How to make customized memes using the GIMP

This is a fun post. After all, you should not expect all posts to be serious. The purpose of this post is to show how you can make customized memes featuring your friends, instead of just troll faces or such. Memes like this:

from a stock image like this:

Of course, I've seen too many people try and make memes, some just make a meme, and tag the concerned person, some use hopeless software like MS Paint and copy an image over the face. That's not fun. It's fun when the image looks natural, as if it were my friend instead of Samuel Jackson in the image.

First, load the base image in the GIMP. That is the image of Samuel Jackson with the gun. Then load the image of the friend (target) as a layer. It may take some ingenuity and searching to find images, it's really difficult (sarcmark) to find images of friends from their Facebook profiles, or Picasa Web albums, or Flickr; in case the friend is close enough, I dare say you'd probably have a hundred pictures of that friend stored away on your hard drive. I used this image:

Then, set the opacity of the layer to a low value, so that you can see the original image, then scale and move the image so that it overlaps Samuel Jackson's face. Match the eyes, nose and mouth. I trust you can do so much, so I have not included screenshots. (Note that you may probably have to scale height and width disproportionately, especially if the friend has a fat face, and you are pasting it over a thin faced actor, or vice-versa.) Add a layer mask, fill it with black, paint the layer mask white over the face so that you're left with just the face. Like this:

Keeping in line with the non-destructive editing workflow that I follow, duplicate the layer containing the friend, and erase half of his face. This is so that we can match the skin tone better.

What we see is that the image has to be made darker. So, just pull up curves (make sure that you are working on the new layer, and not the layer mask. Pull the value curve low as shown.

Good enough, but I would like brighter highlights. I make that correction.

Now, edit the layer mask so as to nicely blend the face with the body.

This is sufficient if I just wanted to put my friend in a movie poster, or such. A meme, however, must have text. So, select the text tool, set colour to white, and write in an "Impact Condensed" font. Use the select by colour tool (Shift+O) and select the white in the text.

Grow the selection by 1px (or a proportional size, depending upon the size of your base image)

Create a new layer, name it shadow, and fill it with transparency. Use the bucket fill tool, and fill the selection with black. Move the shadow layer under the text layer.

Apply a Gaussian blur, set it to 5px (or a proportional size, depending upon the size of your base image), IIR method.

And voila! Your meme is ready.


Note that the vertical guide was used to align the text to the centre of the image.

Always exercise caution when making such memes. Please ensure that they are in a light-hearted spirit and do not cause embarrassment or hurt. Use your own ethical judgement.

What method do you use if you wish to create mashups like this? Do leave a comment below.

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