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Using Gimp (or other free software), how would I go about creating a subtle, "mild" texture, like the green in the header at forrst, or the gray in the background of the backbone.js home page?

Those textures seem random and very evenly distributed.

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    could you include a screenshot of the visuals you are looking for? they sites are most surely changing over time. – n611x007 Nov 4 '13 at 17:36
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The basic technique is to create a background color or gradient, add a 50% Grey layer above it with its blend mode set to "Overlay" and add some noise to that layer using whatever method your program provides. In Photoshop it's a filter, and I seem to recall it's much the same in the gimp. Adjust the amount of noise (which should be monochromatic) and opacity to suit.

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Use the noise filter to create a low opacity overlay/burn texture layer. Blamo!

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