital graphics are bitmaps. Even vector graphics eventually become bitmap images. Bitmap images are a convenient way to distribute images through digital mediums.

As scroll saw pattern makers, we often work with photographs. Since photographs are bitmap based graphics, it only makes sense to work in a bitmap graphics program. Bitmaps have the advantage of being modified easily, whereas vector graphics rely on complicated layering techniques and precise positioning of nodes. Using a program like GIMP allows us to change individual pixels with use of various tools. You can easily use a paintbrush to change the color of pixels, or use the eraser tool to remove all pixel color information.

Downloading GIMP

You can download a copy of GIMP from Right in the middle of the screen on the front page you’ll see a Download button. Click that and you’ll be taken to download page. The easiest way for Windows Users is to select the Installer option. This is a regular executable file that will install the program for you. Mac and Linux users will have to download them from the FTP and Web Mirrors section. (don’t download the Source Code as it isn’t compiled and won’t run on any system. These files are intended for the programmers).

User Manual

On the GIMP website, you’ll find a section called Documentation. This is the User Manual. Just select the language you prefer and everything is online. Be sure to bookmark this site. I’m sure you’ll be referring to it in the future.

You also have the option of downloading the User Manual. I don’t recommend this. First, the file is huge (40+ megs). Second, it’s not as up-to-date as the online version. And lastly, I don’t know how to install it. It requires complicated stroke commands. While I’m kinda a computer geek, that is waaay above my head. Just stick to the online version. You’ll be much happier.

Other Resources

GIMP is a popular program. As such, there are a lot of great resources on the internet to help you learn how to use this really cool program. As scroll saw pattern makers, we have very specific needs and probably won’t find tutorials we can incorporate directly into our patterns. However, going through these tutorials will help you understand the program better and learn what all of the tools do. Here are a few cool websites you might enjoy.

  • – They have a number of tutorials ranging from beginner to advanced. A great place to start.
  • YouTube – A great place to find video tutorials. Hundreds to choose from. I can spend all day here.
  • 25 GIMP Video Tutorials to Help Get You Started – A blog post from Six Revisions that highlights some really great tutorials.
  • Design Your Own Web – Some nice basic instruction on how to use GIMP
  • Meet The Gimp – A video podcast that uses GIMP to do some really cool stuff. Lots of material here!
  • Google – Lets not forget our good friend, Google.


  • Download and install GIMP onto your computer. Play around with it a little.

Get help and feedback at Scroll Saw Village