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Tutorial: Create an oscilloscope/frequencies display

Written by · Created on Jan 24, 2009, last updated over 13 years ago CC BY-NC License
Create an oscilloscope/frequencies display


Probably you all know these cool displays of sound editing programs. In this short tutorial I'll create such an oscilloscope display. The tutorial is mainly interesting because of its 2 combined techniques that allow you to create pretty varied and individual images.

Tutorial details

  1. 1

    Create a new image: 600×250px.

    Fill the background-layer with a dark gray: #515151.

  2. 2

    Now set the Foreground-Color to #aacaff.

    - Create a new, transparent layer.
    - Choose the rectangle selection tool: Then create a 1px wide but pretty long selection. Fill the selection with the FG-Color by using EDIT / FILL FG COLOR
    - Press CTRL+C to copy that thin line
    - Deselect all using SELECTION / NONE

  3. 3

    Very practical in GIMP: You can use copied parts (in the clip board) as a brush to paint with it. With that technique in mind you can create very nice effects and also pretty fast! The painted parts are mostly black although so you have to colorize them afterwards.

    In the screenshot it is called “Zwischenablage” which is the german word for clipboard.

    This copied part is displayed as the first brush of certain paint-tools such as the paint brush-tool. That copied part is named “Clipboard”.

  4. 4

    We’re going to combine the technique with the very cool brush dynamics (available in GIMP since version 2.6).

    Choose the options in the brush-tool preferences:

    Opacity: 50%.
    Brush: Clipboard
    Scale: 0.1
    Brush dynamics (see image): set Pressure/Opacity, Random/Opacity, Random/Size

    Apply jitter: 0.9

  5. 5

    - Create a new transparent layer
    - Now paint horizontally from left to right

  6. 6

    Now set the jitter-value to 2.5 and set the brush scale to 0.5

    Again paint from left to right, but now stop sometimes and leave some parts unpainted and free. Also overpaint some parts (these bolder parts represent the loud tones ;))

  7. 7

    Now lock the transparency of the layer. Do this by activating the lock-option in the layers dialog above the layers.

    In the screenshot its called “Sperre” which is the german word for “lock”.

    Then press CTRL+, (comma) to fill the frequencies with the blue FG color we set in step 2.

  8. 8

    If you don’t want such fine detail but more harder frequency lines you can change this by using the curves.

    - Decativate the transparency lock again.
    - Colors / Curves: Channel: Alpha. Then → Set the curve shown below.

    The more you pull the curve to the right side the thinner the frequency spectrum becomes.

  9. 9

    Have fun experimenting with the frequencies (and above all with the techniques shown ;))

    Tip: Real oscillosope displays don’t have these small free/unconnected parts as shown in my picture. Just remove them using the eraser-tool or you pull the curve in step 8 a little more to the right.


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devvv member for over 17 years devvv 1475 comments
about 15 years ago

this tutorial does only work for GIMP 2.6+. the brush dynamics were added to gimp in 2.6

about 15 years ago

I can't get past step 4. Actually achieving step 5 is completely impossible. I'm using version 2.4 any ideas or help? Thanks!

about 15 years ago

Awesome! Thx :~)

devvv member for over 17 years devvv 1475 comments
about 15 years ago

it's only a show what you _could_ do with these two techniques combined ;) taking something out of real programs always look more realistic

about 15 years ago

Id reather take something out of a real track looks more realistic than this. But sure its fine.

devvv member for over 17 years devvv 1475 comments
about 15 years ago

gimp 2.7 is an testing developement version. there was no official or unofficial release. you have to compile it from trunk, but its not too easy. for windows this is no posible yet I guess.

did you use the clipboard brush as you would with any other brush? be sure to have no selection active. maybe the line you copied is too small in length so it won't show with a brush scale of 0,1.

about 15 years ago

You say you are using Gimp 2.7 but I can find no sign of it being available .
My 2.6.1 shows a clipboard brush but it is not working for me. :(

about 15 years ago

What a clever idea but, more even importantly for me, you have introduced the clip-art as brush tool. The sky is the limit now! Thank you