Saturday, March 10, 2007

How to duplicate the Orton Effect in Paint.Net

I've noticed some buzz on the blogs and photography web sites I visit about the Orton Effect and how to do it in Photoshop. I had close-ups of a couple flowers I wanted to do some special post-processing on and thought this might be an interesting thing to attempt in Paint.Net.

Basically, the idea is to add some blur to the image to give it a soft, dreamy look. The original technique used two over-exposed transparencies sandwiched together. In the digital realm, this is duplicated by layering blurred copies with the original image.

This tutorial is a recipe for what I did. These steps are not original to me; they're simply an adaptation for Paint.Net of what I found on other sites. [1]


After this tutorial:

To start, right click the image below and select 'Save image as...'. Select somewhere on your computer and save it. Then start Paint.Net and open the file you just saved.

Ok, here we go...

1. Change the name of the layer to make it clear which layer is which. Do this by clicking on the Layer properties button and typing in a new name; something like 'Sharp'.

2. Now duplicate this layer.

3. With the duplicated layer highlighted, click on properties and change the Blending mode to Screen. This has the effect of lightening the image. In the original Orton technique, the sharp image was over exposed one stop. This simulates that effect.

4. Next, with the duplicated layer still highlighted, click the Merge layer down button on the Layers window. This creates a single new layer.

5. Using first step 2 and then step 1, duplicate this layer and name the new layer something like 'Out of focus'. You should now have two layers.

6. Make sure the 'Out of focus' layer is highlighted and on the menu select Effects | Blurs | Unfocus. Up to this point things have been fairly mechanical. Now some subjectivity comes into play. The value to enter here is to a large degree personal preference and specific for a given image's subject and resolution. The idea is to blur out the sharp lines and details but leave the general shape. In general, the higher the resolution of the image, the more unfocusing is needed. For this image, I used a value of 100.

7. Now comes the interesting part. Click on the Out of focus layer's properties and set the Blending mode to Multiply. This blends the two images such that the overall exposure is made similar to the original, brings back the detail but leaves some nice soft edges.

We've now arrived at the final result of applying this method.

(Click image to see a larger size.)

If you're pleased with the result, you can merge the two layers and save your image. If you want more or less blurring, you can go back to step 6 in the history and change the Radius on the Unfocus dialog to something else. Alternatively, you can decrease the Opacity in the properties dialog on step 7. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until you have something you like.

In addition to the radius, you can experiment with various other adjustments and effects on the two layers. Things to try could be adjusting brightness and contrast, playing with the levels in different color bands and so forth. Remember you can do different things in each layer prior to merging for a wide variety of changes to the original image.

As example, this image is the final one above with additional tweaking of the brightness and contrast on the Out of focus layer and some levels adjustments on the Sharp layer.

(Click image to see a larger size.)

[1] Here are some other, non-Paint.Net references regarding this effect:

Someone posted a comment on one of these sites suggesting Paint.Net's Glow effect was equivalent. I'm not sure I agree. It does have some similarities, but in my admittedly limited experimentation, it doesn't give as much control over the final result. For comparison, here's the above original with the Glow effect added.

(Click image to see a larger size.)
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