A Gimp circle tutorial: How to draw a circle in Gimp

Gimp FAQ: How do I draw a circle in Gimp?

I just used Gimp to create several circle images in my iPhone Safari browser privacy and security tutorial, and here’s a short tutorial on how I created them. I normally use hollow circle images to highlight something in the original image, I’ll demonstrate that here, but I’ll also show how to create solid circles in Gimp, which are even easier to create.

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How to draw a circle using Gimp

Here are the steps to creating a circle in Gimp, specifically a hollow circle:

  1. Create a new layer in your image.
  2. Select the Ellipse tool from the Gimp Toolbox.
  3. Draw an ellipse/circle where you want it on your image. (Click one spot, drag the mouse to a second spot, and then release it.) I recommend making it just a little bit larger than you think you’ll need it, because the circle border will have a slight width to it. (Hold down the Shift and Alt keys while drawing to make a circle rather than an ellipse.)
  4. On the Gimp menu, click the Select menu, then the Border menu item.
  5. On the Border Selection dialog that comes up, select the pixel width for your circle. (I know that’s not what it says, but that’s what it means.) I generally use two or three pixels. You can also experiment with the “Feather Border” setting to see if you like what it does.
  6. When you click OK on that dialog, you should now see that your ellipse/circle appears to have a border, with dashed lines making up the inner and outer border edges.
  7. Make sure the foreground color is set to the color you want.
  8. Finally, click the Edit menu, and select the “Fill with FG Color” option.

Assuming that all worked, congratulations, that’s how you create a circle with Gimp. Using these steps, you should have created a hollow circle in Gimp that looks like the hollow circle on the left of this image:

How to create a circle in Gimp - two Gimp circle images, hollow, and filled

As noted in the Comments section below, if on Step 4 of these instructions you jump right to the “Fill with FG Color,” you’ll end up with a completely filled circle, as shown in the right of this image.

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Creating an actual circle in Gimp (not an ellipse)

As soon as you use the Gimp ellipse tool, you’ll see that it really wants to create an ellipse, and not a circle. To create a circle in Gimp, hold down the [Shift] and [Alt] keys as you drag the mouse, and you’ll see that it creates an actual circle.

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About that Gimp layer

Note that you don’t actually have to create your Gimp circle on a layer. That being said, layers are good things, and the sooner you get used to working with them, the sooner you’ll be a much, much better Gimp user. This also makes your circle easier to click and drag to a different location, which is extremely useful.

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Creating a circle in Gimp: possible problems

I ran into one problem consistently when trying to draw a circle in Gimp. Using Gimp 2.6.3 on Mac OS X 10.6.x, when I clicked the Select menu and Border menu item, Gimp seemed to lose focus on my ellipse/circle. I don’t know how to fix this problem at the moment, other than to restart Gimp, which does fix the problem. 

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Summary: How to create a circle in Gimp

I’ll try to come back here at some point and add some screenshots to make this tutorial a little easier to follow, but until then, I hope this tutorial on creating a circle in Gimp has been helpful.

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Instead of step 4 onward wouldn't it be easier just to use the "Fill with FG Color" option on the Edit menu?

Did I mention that I'm not a Gimp expert? ;)

For a solid-filled circle, that's a great idea at Step 4. For my purposes of drawing a hollow circle, this is a better idea starting at Step 7.

Thank you for the suggestion! I'll update the article shortly.

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