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.)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

How to use the Clone Stamp tool between layers in Paint.Net

This tutorial shows how to use the clone stamp tool in to copy portions of one layer to another.

It shows how to change these:

Into this:

To prepare, save the files used in this tutorial by right clicking on these links and selecting 'Save link as':
Now let's just go through things step-by-step.

1. Open 'Hear See Speak 1.jpg'

2. Select Layers | Import from file...

3. And open 'Hear See Speak 2.jpg'. This creates a new layer and puts this image on it.

4. Do another layer import on file 'Hear See Speak 3.jpg'. We now have three layers, each with a different image on it.

5. On the Layers window, uncheck the check box on 'Hear See Speak 2'.

6. Make sure the 'Hear See Speak 3.jpg' layer is selected.

7. On the Tools window, click Rectangle select.

8. Select the portion of the image on the right to copy. I used the rectangle selection tool for ease, but you can use any of the selection tools. Depending on the image, you may want to use a selection tool which gives a closer crop on the source. This step is not mandatory but I recommend it. If you don't do this, you may accidentally clone over part of the destination layer which you don't want to change and have to undo and start cloning over. [1]

9. Next click the Stamp tool.

10. Then Ctrl-click on a section to copy.

11. Set the Brush width to 100.

12. Clear the check box for 'Hear See Speak 3'. You should now see the background with a selection rectangle on the right with a round stamp tool indicator.

13. Align the cursor's brush indicator directly on top of the stamp tool's indicator.

14. Click and drag the cursor. You'll see the image from the other layer get copied to the background. Slowly outline the image on the background layer...

15. ...and then fill in the middle by simply dragging the cursor.

16. Repeat for the 'Hear See Speak 2' layer:
  • Click the check box for 'Hear See Speak 2' and then click on the layer to highlight it.
  • On the Tools window, click Rectangle select.
  • Select the portion of the image in the middle to copy.
  • Next click the Stamp tool.
  • Then Ctrl-click on a section to copy.
  • Clear the check box for 'Hear See Speak 2'. You should now see the background with a selection rectangle in the middle with a round stamp tool indicator.
  • Align the cursor's brush indicator directly on top of the stamp tool's indicator.
  • Click and drag the cursor to copy the second layer.
17. Layers 2 and 3 can now be deleted.

18. Done

  • Put selection rectangles on straight lines in the image to help hide the transition.
  • Don't forget to copy shadows and reflections.
  • Use a tripod.

  • Use Manual exposure and focusing so there's no change in exposure from one image to the next.
[1] Thanks to davidtayhs and jcav5 on the Paint.Net forum for comments helping to clarify this point.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

About me and this blog

Hi. I'm Harley and I'm a photographer. I'm also a lot of other things, but the focus of this site is about images and this aspect of who I am. I grew up in the graphics arts industry. My paternal Grandfather owned a print shop. My Dad worked in the printing industry until after I moved out on my own. Some of my earliest memories are in print shops. My first three jobs were in pre-press production.

In this context I've been around and involved with images, photography and communicating through written media my whole life. For both good and bad, I'm sure this impacts the way I see the world around me and how I take pictures.

I got my first camera in grammar school: a 35mm point and shoot. In high school I got a Minolta SLR with a 45mm fixed focal length lens and a 75-300mm zoom. I enjoyed taking pictures, but with the cost of film and processing and the lack of immediate feedback, it wasn't something I pursued aggressively. I picked up an inexpensive digital point and shoot in the late 90s and loved the immediate feedback and zero cost of taking pictures. I didn't like the fixed length lens and low resolution. It did let me see the potential of digital over film; peaking an interest.

Then several years ago a friend of mine, Rich Legg, got back into photography in a big way. As we talked about what he was doing, the latent interest in me was reignited. I picked up a Canon XTi kit in December of 2006 and haven't really put it down since.

The goal of this blog is to provide an place for my thoughts on the what's happening in the photographic scene, recaps of places I've gone for images, announcements of photography related events in the greater Salt Lake City, Utah area, various how-to items and tutorials.

In general it is not a gallery or portfolio of my work although I am likely to post pictures I've taken to illustrate points. The bulk of my online photos are on my Flickr stream. I do have some images for sale on iStockphoto.

Comments are welcome but I do moderate them. This is simply to keep things wholesome for general family viewing. By default, comments will be accepted. The few things that will cause a comment to be rejected are:

1. It is too long even though it may be well-written and make interesting points. It's supposed to be a comment, not an essay. If you have that much to say, write a blog article and backlink to me.

2. It is nasty, impolite or uses language that is unacceptable.

3. It includes a a link that has a typo or is broken in some other way.

4. It should have been sent as an e-mail since it is clearly addressed to me and does not appear to have been intended for other readers.

5. It is blatantly self-promotional. This does not mean it can't be self-promotional at all, but it should add some value over an above the marketing.

My e-mail is harley3 at I also twitter. And finally, I have a page that contains a list of my other blogs and some more general information about me.