How to Insert an Image in GIMP

One of the first tasks that many image editors want to learn is how to combine two images together, whether it’s for a meme or a serious art project (or both?). Combining two or more images can be a lot of fun, but even if you’re working on a Super Serious Project, it’s easy to do.

The Quick Guide to Inserting an Image in GIMP

This guide assumes that you’ve got two image files saved on your computer that you want to combine. I’ll explain some other situations later, but this is probably the most common one.

The Open as Layers command is located in the File menu
  • Step 1: Open your base image in GIMP (or create one, if needed).
  • Step 2: Open the File menu, and choose Open As Layers.
  • Step 3: Browse to find the image you want to insert and click the Open button.

GIMP will create a new pixel layer containing your selected image, although you may need to adjust the scale a bit to fit it into your image properly. Switch to the Unified Transform tool in the toolbox or press Shift + T to enable it, and you can adjust it as needed. 

Just be careful about scaling up, as you’ll lose image quality very quickly – although it can be a useful effect if you apply it right. 

Inserting Images Directly

It’s also possible to add images directly into GIMP using the standard copy and paste commands that your operating system uses. This is very handy for quickly inserting images from the web into an image in GIMP (looking at you, meme-makers, do us proud!)

To copy from your browser, simply right-click on the image you want to copy, and select Copy image (the wording may vary a bit depending on which browser you use), then switch to GIMP. With your base image open, press Ctrl + V or open the Edit menu and choose Paste.

This will need a lot more editing if it’s ever going to look convincing, but this is how it starts

It lets you get an image into GIMP quickly, but it has a few different steps because GIMP handles pasted image content using a system called floating selections, also known as floating layers

A floating selection is a sort of temporary layer that allows you to edit the contents but prevents you from editing the rest of the image until the floating selection is anchored back into the image. As you can see below, they look a bit different in the Layers panel. 

The Layers panel, located in the bottom right of the interface by default

The Layers panel is smart, and color highlights the three main choices available for your floating selection along the bottom of the panel. You can Create a new layer, Anchor, or Delete your selection, respectively. 

Generally, it’s a better idea to keep all your image elements on separate layers until you need to apply an adjustment to all of them since this lets you go back and edit or reposition them later if you need to. Click the green Create a new layer button at bottom left of the Layers panel, and your floating selection gets converted into a new pixel layer.

If you don’t care about that, you can just click the green Anchor layer button in the Layers panel. The floating selection gets flattened down into the base layer, the pixels that were below it are lost, and you’re left with one single layer to work on – I don’t recommend it! 

The Next Step

That covers the basics of how to insert an image in GIMP, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of how to polish up the edges between the two images and make them look convincingly real. Hawks rarely look quite so rectangular in their natural habitat, after all. 

There’s quite a bit more editing involved, starting with some basic masking selections and color adjustments, but that’s going to have to wait for a different how-to guide. So be sure to explore the other tutorials that we have available for more tips about working with images in GIMP!

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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  • Malte

    First of all, thank you for your well written texts! Perfect guide to gimp, helped me a lot.

    My question: Unfortunately, I have imported many images with a resolution that is too low. Can I reimport the image in GIMP (e.g. keep all the changes that I have made, so just tell gimp to import the image again, and apply all the changes to te reimported image)?

    • Thomas Boldt

      You’re welcome, Malte! Glad you’re finding the site useful.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think that GIMP can do what you’re hoping in your project, even if all your edits are on separate layers. Because all of GIMP’s edits are pixel-based, each layer has the same pixel dimensions/resolution as the background image/base layer. If you’re working on a 640×480 image, each new layer you add is also 640×480. If you took those edit layers and put them on a higher-resolution 1920×1080 image (or if you re-imported the background image/base layer, as you suggested), the old layers would still be their original 640×480 dimension.

      If GIMP ever adds the ability to make non-destructive adjustments, then you might be able to accomplish it, but any pixel-based edits like cloning or healing would still retain their original pixel dimensions. Maybe in GIMP 3.0 😉

      Hope that clears things up a bit!

  • Carlie

    You are so awesome to have created this guide. The GIMP manual is kind of maddening to search. Your guide provide clear, direct information that works. Thank you!!!

    • Thomas Boldt

      HI Carlie, you’re very welcome! I know what you mean about the GIMP manual. There have been a few times when I’ve gone looking in the official documentation for the definitive answer to a question, only to find a placeholder page that says ‘To be written later’ or something like that, lol.

  • George

    How do I get rid of the dotted line round the image?

    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi George, if you’re referring to the yellow and black dashed line that outlines the image you just inserted, it’s not actually a part of the image – it’s just a temporary guide that GIMP uses to show you the edges of your layer.

      You can disable it by opening the View menu and unchecking the entry labeled ‘Show Layer Boundary.’