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I have this image that I downloaded and I am trying to recreate it in a larger size.

enter image description here

This is what I have so far:

enter image description here

I really want to be able to fill in the oval with black, but not fill in the letter "m".

I tried making a mask, but it's not working. When I edit the mask, I cannot add text to it. I can paint on it with the paint brush, but whenever I add text, it automatically creates it as a new layer instead. It's very frustrating. I tried to copy and paste the "m" layer below onto the white mask, but it wouldn't let me do that either.

So, how can I fill in that oval while leaving the text transparent?

Please note that I want the edges of the font to still look smooth, so I am wary of using the "select" tool.

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    Copy&Paste the text layer (no need to use any select tool before you do that) - and make sure that the layer mask is active when you anchor the floating selection that results from this. – Michael Schumacher Oct 28 '15 at 19:10
  • I tried that, and at first it pasted on the regular layer (not the mask). Then I realized, I thought a black border meant it was selected, but actually the white border meant it was selected. Then I was able to paste it onto the mask, and then the fill tool worked as planned. Thanks! – Rock Lee Oct 28 '15 at 19:19
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I was finally able to figure it out thanks to Michael Schumacher's comment. I put the steps here since I couldn't find these steps laid out clearly anywhere else. The thing that confused me the most was that I didn't know that the "floating selection" layer could be "anchored" onto the mask.

This solution keeps the smoothness of the text, and doesn't use the "select" tool.

Step 1: Copy the text layer. (Select it as shown, then Command + c on a Mac computer.)

enter image description here

Step 2: Select the mask. *Warning! This is NOT selecting the mask, but the original layer. The white border means it is selected.

enter image description here

Therefore, in this image, the mask is selected because it has the white border. Select the mask by clicking directly on the mask's preview-image box. (It's kind of hard to see it being selected here, because the whole mask is also white, and so is the border.)

enter image description here

Step 3: While the mask is selected, click Paste. (Paste is Command + V on a Mac computer.) It should look like a new layer called "Floating Selection."

enter image description here

Step 4: While the floating selection is still selected, click on the Anchor icon. It is in the bottom-right corner of the screenshot below.

enter image description here

This is the result of clicking the anchor icon:

enter image description here

Step 5: Fill the shape. Select the shape layer (not the mask):

enter image description here

When you fill it in, it will still fill in the whole shape (as you can see in the preview, next to the mask, in the layers window), but the mask will be applied as long as it is "enabled." enter image description here

After this, you can export to PNG and the mask will still be applied. Or you can continue to the next step, if you want to continue modifying the image.

Step 6: Combine the mask to the actual layer, if you want to be able to work with it that way.

Right click the mask, and click "Apply Layer Mask":

enter image description here

Then this is the result:

enter image description here

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    Technically, the description of the last step is wrong: the area is filled, but the mask adjusts the alpha value. Try filling with e.g. a pattern, and then disable the mask temporarily. – Michael Schumacher Oct 29 '15 at 14:43
  • Thanks for the tip. I didn't realize that. I updated my answer to reflect that. – Rock Lee Oct 29 '15 at 21:15
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Not sure if this is what you are looking for but I created a shape layer (box/oval/shape) and then the letter above it. Then I made a "selection" of the letter, inverted and added a shape layer mask to the shape layer. Hope this helps.

Edit: Just realized you mentioned GIMP. I used Photoshop and I'm not sure if the same applies, since I haven't used GIMP. Hope it does.

Sample image

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