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Grokking The Gimp
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2.8 Common Problems and
Frequently Asked Questions

Layers can be tricky, and it is sometimes possible to run into what seem like incomprehensible difficulties while using them. The following list of problems addresses some common difficulties with layers. In a nutshell, the information in the Layers dialog almost always contains the solutions to these problems.

  • I am trying to draw, paint, select, or apply some other operation on the image window, and repeated efforts just don't seem to produce any results. What's going on?

    GIMP operations are applied to the active layer. A common problem with layers is that the active layer is not visible. It is possible that the active layer is blocked by layers above it or that the visibility of the active layer is not turned on. To solve the problem, make sure that the Eye icon of the active layer is on, and turn off the Eye icon of the layers above it.

  • I am trying to paint in a transparent part of a layer, and I am getting no results. Why? 

    If you are trying to draw or paint on a transparent part of a layer, and nothing seems to leave a mark, the problem is that the Keep Trans. button is on in the Layers dialog. Toggle this button off and your problem will...disappear.

  • I want to add a layer mask to my image, but it is grayed out in the Layers menu. Why isn't this option available?

    Background layers and flattened images (see Section  2.7.2) have no alpha channels  and so cannot have a layer mask. This problem is easily solved, though, by applying the Add Alpha Channel  function from the Layers menu.

  • The top layer of my image is labeled Floating Selection, all my other layers are grayed out, and I can't make any of my layers active except the top one. What's wrong?

    A floating selection disables all the other layers until it is anchored to a new layer or to the last active layer. To anchor to a new layer choose New Layer from the Layers menu or click on the New Layer button in the Layers dialog. To anchor to the previously active layer, choose Anchor Layer  from the Layers menu, or type C-h in the image or dialog window, or click on the Anchor button in the Layers dialog.

  • I saved a finished project's image to disk, but when I try to view the saved image in another image display program, it's missing elements and it doesn't look like the one I saved. Why is this?

    Not all image formats support layers or transparency (JPEG, is one example). For finished projects that are saved to formats supporting alpha channels, use the Merge Visible Layers function from the Layers menu before saving.  If alpha is not supported, use Flatten Image from the Layers menu instead. Also, read the next item.

  • I spent hours working on an image with multiple layers, channel masks, layer masks, and paths and then saved it. But when I tried to reload my image back into the GIMP, everything but a single layer was gone! What happened!?

    Work in progress and finished projects should be saved in the GIMP's native XCF format.  This is the only format that saves all the information about layers, masks, and paths.

Grokking The Gimp
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  Published under the terms of the Open Publication License Design by Interspire