How to Bevel Text or an Object in GIMP

Modern image editors can create a wide range of visual effects with just a few clicks, which can save a huge amount of time when you’re working on a project – especially when you’re working against a deadline! 

If you’re in a rush, GIMP has a simple tool for creating a bevel effect. But GIMP also has the ability to add new features using third-party software known as plugins, and if you’ve got a few minutes, then I’ll show you how to download and install a much better bevelling tool that creates superior results.

How to Bevel in GIMP the Basic Way

To bevel text or an object in GIMP, make a selection around your desired text/object and then open the Filters menu, select the Decor submenu, and click Add Bevel. 

As you can see, there isn’t much customization available, which is disappointing. Even with the Thickness setting at 30, the effect is still fairly muted.

The text is beveled, but it’s barely visible!

You can apply the effect repeatedly to increase the shadowing of the bevel, but you still don’t get much control over the results.

After running the Add Bevel command 3 times in a row

If you’re already familiar with GIMP, layers, and using filters, then that’s probably all you need to know to get started on your project – but if you’re willing to take a bit of extra time to install a custom GIMP plugin, you’ll be able to get much better results than you can with GIMP’s built-in tools. Read on to learn more!

Make Fancy Bevels in GIMP Using a Plugin

If you’ve ever used Layer Effects in Photoshop, then you’ll be instantly familiar with this plugin’s features. It provides a range of different effects, but the Bevel and Emboss effects are exactly what you need to bevel text or an object in GIMP. 

Downloading the Layer Effects Plugin

To get started, you’ll need to download the compressed plugin file from GIMPScripts. The code was written by Jonathan Stipe in 2008 and released under the GNU General Public License. 

I believe several other contributors have been involved in tweaking the code since then, but they haven’t updated the code comments, as you can see below. 

There are two versions of the plugin: an SCM file that uses GIMP’s Script-Fu console, and a Python script that operates like a plugin. The SCM version has a couple of extra tools, but the Python version allows you to preview the results of your bevel effects while you’re customizing them, which saves a lot of time. 

If you’re on a Mac, download the SCM version, since Apple has apparently decided to stop including Python as part of the default macOS installation. Of course, if you’ve already got Python installed, then feel free to use either option. 

In this example, I’ll be using the Python plugin version on a Windows PC, but the installation steps are the same, even if the screenshots might look a bit different from yours.  

It’s always a good idea to be cautious when downloading random code from the internet, but these scripts are safe to use. If you’re in doubt, be sure to check the files with your malware scanner!

Installing the Layer Effects Plugin

To install the Layer Effects plugin, extract the plugin file from the compressed file you downloaded in the previous section. 

If you’re using the Python version of the plugin, the file must be placed in the Plugins folder.

If you’re using the SCM version of the plugin, the file must be placed in the Scripts folder. 

If you put the file in the wrong folder, nothing bad will happen, but it simply won’t get loaded when GIMP starts and you’ll be unable to use it. 

To locate the correct folder, you can use GIMP’s Preferences window. Open the GIMP Preferences, and expand the Folders section by clicking the small + icon. 

Scroll down to select either the Plugins folder or the Scripts folder, depending on which version of the plugin you’re using. I’m using the Python version, so I have selected the Plugins folder. This will show all the folders that GIMP checks for plugins or scripts. 

Next, select the folder entry that contains your username (as highlighted above), and then click the small file cabinet icon on the right to open a new window displaying the appropriate folder.

Copy the plugin file (which is either for Python or Layer-FX-2.10.scm for SCM) into the appropriate folder.

Restart GIMP, and the installation process is complete!

How to Bevel Text or an Object in GIMP with Layer Effects

Once you’ve got the Layer Effects plugin installed, you can find it at the bottom of the Layer menu. Select the Layer Effects submenu, and click Bevel and Emboss.

You can also right-click on the layer you want to bevel in the Layers panel to display a popup menu with layer commands. Select the Layer Effects submenu, and click Bevel and Emboss.

As you can see above, this is a huge improvement when compared to the extremely basic options offered by GIMP’s built-in Bevel filter. You can choose from multiple bevel styles, change the bevel direction, control the highlights and shading, and even bevel with a texture. 

A single application of the Bevel and Emboss plugin 

You can also check the Preview box and see what your bevel will look like before applying it! Just beware that this can be a bit slow to refresh, so it’s best to toggle the preview option on and off while making adjustments. 

Best of all, the highlights and shadows that form the bevel effect are added as separate layers, so your original text or object is still untouched!

A Final Word

Congratulations, you’ve just learned two different ways to add a bevel effect in GIMP!

The quick version of the process is very simple, but if you’re willing to take to the time to install the Layer Effects script, then you can create some much more impressive and detailed bevel effects.

Happy beveling!

About Thomas Boldt
I’ve been working with digital images since the year 2000 or so, when I got my first digital camera. I've tried many image editing programs. GIMP is a free and powerful software, but not exactly user-friendly until you get comfortable with it, and I wanted to make the learning process easier for you here.

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  • Jen

    Hi! Thank you for posting this, it would be a gamechanger for my business if I could figure it out. You say “To install the Layer Effects plugin, extract the plugin file from the compressed file you downloaded in the previous section.” What previous section are you referring to?
    Is it the “compressed plugin file from GIMPScripts?” If so, I went to the link and downloaded the Python version, and it’s a .py file, not a compressed file, and I don’t know what to do with it. What am I missing?
    Thank you,

    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Jen,

      Yes, your assumptions are correct! I think the confusion comes from the fact that Windows now supports compressed ZIP files by default, which means you can open them just like a normal folder to see the files inside, instead of going through a separate extraction process.

      In other words, you can skip all those steps if you already have the file. To install the plugin, simply copy and paste the file into your GIMP plugins folder, as outlined in this section:

      I hope that helps!