The GIMP: Designing simple pixel borders for images

This tutorial was made using The GIMP version 2.8.8

There is a neat built-in feature in The GIMP which allows you to create simple but attractive pixel borders/frames around photos or other digital artwork that you want to share online. I often find that adding a digital frame around an image can give it the final touch which really makes the piece complete.

Keep in mind that when using this feature it will add the border as additional pixels outside of your original image canvas. This means that if you add a 10px border to an image which is 600px wide will result in a new image which is 620px wide, 10px on either side. However, each border created will be created as a new layer, so you won’t risk merging anything with your original image and as such you can easily remove the borders later if you decide you don’t want them. Notice that if you do remove a border layer later you will need to make your canvas smaller again to remove the empty space around your image.


Open your image and resize it to the desired final size. Then click Filters from the editing box men, then Decor -> Add border.


pixelborder_borderwindowThe dialogue window which opens will then allow you to decide how wide you want your border to be, and this is measured in pixels. You can decide to have the border x and border y values the same or different. With the same values on both your border will turn out symmetrical, with different values it will turn out asymmetrical.

pixelborder_bcolorwindowYou can also choose the color by clicking on the current color box. This will open a new color dialogue window. Here you can choose a new color from the color picker, by typing in an HTML notation (hex code), or using the eye-dropper tool which is located directly to the right of the HTML notation box.

Last but not least it is important to choose the right delta value. A high delta value will create a border which looks a bit like a physical photo frame, with diagonal edges between the sides of the border which give it a slightly 2D effect. A delta value of 1, which is the minimum, will create a border with no differences.

Delta value 35 Example:


Delta value 1 Example:


Once you have selected the settings you want click ‘Ok’ to create the border.

STEP 3 (Example):

I often like to create complex borders which involve several steps and alternating borders in different pixel sizes and colors. Here’s an example.

First border: 10px x 10 px, white, delta value 1
Second border: 1px x 1px, blue (selected from image sky with eye-dropper), delta value 1
Third border: 7px x 7px, white, delta value 1
Fourth border: 10px x 10px, black, delta value 1

The final result:



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