Tutorial: Easy Image Manipulation for Needlepoint Design using GIMP

Repeat pattern needlepoint flowers sampler in 6 different colourways

When I'm designing needlepoint I can find it tricky to visualize how the colours will work together once stitched into place. I spend a lot of time stitching little samples of different combinations and altering the weights of the colours when I find a combination I like, but what if there was an easier way to play with colour, get inspiration and make the mistakes in a few clicks rather than an afternoon and, better yet achieve a gorgeous result in a matter of minutes. Wouldn't that be satisfying?

This is the first in a series of experiments on the quest to find the best way to recolour needlepoint stitch samples quickly and efficiently so we can spend more time sewing and completing projects.

I could pick up my colouring pencils and simply colour to my heart's content but I'm not able to hold pencils for long nor press hard enough to get the intensity of colour I aim to achieve so I'm going to see what I can do with the processes and materials I can make use of: photography, sewing, image editing and let's see what else.

I hope image editing will speed things up and open up the possibility of producing loads of colourways for each design and reduce the time spent stitching something that isn't what I was going for.

Before we begin, last week I didn't post here but I'm thrilled to say I wrote a guest post, 'Top Nine Needlecraft Instagram Finds this March', for Sew and So Ideas instead. Head on over there to check it out for your monthly dose of Instagram inspiration and use it to help flood your IG feed with colour and creativity and learn about fun hashtags to follow and tag your images with.

Tent stitch needlepoint flower with four petals in three different colourways

Back to this week... For this experiment I used GIMP, a free image editing software that does almost all the stuff Photoshop does but comes at a much friendlier price tag, Free. I could do this in Photoshop but this is accessible to everyone. My feelings are that design takes creativity, imagination and a willingness to mess up and find the joy in the mistakes in order to achieve the fabulous. It shouldn't cost much to start with and I'm a firm believer that great results can be produced just as well on the cheap as they can with the best gear.

I'm starting off this series on a super easy 'your 99 yr old grandma could do it in her sleep' level. You don't need any previous know how but if you get stuck holla at me in the comments and I'll get you back on track.

To get started download and install GIMP 2.8, available HERE, grab a photo of some needlepoint and carve out a few spare minutes of creativity time.

I'm going to use this photo to show you how I altered the colours. You can either use your own or save mine to use by right clicking on the image then selecting 'Save as...'

Tent stitched needlepoint flower motif in coral, pink and lilac with a dark petrol background

1. Open the image in GIMP, do this by either dragging and dropping the image from the folder it's in into GIMP or by right clicking on the image icon in the folder and then selecting 'Open with' and choosing 'GNU Image Manipulation Program' from the list.

2. Once the image is open in GIMP choose 'Colours' from the menu and then 'Hue-Saturation...'

Screenshot showing where to find Hue-Saturation in the menu on GIMP

3. In the Hue-Saturation dialog box click on 'Master', this ensures you'll be changing all of the colours in the sample at once and is the quickest and easiest way to recolour the entire image.

Screenshot showing how to adjust hue in GIMP

4. Below the master button there are four sliders, we're going to be using the bottom three under the heading 'Adjust Selected Colour'. First off I adjusted the Hue levels to 45 and got this result...All I did was slide the toggle left to right until I found a result I liked the look of

Screenshot showing how to adjust the hue in Gimp

5. You'll find loads of intriguing colour combinations just by doing adjusting the Hue levels but we can do more by adjusting the Hue, Lightness and Saturation of the individual colour values too. To do that all we do is select the colour value we want to alter from the wheel. I selected R to adjust the orange-red tones in the image.

Screenshot showing how to edit the individual colour values in GIMP

6. With R selected I adjusted Hue to -77 and was surprised by these stunning pinks, they really make the green pop!

Screenshot showing how to adjust the hue-saturation levels to change the colours of a needlepoint design in Gimp

7. I felt the green was a bit intense so I decided to edit that next. I choose Y on the wheel and then adjusted Hue to -107.

screenshot showing how to adjust the Hue-Saturation levels in GIMP

8. I had a go at changing the background by selecting C and moving Hue to -88, Lightness to 2 and Saturation to 4. This didn't make a huge difference but it highlights the limits to what can be achieved with using this tool to recolour needlepoint designs in GIMP.

Screenshot showing how to adjust the Hue-Saturation in GIMP

9. When you're happy with the results click 'OK' in the dialog box and then select 'File' from the menu at the top and 'Export...' from the drop down menu.

Screen shot showing how to export a file in GIMP

10. Name the file and then press 'Export'.

screen shot showing how to name a file and export an image in GIMP

11. Hit 'Export' and the job's done.

Screen shot showing how to export an image in Gimp

I made collages of all my favourites over on Ribbet, it's the best free replacement to the free version of PicMonkey I've found...I think Ribbet's even better because there are more options...it's well worth checking out if you enjoy making photo collages.

Collage of the same Flower Needlepoint Motif in 4 different Hot n' Spicy Colourways

These hot and spicy colourways have given me food for thought, the punchy colours look stunning against a dark background!

If you use this tutorial to have a go I'd love to see your results, you can share them by tagging me @bobbinandfred or #bobbinandfred over on Instagram.

Do you have any tips or tricks for experimenting with colour when you're designing needlepoint? Use the comments below to share your techniques, I'd love to give them a go.

Until next time, have a fab floss-filled week xX

Paper mache goat with speech bubble asking for social media shares


  1. This is an amazing and informative post. I love the tutorial its easy to follow and your results are fabulous. Thank you for this helpful post. I will be definitely trying it out with my knitting samples.

    1. Thank you Jacky, you're very welcome. I love that it'll help with your knitting too, that's fab!

  2. Love this! Thanks for the walk through. I'm not familiar with GIMP but it looks pretty easy to use and I love the results you can get.

    1. Thank you so much :) I think it's pretty easy to use but please do holler here if you need a helping hand. Have fun!

  3. Awesome article for the image manipulations, I really enjoy your article. Thanks

    1. Thank you so much, I'm glad you enjoyed it :)


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