How To Create Speech Bubbles For Screenshots In GIMP

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create speech bubbles gimpPreviously we have looked at some tutorials for anyone, new or advanced, to try his/her hand at creating artwork in GIMP because it CAN accomplish phenomenal works, especially in conjunction with other open-source software. Here’s a fun tutorial to cartoonify photos in GIMP (like you see in ads all over the web), here’s another one on creating image maps, and there’s also one on creating a zoom effect on screenshots. I’m certainly really excited about GIMP if you can’t tell already.

As a GIMP enthusiast, I learn mostly from following online tutorials over and over till I don’t need the instructions to repeat the steps anymore. That’s how I learned to do the zoom/magnifier effect, which I badly needed for some of my screenshots. Here’s another such tutorial that’s out of necessity for anyone that blogs and needs to point at and annotate some part of the screenshot.


The speech bubble design is actually inspired by the annotations you can get in Screenpresso, which means that if you want a faster way to get these speech bubbles, your best bet would be to download and use Screenpresso. I’m enamored with FastStone Screen Capture v. 5.3 so to avoid having two programs that do the same thing, I decided to just create the speech bubbles with GIMP. Here’s what I found works for me in terms of creating these speech bubbles in a relatively short time.

  • Once you have GIMP open, you can either open the screenshot that you want to annotate, paste it from after pressing PrintScreen or create one by going to File > Create > Screenshot.
  • Using the Text tool, create the annotation text in your desired size and font.
  • Before creating the actual speech bubble, make sure you have your text in the desired layout (preferably, all polished up with your desired gradients or effects) as we now need to enclose it within the bubble and won’t be able to change the text layout later. Create a new layer, name it ‘bubble’ and under Layer Fill Type, pick Transparency, and click OK. Now pick the Rectangle Select tool, double-check that in the Tool Options dialog box, the mode is set to ‘Replace the current selection‘ and create a rectangle around your text. For a nice touch, also check the ‘Rounded corners‘ box under Tool Options. I’m using a radius of 11.6, but feel free to change it according to your preferences.

create speech bubbles gimp

  • Now we’re going to make the tail of the speech bubble to point to the interesting part of the screenshot that you annotated. Use the Free Select tool, then under Tool Options, pick ‘Add to selection‘ instead of the default … and click on 3 different spots (try to make the lines as straight as you can) before going back to the original point to finish the selection to shape the triangular tail of the speech bubble. The first and last spot should be inside the bubble.

gimp speech bubble

If you want to undo these lines, just press Escape.

  • Use the Bucket Fill tool, set opacity on 35 under Tool Options and fill with red (I’m using #f41010) or any other bright color that’s not on the screenshot already so viewers can immediately notice the bubble.

gimp speech bubble

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  • Now let’s give this bubble a drop shadow. Go to Filters > Light and Shadow > Drop Shadow.

gimp speech bubble

  • Set both Offset X and Offset Y to 0, leave the Blur radius to the default 15, raise the Opacity to 100 and uncheck the Allow resizing box before clicking OK.

  • Now for the bubble’s glow, create a new layer with transparency, just like we did for the bubble, but name it “glow”. You should still have the selection active from the previous drop shadow step. Go to Select > To Path to save this outline.
  • Then use the Rectangle Select tool, and under Tool Options, make sure the mode is set to ‘Subtract from the current selection‘. Create a rectangle over the bubble portion opposite to the one that has the tail, which in my case, is the upper portion of the bubble.

make speech bubble gimp

  • Now use the Blend/Gradient tool, press X to shift the white background color to be the foreground color, set the opacity to 80 under Tool Options, select ‘FG to Transparent‘ in the Gradient field, pick Linear in the Shape field if it’s not there by default already, and stroke from the tail to the side opposite to the tail.

make speech bubble gimp

  • Now for the subtle, glowy outline, go to Select > From Path. Then go to Select again > Shrink. Set the shrink size to 1 pixel, if it’s not already, and press OK.

make speech bubble gimp

  • For the third time, go to Select > Border. Type 1 pixel as the border selection size and press OK.

  • You probably won’t even notice any changes so you’ll need to either press + (Shift and the = key), go to View > Zoom (100%) > Zoom In, or use the bottom left zoom menu on the status bar, until you get to 300%.

  • Now grab the Blend/Gradient tool again. Assuming white is still the foreground color and the gradient is still set to ‘FG to Transparent‘, pick Radial instead of the default Linear from the drop-down menu in the Shape field.

  • Stroke outward from the middle of the top portion (or whichever is opposite the tail) of the bubble selection.

  • You should now see a slight white line fading into the corner. You can press Ctrl + Z to undo and Ctrl + Y to redo to really see the difference. Optionally, stroke from the top left to the center of the bubble.

  • This second stroke can actually be in any corner of the bubble as long as it’s on the opposite side of the tail. To go back to the normal view, either press 1, use the zoom menu on the status bar or go to View > Zoom (300%) > 1:1 (100%). Then go to Select > None.
  • Move the text layer by drag and dropping to the top of the layer box. You can merge down any layers to move them around.

  • This is how the end result could look like, without the optional second stroke.

create speech bubbles gimp

That’s it! If you have any tips on making these steps shorter, let us know in the comments!

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.