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How to add a light leak effect to a photo in Gimp

Light leak effects have become quite popular lately, especially on phone apps with photo filters. This time I will show you how to create a simple light leak to a photo from scratch, using Gimp.

  Author: mat | Version: 2.8.0 | 6th March 2013 |  

Open a photo you want to add a light leak to.

I'm using this photo of my friend taken in Chamonix and I'm going to add the light leak on the left side.


Click the Toggle Quick Mask button (see picture).

Your photo will turn red, don't worry everything's just fine.


Choose the Paintbrush Tool and press D and then X to set the white foreground color.


Set a really soft brush and an appropriate brush size.

Between 50 and 90, depending on the size of your photo.


Now paint where you want your light leak to appear.

By uncovering the red mask, you are also creating a selection.

If you revealed too much of the area, press X to set the black foreground color and cover that area by painting over it.

Remember white color unveils the mask the black color puts on a mask.


When done with masking and unmasking, again click the Toggle Quick Mask button.


This is how my selection ended up.

Now we need to add the actual light leak color.


In the menu click Colors and choose Curves...

Enable the Preview option.

Move the curve up in similar way as I did ...

Observe the changes on your photo as you try different curve shapes.


... choose the Red Channel and move the red curve up a bit the similar way as I did ...


... choose the Green Channel and move the green curve down a bit the similar way as I did ...


... choose the Blue Channel and move the blue curve down a bit the similar way as I did ...

When satisfied with the colors of your light leak, click OK.


The very basic light leak is done, but if you wish you can add a little touch to make it more realistic.


Press Shift + Q to enable the quick mask mode again.

Or click the quick mask button the same way you did in step 2.

Press D and  X to set the white foreground color, choose the Paintbrush Tool again and paint over the existing light leak a bit. Only a bit though, don't exaggerate. Go through steps 6 to 11 again and you are done.


In the menu click Select and None to remove the selection.

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