GIMP – Using the Path Tool

In the last tutorial, I covered the basics of cropping an image for the web. This tutorial assumes that you know what was covered in the previous one.

When preparing a picture for the web, often you don’t want to include the background. In the last tutorial, the background of my desk was quite obvious. Lets use the path tool to remove it.

We are going to start with the same base image from last time.

In the last tutorial, I showed one way to zoom in on an image. A faster, and much more convenient way is to hold “Ctrl” and scroll up to zoom in, or down to zoom out. In order to put a path around the mouse, we are going to zoom in on the mouse.

After zooming in on the object that we are about to put the path around, we will select the path tool.

The path tool is a bit tricky to figure out, but once you understand it, it is very easy to use. The following screen capture shows me quickly putting a path around the mouse. Following the video, I explain exactly what I’m doing.

The first thing to do is select the major corners if there are any and the parts where curves change. To close the path, hold “Ctrl” and click on the first point. Once the rough path is complete, extra points are added in the curve by holding “Ctrl”, clicking on the line, and dragging out to the edge of the mouse. When these points are added, we can use the adjusting handles to adjust the curve. If “Shift” is being held, both handles will move together.

A curve can also be put in just by dragging the line without holding “Ctrl”. This generally produces a steeper curve, but once again, can be adjusted using the same adjustment handles, but from either size point.

Additionally, holding “Ctrl” and dragging from any point will add the handles for further adjustments.

After the path is finalized, it is time to turn the path into a selection. This is easily done by selecting the “Selection from Path” button.

With just the object selected, we will crop the image down to just the selected object. Just like in the last tutorial, select “Image” then “Crop to Selection”. The outlying image is cropped down to just a rectangle around the selected object.

Next, it is time to remove the rest of the area. The first thing to do is to select the area we want to delete. Currently, the object is selected. To do this, we want to invert the selection. Select this from the menu as seen below, or “Ctrl+I”.

Once the outlying area is selected, hit Delete. You will be left with a white background. At this point, you can save for web as shown in the last tutorial.

A few side notes: You may notice the brown tint around the completed image above. This was caused by reflection of light off the desk. Most of the time when I do this I use a white background instead of a desk or other color for this reason. It can be adjusted, but that is beyond the scope of this tutorial.


  1. Robyn said,

    October 21, 2008 @ 8:05 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to create such a clearly-written tutorial on the use of this powerful tool!

  2. Patricia said,

    November 25, 2008 @ 11:57 am

    this is pretty cool, thanks for sharing, i have used photoshop for nearly 4 yrs but am new to gimp and have trouble figuring out how it works but am realising there are some great similarities, thanks for this one

  3. Selective Coloring With GIMP — Andrew’s Home On The Web said,

    February 8, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

    […] Because of the shape and size of the ski, I have elected to use the path tool. […]

  4. Dr Paul said,

    April 14, 2009 @ 3:53 am

    Nice and clear. Thanks.

  5. harry_harry said,

    January 31, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

    awesome video man..!! 🙂 love it thanxx a lot .!

  6. Robert said,

    August 26, 2011 @ 11:51 am

    Thanks, now I vaguely understand the basic usage but surely the ‘Intelligent scissors [Gimp 2.6] makes this ‘Path’ tool redundant for close cropping?
    I cain’t view the video ‘cos my ISP is too slow [1.6Kb/sec – 8Kb/sec] but yer overview does provide a purpose.

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