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Creating hackergotchis using the GIMP

By Shashank Sharma on April 04, 2007 (8:00:00 AM)

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A hackergotchi is a picture of a person's head that's used as an avatar for identification on a blog. Any region below the neck is cut out, as are any portions of the picture that don't include the head. You can create a hackergotchi easily with a digital camera and the GIMP.
Since you're focusing only on the head, you don't need a very high-quality image to work with. The picture I used was taken with a 1.3-megapixel camera phone. Besides, a hackergotchi is typically 80x80 or at most 100x100 pixels, so many fine details and even defects like red-eye won't be noticeable.

You only need to use two of the GIMP's arsenal of tools to create your hackergotchi: the Create and Edit Paths tool (Tools -> Paths) and the Eraser (Tools -> Paint Tools -> Eraser).

To begin, open your favorite image with GIMP. Here's my original image.

I suggest you work with at least a 150% zoom. Right-click on your image, select View -> Zoom. Click on Other and enter the zoom percentage you are comfortable with.

The next step is to mark the outline of your head using the Paths tool. Press B or click Tools -> Paths. Start from any point on your face, then keep clicking the boundary of your face to draw an outline, like this.

Once you have a selection around your face, press Shift-Q to Toggle Quick Mask, as shown here.

Next, use the Eraser tool (Tools -> Paint Tools -> Eraser) to delete your head from the picture. As you can see here, your head won't actually disappear. This is just an intermediary step. We are still two steps away from a hackergotchi.

Your finished hackergotchi Once done, turn off the Toggle Quick Mask by pressing Shift-Q again. Click on Select -> From Path, to select your head's outline. Copy this selection (Edit -> Copy) and then select Edit -> Paste as new.

The final step is to resize your head. Click Image -> Scale Image and downgrade your head to 100x100 or 80x80 pixels. Voilà -- your personal home-made hackergotchi!

Shashank Sharma specializes in writing about free and open source software for new users and moderates the Linux.com forum boards. He is the coauthor of Beginning Fedora, published by Apress.

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on Creating hackergotchis using the GIMP

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Hmm

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 05, 2007 04:41 AM
You supposed to have a picture from the front, not from the side.
You want to look into eyes, not into ears.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

Also, you might want to add a dropshadow.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

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Yet Another

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 05, 2007 04:53 AM
hackergotchi: Yet another stupid and superfluous word from the dork(not geek) culture. (Thank heavens they'll never breed!)

The article explaining how to use paths and the eraser to crop irregular shapes was good though. Short, to the point and interesting.

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Re:Yet Another

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 05, 2007 07:08 AM
Hear hear!

It's called an avatar and they have been around for long enough for the article author to know about. Yet another rehashed piece of excrement from the wonderful world of "Web 2.0"

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Re:Yet Another

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 05, 2007 03:37 PM
Did you read the first line?

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Re:Yet Another

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 06, 2007 12:26 AM
Yes, but differentiating between a hackergotchi and an avatar is never necessary. I would therefore argue that creating a new term for it is useless.

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What about the shadow?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 05, 2007 12:48 PM
Don't most Hackergotchis have a shadow beneath them? I had hoped that the article would include steps to add the shadow as well.

Still, I do appreciate the tutorial.

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Re:Addung a Drop Shadow

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 06, 2007 10:35 PM
(I know next-to-nothing- about art/GIMP.)

On step 6, reordering the layers, the original layer won't move. It's labeled "Background", and although I can move the other two layers from top to middle and vice-versa, the Background layer won't move. I assume there's something special about the Background layer, and perhaps your instructions should indicate to duplicate this layer and then hide it by clicking off the eye, so I tried this, which I suppose works; this allows me to move the "Background copy" to the top, putting the shadow layer second, the white layer third, and the original layer ("Background") on the bottom with eye turned off.

On step 7, I click on the shadow layer, and then click on Tools -> Transform Tools -> Move, and when I press an arrow key, a dotted-line square moves over the image in the direction I push, but nothing about the image changes. If instead of using the arrow keys I use the mouse, the highlight changes temporarily in the Layers dialog box to the "Background copy" layer, and that's the layer that appears to be moving. When I let go of the mouse, the highlight drops back to the shadow layer that I had clicked on previously, and the image now shows my original picture shifted over a bit with the blackened image showing on one side of that image, but there's no mixing of the two images; it just looks like two Polaroids in your hand, with the top one shifted a bit to see a part of the one underneath.

Obviously I'm doing something wrong. I'm going to try the other shadow method mentioned, but I'd like to understand what's going wrong with this method.

Thanks!

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Re:Addung a Drop Shadow

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 06, 2007 11:13 PM
Never mind.

At some point, I had saved my work, and then re-opened it and worked on the re-opened version. That apparently messes things up. I started from scratch, and this time around it worked fine.

Thanks again!

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Re:Addung a Drop Shadow

Posted by: Administrator on April 09, 2007 12:20 AM
It got messed because you might have saved it to png or jpg, which do not support layers. In this case, Gimp asks if it should merge all the layers.

So, you can not start again, since no layers are left to work with<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

Cheers!

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It's even easier

Posted by: Administrator on April 05, 2007 10:44 AM
Just outline the head using the Path tool as you described, then:

- Shift-V (select from path
- Ctrl-I (Invert selection
- Ctrl-X (Cut)

Just resize and you are done. No need to mess with the (time consuming) eraser.

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Re:Addung a Drop Shadow

Posted by: Administrator on April 06, 2007 01:32 AM
An easier way to add a drop shadow:

Open your hackergotchi, and:

- Image->Mode->RGB
- Script-Fu->Shadow->Drop-Shadow

Set the X value negative for a shadow to the left, or positive for a shadow to the right.

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Re:Adding a Drop Shadow

Posted by: Administrator on April 06, 2007 01:54 AM
Funny! I did make a note to this in another comment.

Anyway, thanks for pointing this out.

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Addung a Drop Shadow

Posted by: Administrator on April 05, 2007 11:52 PM
Thanks for all your comments. Here's how you can add a drop shadow to your hackergotchi:

1. Click on the Keep Transparency checkbox in the layers tab -- on the layers tab, this is the checkbox next to the Mode dropdown list.

2. Click the duplicate layer button.

3. Select the paintbrush and paint your image black. Remove the Keep Transparency checkbox.

4. Click Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and use a setting of about 12x12 a couple of times.

5. Add a new white layer -- click the New Layer button and choose White as the Fill Type.

6. Redorder your layers such that the priginal layer is at the top, the blackened image in the middle and the white layer at the bottom.

7. Next click on the middle layer (blackened image) and select the Move tool (Tools -> Transform Tools -> Move). Now using the arrow keys move your image downward or sideways.

8. Save the image. You are done.

Enjoy!

--Shashank Sharma

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