Checking proportions with the grid in GIMP

As I have been refreshing my drawing and painting skills, I have been relearning the measuring techniques. The most well known, of course, is the “thumb or brush” technique, where you measure your subject against something held in your outstretched hand. This is great, and can even let you transfer measurements directly onto your paper or canvas. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that well with an electronic canvas like GIMP or MyPaint.

Enter the grid. GIMP’s grid is very configurable. You can set it up to be any color you like, and set the spacing any way you like. I doesn’t even have to be square. I does have to be a parallelogram, so no luck if you want to draw over a hex grid.

The first thing I do is to use a ruler, rather than a brush or pencil, to measure the overall proportions of my subject. For She Loves Me, my subject was 12″ tall, in perspective. That gave me a place to start when I set up my image in GIMP. It was also about 4″ wide.

Now that I have an idea of how my subject’s dimensions relate to each other, it makes it easy to set up my grid. Since I had 12 “inches” of height, I set the interval of my grid so that I would have about 15 squares on the vertical axis. This gave me some room around the subject in which to work on positioning or background elements if I chose.

Then, I could rough in the various primitive shapes (a square for the cup, a triangle for the pedestal, and a couple of spheres and ovals for the bear. The grid allowed me a simple way of making sure their relative sizes were correct, without constantly going back and forth with my extended ruler. Once that was done, I could turn off the grid so it wasn’t distracting, and start working in the proper details.

Swallowtail in Lilly was even easier. Rather than “measuring” in perspective with an extended arm, I just had to set up the same grid over the subject image and reference that. Again, once my basic shapes were in place, I could drop the grid and just worry about the colors.


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