3.3. Pencil

The Pencil tool is used to draw free hand lines with a hard edge. The pencil and paintbrush are similar tools. The main difference between the two tools is that although both use the same type of brush, the pencil tool will not produce fuzzy edges, even with a very fuzzy brush. It does not even do anti-aliasing.

Why would you want to work with such a crude tool? Perhaps the most important usage is when working with very small images, such as icons, where you operate at a high zoom level and need to get every pixel exactly right. With the pencil tool, you can be confident that every pixel within the brush outline will be changed in exactly the way you expect.

[Tip] Tip

If you want to draw straight lines with the Pencil (or any of several other paint tools), click at the starting point, then hold down Shift and click at the ending point.

Activate Tool

  • The Pencil Tool can be called in the following order, from the image-menu: Tools/ Paint Tools/Pencil .

  • The Tool can also be called by clicking the tool icon:

Key modifiers (Defaults)


The N key will change the active tool to Pencil Tool.


Ctrl changes the pencil to a Color Picker.


Shift places the pencil tool into straight line mode. Holding Shift while clicking Button 1 will generate a straight line. Consecutive clicks will continue drawing straight lines that originate from the end of the last line.


[Note] Note

See the Brush Tools Overview for a description of tool options that apply to many or all brush tools.


The available tool options can be accessed by double clicking the Pencil Tool icon.


The Opacity slider sets the transparency level for the paint. A higher opacity setting results in a more opaque fill and a lower setting results in a more transparent fill. The resulting opacity is the percentage of the original color opacity: if the foreground color opacity is 50% and if you set paintbrush opacity to 50% the paintbrush color opacity will be 25%.


The Mode dropdown list provides a selection of paint application modes. A list of these modes can be found in the Glossary.


Indicates the active brush. Clicking on the brush icon opens the brush selection dialog.


The dropdown list allows to select a gradient that will be used if the "Use Color from Gradient" option is checked. This gradient can be reversed by checking the Reverse option.


The Incremental checkbox activates incremental paint mode for the tool so that color opacity increases each time the pencil passes over the same place but cann't excede the original color opacity. More information about incremental mode can be found in the glossary.

Pressure Sensitivity

The Pressure Sensitivity section sets the sensitivity levels for input devices that support this option.

  • Opacity: Drawing opacity increases with stylus pen pressure.

  • Size: Drawing width increases with stylus pressure.

  • Color: Gimp uses the active gradient colors in order as stylus pressure increases.

Fade Out

This option sets the stroke to fade out after the specified distance. The stroke will fade to transparency at the completion of the set distance.

Use Color from Gradient

Instead of using the Foreground or Background color, the color is based on the active gradient selection. By checking Reverse you can reverse the gradient direction.

The gradient is painted in a forward direction. The entire color sequence of the gradient will be rendered within the Length set.


Sawtooth Wave: Renders the gradient repeatedly. At each expiry of the distance that has been set, the gradient will begin rerendering from the beginning.

Triangular Wave: Renders the gradient repeatedly. At each expiry of the distance that has been set, the gradient will reverse direction and render in that direction until the expiry of the distance once more. At this point, it will begin again until the stroke is complete.