How to Make a Grid in GIMP

Making grids by hand is a tedious job, even if you’ve got a great image editor like GIMP. You can make mistakes in the math or in the placement, and even if you get those right, it can still take a long time. It’s the kind of job that computers are perfect for, really – so why not let GIMP do it for you in just a few clicks?

The Quick Guide to Make a Grid in GIMP

In most of my GIMP tutorial posts, I start with a quick guide for advanced users who just need a refresher course on the topic and then follow it up with a more detailed guide for users who want more in-depth instructions. 

In this case, it’s so simple that you’ll only need the quick guide! Here’s how to make a grid in GIMP:

Step 1: Create a new file or open your existing image in GIMP.

Step 2: Open the Filter menu, select the Render submenu, then select the Pattern submenu, then click Grid.

So many submenus!

Step 3: GIMP will open the Grid filter dialog box, allowing you to completely customize the settings for your grid. All of the options are basic and quite self-explanatory, so you shouldn’t have any trouble creating your grid!

The Grid filter dialog box in GIMP 2.10

Step 4: Click the OK button, and GIMP will render the grid with your chosen settings onto your currently selected layer. 

A neat, orderly grid in about 3 seconds flat!

That’s all there is to it!

How to Make a Grid Overlay

If you just want a temporary visual aid for aligning your image elements, you don’t need to create an actual grid out of pixels using the Grid filter method above. 

GIMP includes a full system of rulers, guides, and a customizable grid overlay for all your alignment needs, and you can quickly show and hide them while you’re working without breaking your flow. 

If you need a consistent grid overlay, similar to what you find on graph paper, then the grid system is perfect. To get started, turn on the grid overlay by opening the View menu and clicking Show Grid

It’s easy to enable the grid overlay in GIMP 2.10

GIMP will display the grid overlay with its default settings, but you can customize it to match your requirements. Open the Image menu, and select Configure Grid from the bottom of the menu. 

GIMP will open the Configure Image Grid dialog box so that you can configure it exactly the way you want. 

I’m not sure why the GIMP team put the configuration options in a different menu, but it’s easy enough to use once you find it.

Most of the options are very simple and self-explanatory, so I won’t explain them in detail except for the Background color setting. As far as I can tell from my testing, this color is only used when using the Line style: Double dashed setting, and not for any other situation. 

Click OK, and GIMP will update the grid overlay. To toggle the grid display on or off, just go back to the View menu and toggle the Show Grid entry. 

If you want to create a totally custom grid overlay by hand, that’s easy too. Simply click one of the rulers at the top or the left of the main image window, drag it out over your image to your chosen spot, and release the mouse button. 

GIMP will create a guide at the place you drop it, highlighted in a nice blue color, although you can change the guide color if necessary for improved contrast such as when working on an image containing a similar color. 

To get extremely precise with your measurements, check out the info panel at the bottom of the main image window while dragging out your guides for the specific pixel offset. 

To quickly show or hide guides, open the View menu and click Show Guides to toggle the setting on or off. You can use use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + T (use Command + Shift + T if you’re using GIMP on a Mac) to save time while you’re working on your alignments. 

You can also set your image layers and text objects to ‘snap’ into place with guides and gridlines by toggling the Snap to Guides and Snap to Grid settings in the View menu. This is very helpful if you need to be precise and fast at the same time. 

Whether you need an actual pixel grid or a quick grid overlay, that’s all there is to know about how to make a grid in GIMP.

Happy gridding!

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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  • Brad Golding

    Well, I downloaded GIMP and, like I said, my IT paygrade is only one above useless, and what I saw, depspite the above tutorial, left me totally confused. Trouble is, I have no idea what most of that stuff means. When I went to add an image it asked me to type in a search parameter. All I want is to load a jpeg map, by clicking on its file location in a window a la Photoshop. So, as I couldn’t figure that out, I loaded a blank “New” file. I went to the grids but there are no hex grids, only square ones,
    So, where is the hex grid people keep on about?
    Maybe, this is not the program for me! I should add, I live in a fairly remote location and have very little access to any help and, without someone to sit down and show me what to do, I am in a word, stuffed!.

  • Brad Golding

    Hi guys.
    I am looking getting GIMP as others have commented favourably about it, however, but I am seriously hopeless at understanding most IT stuff! Getting old really sucks! LOL
    Looking at the image above in Step 2, the list shown in the Render then Pattern drop down menues doesn’t appear to me to show a hex grid, and that is what I am after. Is there a hex grid option here somewhere that I am missing, and can it be adjusted for size and overlayed on a jpeg map?
    Many thanks in anticipation.

  • Carol

    I am trying to learn how this program works and get some of the simplest projects done. I take photos of my sewing projects and open in Gimp to ready them for size, clarity, and brightness to upload to my Etsy store. I also do geocaching puzzles where the cache coordinates are hidden in the photo and very hard to find. I truly appreciate your tutorials on how to utilize this website. I’m currently learning how to put a grid overlay to find locations of numbers for GPS coordinates using the cache owners image. Just wanted to say Thanks. Carol

  • I.ranu

    Thanks for the help, needed to have a grid on my image for transfer purposes. I will be using the tutorials for other help too. New to Gimp!.

  • Tommynz1975

    was looking to create my own guitar chords and then maybe chart. more fun to learn to do it your self than some one else’s work.
    So wanted to make a 6×6 graph that I then could put numbered dots on lines where i wanted.

    Do a tutorial on this and you will no doubt get a few thousand hits to the page in a day or so.

    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Tommy, that sounds like a great project! I have a guitar sitting around that I never properly learned how to play aside from a few basic songs, but maybe this will give me some inspiration to pick it back up again =)

      I’ll take a look at guitar chord charts and see if I can make a good tutorial based around those ideas.