In this tutorial, we will learn how to create a sand texture that can be used as a background behind a web page or for game or architecture simulation. Our sand will have background colors that can be changed but with the sand texturing on top. This tutorial assumes basic familiarity with Gimp 2.6’s workspace. Mac keyboard shortcuts will be given in parenthesis where necessary. Also, Gimp commands, menu items and dialog information will be in bold. Layer and file names will be in italic.

  • 1. First we can create a New file 144 x 144 pixels (2″ x 2″ at 72 ppi). Under Advanced Options, Fill With White. We can then Save the file as an xcf with a descriptive title. I named mine sandtutorial02.xcf
    Gimp's New Image screen
  • 2. Next, we Zoom in twice by pressing Shift and the plus key (+)
  • 3. The next step is to create a background color using the Bucket Fill tool in the Toolbox. Click the foreground swatch to change the color. Here, I chose Red=193, Green=193, Blue=193 for a light gray
    Background color
  • 4. We now create a New Layer just above the Background layer by clicking the icon in the lower left of the Layers, Channels and Gradients dialog box. Name it Highlights
    Highlights layer
  • 5a. Next, we change the foreground color to White. After that step, we will paint circular shapes with the Airbrush tool. For this, we can use the Circle Fuzzy (17) brush with a Scale of 2.0 and Pressure of 20.0 as shown in the screenshot below:

    Then, we click and hold to create the circular shapes as shown below:
    Highlights in the drawing
  • 5b. We next apply the Overlay Mode to make this semi-transparent. This can be found in the dropdown at the top of the Layers tab
  • 6a. Next, we add a “Noise” texture to the Background layer. Go to the Filters menu item and mouseover Noise
  • 6b. From there, choose RGB Noise, check Correlated Noise and uncheck Independent RGB
  • 6c. Move the sliders until Red, Green and Blue equal 0.05. A screenshot of our drawing thus far is shown below:
    Image with noise applied to the background
  • 7. Now, we need to offset the Highlights layer by half. For this, we go to Layer > Transform > Offset. In the Offset dialog box, click Offset by x/2, y/2
    Offset dialog box
  • 8a. We can now fix the seamlines in the center by applying the Airbrush tool with the same settings as before
  • 8b. Also, we can use the Eraser tool with the Circle Fuzzy (19) brush at Scale: 2.00 to even out some of the highlights with the background. The look is pictured below:
    Highlights after offsetting
  • 9a. Next, we create another Layer above Highlights named Shadows
  • 9b. First, we can change the Foreground color to a bluish shadow color. For this, I used Red=81, Green=95 and Blue=104
  • 9c. Using the Airbrush tool with the same settings as before, we click and hold again to create the circular shapes
  • 9d. Since this color is pretty strong, I lowered the Opacity to 30.0 and applied the Multiply Mode
  • 10a. Next, we Offset the Shadows layer
  • 10b. Also, we can use the Airbrush tool to erase the seams and the Eraser tool to make it look less blotchy. The final image is shown below:
    Final image

When we create our sand image this way, we can easily swap in a new background color in place of the original color by adding a new layer with our desired color. On each new layer, simply add noise using RGB Noise with the settings explained earlier and that’s it! Below are saved PNG files with the color codes used.

Red= 158, Green=139, Blue=117 Red= 115, Green=82, Blue=64
Brown sand Red sand
Red= 194, Green=170, Blue=134 Red= 215, Green=219, Blue=230
Tan sand White sand

Wanna see more great tutorials? Check out