Out of Bounds – Eye-catching photos made easy

Blurred Perception

The next step involves blurring the frame, which is somewhat tricky to do, even though it might not seem so at first glance. The ultimate effect is largely dependent on the settings chosen. You should be very precise in inserting the frame in a position that logically fits with the image.

Frequently, it is helpful to set up guides and paths around which the frame can then be created. To create a guide, first make sure that View | Snap to Guides is activated, then use the mouse to click and drag from one of the rulers that sit at the edge of the display. The use of guides ensures that the edges of the frame are parallel and perpendicular.

An alternative is to use Tools | Paths to create guides. Paths allow for random angles, and they can be traced with a paint tool and used with vanishing points (Figure 5), which should lie outside of the image surface to produce realistic effects. When View | Snap to Active Path is enabled, the reference points for a selection or another path are snapped to the vanishing line.

Figure 5: To work with vanishing points outside of the image, scale the image view and apply the path tool.

No general rules determine how to adjust the perspective for the frame. The best plan is to create a frame and then experiment with several copies. When dealing with flat frames that are lying down or standing almost perpendicular, you should leave two edges parallel and then adjust the perspective on just one edge. Occasionally, randomly placed frames work well in the image you're working with, and interesting effects can be created by placing multiple frames in an image (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Multiple frames and partial color saturation create interesting effects.

These methods let you build frames quickly and easily. The printed photos show that these simple frames can be improved relatively easily by creating a monochromatic frame on a separate layer.

The frame can be curved with the Filters | Distorts | Curve Bend option. You should manipulate all of the layers equally by linking them together. Then you should drop shadows from the frame with Filters | Light and Shadow | Drop Shadow.

For a good alternative self-built frames, G'MIC has filters that automatically create frames. The global filter Frame [painting] is found in the Frames section (Figure 7). Although it has been around since 2012, the filter still seems largely unknown. With relatively few parameters, you can achieve a number of results.

Figure 7: G'MIC offers an all-purpose filter for creating frames that makes it easy to achieve appealing results.

The Size (%) parameter controls the thickness of the frame relative to the width of the image. Contrast and Smoothness specify the shape. A high value for Smoothness creates rounded shapes, and high contrast produces relatively thick frames. Clicking on the Color box lets you choose the basic color for the frame, and it comes with a pipette, so you can incorporate a color that occurs in the image.

The Vignette options can darken the corners of the image contained within the frame. Although usually an unwanted effect, it can create a realistic impression with relatively thick frames. The Defects options let you simulate small, random flaws in the lacquer of the frame in an almost photorealistic manner.

The Serial number parameter is almost completely undocumented. The only information about it comes from experiments (Figure 8). If you are working with a randomly shaped selection when calling this filter, G'MIC creates a frame for the bounding box; otherwise, it surrounds the entire current layer with a frame.

Figure 8: The Serial number effect controls the shape of the frame; however, it does so in a completely mysterious manner. The three versions show frames with minimal, mid, and maximum values.

You can achieve a 3D effect with the OOB image by placing the frame layer over the original image layer, erasing the places where elements are supposed to be in front of the frame. You use the same tools to adjust the shape to the gaps in the frame. Alternatively, you could copy the layer with the original image and place it over the frame layer. In either case, you can use drop shadows to enhance the 3D effect of the frame and perspective shadows for the content (Figure 9).

Figure 9: The combination of perspective shadows and drop shadows creates the impression of three dimensions.


The backgrounds used in the image take on more meaning than you might otherwise imagine, because they surround and round out the image that has been created. Once again, you have basically two possibilities.

Plain backgrounds tend to emphasize an image rather than detract from it. This choice is suitable, for example, for flowers or other simple objects. One example is to use backgrounds extracted from the original image that you either blur or desaturate (Figure 6).

Another alternative uses complex backgrounds that then have to be incorporated into the entire composition. In rare cases, it is a good idea to forgo special backgrounds completely (Figure 10).

Figure 10: In some cases, you do not need to use a special background.

Most of the time it makes sense to use the Blend Tool to create a plain background. Various colors and shapes are available that let you blend from the color of the foreground to the color of the background. Both colors should come from the original image.

The background in Figure 8 starts with the blurred original image created with the G'MIC filter Frame [blur]. It was first applied to a layer in the background; then, I attached the original image on top. This process often leads to softer and more harmonious backgrounds than when the Gimp Gaussian Blur filter is used.


Out-of-bounds photos are created with the use of visually appealing tricks that require a significant increase in knowledge about effects in Gimp. To create these photos in a half-way convincing manner, you use numerous basic image manipulation functions and diverse elementary techniques. The adage "practice makes perfect" applies, but your reward will be the appeal of the resulting images to the viewer.


  1. "Layer Effects" by JonStipe: http://registry.gimp.org/node/186
  2. G'MIC: http://gmic.eu
  3. Inkscape: http://www.inkscape.org

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