A UFO drawn in the GIMP

I’ve been playing around with the GIMP recently, drawing stuff, rather than editing or touching up photos. I decided to try to draw a small UFO, and the following post shows how I did it. There’s almost certainly better ways to do it, but I’m no Gimp guru!

[For those who don’t know, the GIMP is a free image processing program available for Windows, Linux and Mac, which has similar abilities to Adobe Photoshop.]

My main idea was to create the UFO as a rectangular image, and then to use the “Map Object” filter that comes with the GIMP to wrap this image around a sphere. So, first I created a rectangular image, four to five times as wide as it was high.

I wanted to have two chains of windows encircling the UFO, so the next step was to create a small layer for a single window. There are many ways to create a new layer, and I’m not going to go into details of all the methods. Please read the Gimp documentation if you want to know more.

One way is to open the Layers dialog either through the “Windows” menu or simply by hitting Ctrl + L, and using the small button at the bottom to create the new layer. I recommend right clicking the new Layer and giving it a name through the “Edit Layer Attributes…” option.

Anyway, having created a new layer, I selected a small rectangular area on it, and filled it with the foreground colour, black, then I used the “Select” menu “Grow…” option to grow it by 10 pixels all round. Here’s what I had at this stage. Note the Layers dialog on the right. I always keep the Layers dialog open as it is so useful!

OK, that’s a little hard to read, I know. The important bit is the bit in the middle, the black square surrounded by a white border, the current selection. I selected “Crop to Selection” on the Layer menu to shrink the Layer to the smallest size needed.

The next stage was to create more window layers with a window in each, so I just clicked the small copy button in the middle of the bottom of the Layers dialog about ten times, with no visible change to the image. This is because all the new layers get created right on top of one another! However, all the layers are listed in the Layers dialog on the right of the screen.

I then used the Move tool to move the new layers to different positions on the screen. I made sure that I’d spread them all out. See below.

As you can see, they are not exactly aligned and spaced, so that was my next task, using the alignment tool. I wanted this middle row to to be evenly spread along the mid line of the image, so in the alignment tool properties dialog I selected “Relative to     Active layer”. Then I selected all the layers on the middle line, and finally selected the Background layer. I selected the button to align the layers on the mid line of the image (the lower middle of the six buttons in the “Align” section) then I selected the button to distribute the layers evenly across the image (the one on the right of the first row of the “Distribution” section). Now the image looked like this :

So now I needed to make the second line of windows, just about the first line. So I created a further eight windows by repeatedly copying one of the lower windows, then I spread them out slightly above the other line.

Then using the alignment tool, I selected all the windows in the new line. I changed the “Relative to” value using the drop down menu to “First Item”, then aligned the windows to the first one by using the middle button in the second row of the “Align” section. The reason I aligned the windows to the first window rather than active layer is because otherwise the windows would simply overlay the first set.

Now I needed to space out the windows, so, leaving them selected, I changed the “Relative to” value back to “Active Layer”, then used the right most button on the first row of the “Distribute” section to spread the windows evenly along the line. They now matched the first line, as shown below.

At this stage I saved the image to disk, in case of accidents. The GIMP lets you undo the steps that you have taken in editing or creating an image, but sometimes (especially if you are experimenting), it is useful be able to abandon all your fiddling and start again from a known good image. However, saving an image means that you can’t backtrack from that version of the image.

Now I needed to apply the filter, but the filter appears to only work on a single layer of an image, so I flattened the image to a single layer (using the Image menu), and applied the Map Object filter to the resulting image (Filter->Map->Map Object…). I changed the lighting to make it appear that the lighting was coming from above and to the right and I also adjusted the orientation a little so that viewpoint was slightly below the UFO, as if it was flying overhead. These are options in the filter. I clicked OK and got the following result.

And that is it. It’s a simple enough image, but good enough for my purposes, and it shows a number of simple GIMP techniques. To create the image at the top of the post I merely hid the background layer and filled the areas around the UFO with sky blue. I hope that this post will be useful to someone.  Obviously there is a lot of scope to improve the image, perhaps by adding doors to the lower part, landing legs and so on, but it will do me for now.

Please read my books. The paperback versions can be found Amazon, and the eBooks can be found there or at your favourite eBook store. I mainly write fantasy fiction.

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My Books in eBook form, half price.


I publish my eBooks through Smashwords and Amazon, so that I get the highest visibility for them. Smashwords has a “New Year” promotion, starting Christmas Day and extending through to New Years Day. During this period, my eBooks will be available through Smashwords at half price.

My paperback versions of “The Last Beautiful Woman” and “The Mage and The Boffin” parts one and two are available on Amazon only.

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The Mage and The Boffin : Part Two

I’ve published the second part of my series, “The Mage and The Boffin” in paperback. It can be found on Amazon, here. This complete the collection of current stories about the Mage and the Boffin, but I’ve a few more buzzing about in my head. Please keep an eye out for a possible “Part Three”!

[Here’s the link for The Mage and The Boffin : Part One – The Early Stories.]

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The Mage and The Boffin in paperback

I’ve published some of Mage and Boffin stories in paperback on Amazon. I discovered that if I’d included them all, the paperback would be too long, so this is the first of two parts! The second part might make it onto Amazon by Christmas, but failing that, watch for an update in the New Year!

The details are as follows:

The Mage and the Boffin – Part One: The Early Stories (Paperback)
ASIN : 0473461900
Link : https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0473461900


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My Books on Amazon

I’ve found that it is not easy to find my books Amazon. Simply searching for my name as author might find them, and it might not. Below I’ve listed my books and the Amazon ASIN numbers. I’ve also included a direct link to my books using the ASIN numbers.

If you use the links below and still have problems please leave me feedback and I will see what I can do to advise you. In particular, you may get a message like this : “This title is not currently available for purchase”. The message may be caused by technical issues at http://www.amazon.com.

The Last Beautiful Woman (Kindle)
Link : https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07G6V3YZS

The Last Beautiful Woman (Paperback)
ASIN : 0473448858
Link : https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0473448858

How I Wrote and Self Published My First Book (Kindle)
Link : https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07GB6GZ3N

The Mage and The Boffin (Kindle)
Link : https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JLG1YV5


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A new book and an update

I’ve just published my latest book, “The Mage and The Boffin”. It can be found at your favourite eBook publisher. Just search for my name, “Cliff Pratt” and it should appear in the list.

It is a book of short stories featuring the two title characters and their friends and relations. Some of the stories relate in some degree to fairy stories and legends, but they are not simple retelling of the stories and are significantly different from them.

I have also updated my brief book, “How I Wrote and Self Published My First Book: My Path Through the Creative Maze”. This describes in some detail how I published “The Last Beautiful Woman” and why, and may be useful to anyone who is going down the same path. This is only available on Amazon as a Kindle book. If you don’t have a Kindle you will need a Kindle app.

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A New Book – the Mage and the Boffin

I intend to publish a new book in the next couple of weeks. It will consist of short stories about my characters the Mage and the Boffin. I still have to write a prologue and tidy a few things up. If you want to read the stories (for free, at least for now), you can find them on my website here.

Currently I intend to publish the book as an eBook, but may also make it available as a paperback on Amazon. Watch this space!

In the meantime, I have added a new Mage and Boffin story called “The Man in the Mountain“. It tells of the last few days of the life of King Arthur, from the point of view of the Mage and the Boffin.

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