Text to Path in GIMP

By Darrin Koltow

At some point in working with images you may want to add text, and to shape, size and color text in the same ways you do images. Non-digital media like painting lets you perform these operations easily. But digital painting programs like Gimp require that you convert text to another form before you can treat it as an image. That form is a path, which is another term for a vector graphic. Vector graphics are those you can scale to any size without degrading image quality.

Creating Text

To use the "Text to path" tool in Gimp you need to have some text to convert. To make text, click the "A" icon on the tool palette to run the "Text" tool, then drag on the drawing canvas to create a text box that will hold your text. Gimp will present a dialog box with a text area in which you can type the text for the text box. Type a few words, then click the dialog box's "Close" button.

Convert to Path

You can convert any text to a path with a few mouse actions. Click the item in the "Layers" palette that represent a text layer, then right-click. Click "Text to path" to make Gimp create a path from the text. You won't see the path at this point because paths aren't visible by default.

Viewing the Path

To see a path you've made from text, do the following: click the eye icons of all layers in the "Layers" palette except for the "Background" layer. This action turns off visibility for the clicked layers. Click the "Paths" tab to display the "Paths" palette, then click the eye icon for the top item in that palette. The text you created and whose layer you just hid will reappear, but in outline form. This outline is the path Gimp made from your text.

Verifying Paths

You can confirm that the text you see after running the "Text to path" command is a path by revealing the path's nodes, which are handles for controlling the path's shape. To reveal the nodes, click the tool palette icon shaped like a nib pen, then click the mouse cursor on any portion of a path you converted from text. Many circles will appear on the outline. These shapes represent the path's nodes. Drag on a node to move it, which will alter the shape of the letter to which the node you're moving belongs. This behavior indicates you can design your own letters to make custom fonts.