The Easy Guide To Creating The Orton Effect

Would you like to learn how to change this:

into this, using the Orton Effect?

then read on!


The aim of this Guide is to provide easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions to achieving the Orton Effect without the necessity of being a Photoshop guru. For this purpose I try to describe the process in plain and simple language. If you are a digital artist guru, you may wish to turn away at this point to avoid the Groan Factor.

I have found a lot of tutorials on this topic assume a much higher level of knowledge than I have and are not very intuitive. One of the problems is that if you don’t get a particular step in the process, you’re gone.

So, I try to explain the steps in easy to understand terms (hopefully!) and, importantly, describe what each step should look like after it’s done. So if you are not seeing the result of each step replicated on your screen, you know you have to stop and try again. If this happens, go to the top toolbar, select Edit then Undo [whatever it is you’ve just done] from the drop-down menu and try again.

To achieve the Orton Effect you will be creating Layers, but don’t worry if you haven’t done this before. I hadn’t.

The method I am about to describe is the simplest I have found. It’s not my method, but the description is all mine.

The steps described below assume almost zero knowledge of Layering, and ignore other adjustments you might be making to the image, for example Sharpening the image before you start work on it, which is highly recommended.

Step 1

Choose your image. I have found that an image with a lot of white in it, for example waterfalls, is not ideal for the Orton Effect. Try to select an image which is not underexposed, has strong colour, in focus and sharp, and which has a dominant subject. Flowers are ideal. For the purposes of this Tutorial, I will demonstrate the Steps using this image, shot in my backyard in August 2008 using a hand-held Canon 10D and a plastic fantastic Canon EF 28-90mm f4-5.6 Zoom Lens at 47mm, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f4. I shot it in RAW and sharpened it before converting to a copy JPEG for uploading. Don’t ask what the name of this plant is:

Step 2

You’ve got PE (or Photoshop CS2 or later) open. Now select File from the top toolbar and select Open from the drop-down menu. Choose your Flower shot and open it. (You may be using a non-flower image, but for ease of reference I will refer to it as Flower. For this demonstration I converted the same RAW file I had saved a copy in JPEG, only this time saving it as a TIFF to work in PE. The process will work also with a JPEG, so no freaking out, ok.)

Cool. Now look across to the right of the screen. See the Layers palette? It should be showing a thumbnail of the Flower image, together with the label Background, like so:

Feel the excitement. This is your Background Layer.

Step 3

Move the mouse over to the thumbnail. Right-click the word Background. A small window should now open, like so:

Select Duplicate Layer. A small box should now immediately appear in the middle of your screen, like so:

It is asking you to Name the Duplicate Layer. Name this Layer Focus, like so:

Click on OK. (Note: It doesn’t really matter what you name it, but Focus will do for our current purpose.)

Step 4

Look across to the Layers Palette. There should now be a new rectangular box immediately above the original, called Focus, like so:

Pause now and look at the tiny eye icon. You will see that it is now the Focus layer on your screen, so this is the “copy” you are working on. OK, moving on …..
Right-click the Focus rectangular box and select Duplicate Layer again. This time when the naming box appears just click OK because we will use the default name for this Layer, being Focus copy. Your Layers Palette should now look like this:

Step 5

OK, now we are going to blend the Focus copy. Look at the Layers Palette again. See the drop down menu at the top left, showing Normal as the default? Click on it, then scroll down about a third of the way down the menu and select Screen, like so:

The Focus copy layer should now have a bit of a washed-out look to it as a result of selecting Screen as the Blending Mode. (I have found that if the Screen effect still leaves a fairly good image, the Orton Effect will be enhanced. Too washed out and the Effect is diminished.) My Flower now looks like this:

Step 6

Right-click the Focus copy rectangular box in the Layers Palette again, only this time select Merge Down (it’s the 3rd from the bottom), like so:

This will collapse the Focus copy layer onto the Focus layer, like so:

Step 7

Right-click the Focus rectangular box in the Layers Palette again and select Duplicate Layer again. Name this copy Blur, like so:

Cool. Click OK to close the box. Now, look across to the Layers Palette to check it looks like this:

Step 8

Now, find and open the Filter menu on the Tool bar running across the top of your screen. Select Blur. Another menu should open. Select Gaussian Blur (don’t ask):

A new window should open. You will see a Preview of the image with a default blur Radius setting of 15.9:

(You can play around with the radius later.) For now, just click OK to close the window as we will accept the 15.9 (I have found 15.9 to be right for most images anyway).

The blur you are to achieve with this step should be enough to discern the shapes without the detail. Here’s how my Flower looks now:

Step 9 – The Magic Happens!

This is the fun part. We now make one more blending option. Click on the same drop down menu in the Layers Palette you used to create the Screen effect, only this time select Multiply – it’s closer to the top of the menu – like so:

You should now be able to see the Orton Effect! This is how my Flower now looks:

Step 10

OK, you now have a few options before saving the image. I’ll show you one.

If, however, you are happy with the result, right-click the Blur rectangular box in the Layers Palette one more time and select Flatten Image – it’s the last option on the menu – like so:

This basically collapses all the layers into one final image and is the last thing you do in Layering. Your Layers Palette should now look like this:

You can now Save the image as normal.

But, if it looks too dark, you can adjust the Opacity level with the sliding bar before flattening the image. Look for the tiny Opacity tool in the top right of the Layering Palette. (TIP: If you find you need to go below 50% the Effect is significantly lost and maybe it wasn’t the right image to start with. If you are using Photoshop CS2 or later, another option is to adjust the Fill and leave the Opacity at 100%.)

I’m not happy with my Flower – too dark – so I’m going to reduce the Opacity to 70%, like so:

Now my Flower looks like this:

Compare it with the original JPEG:

Thus endeth the Tutorial, and I hope you made it this far! Before you go, however, below I have some more samples of using the Orton Effect – with before and after versions or each – to show the potential to use the effect on subjects other than flowers.

Monochrome Urbanscape – BEFORE

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM Zoom Lens at 24mm, with B+W #103 3-stop ND Filter and Lee 0.9 Hard Grad ND Filter, ISO 50, 9 seconds at f8, Shipwreck Lookout, Homebush Bay, Sydney, at dawn

Monochrome Urbanscape – AFTER

Opacity at 80%

Portrait – BEFORE

Hand-held Canon 5D Mark II, Sigma 50mm f1.8 Lens, ISO 50, 1/200 second at f1.8, Lady Macquarie’s Chair, Sydney, at dawn.

Portrait – AFTER

Opacity at 60%

Infrared Photograph – BEFORE

Infrared-converted Canon 10D, Sigma 50mm f1.8 Lens, ISO 100, 1 second at f16, Lindfield, Sydney, December 2009

Infrared Photograph – AFTER

Opacity at 90%

OK, one last flower:


Hand-held Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 100mm f2.8L IS USM Macro Lens, ISO 320, 1/250 second at f2.8, Shipwreck Lookout, Homebush Bay, Sydney


Opacity at 70%

Have fun!



  • Originally published 24 September 2008 on
  • Revised and expanded March 2010.
  • Re-published 12 December 2010 on Peter Hill’s Weblog.
This entry was posted in orton effect, photography, photography tutorial, tutorial and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Easy Guide To Creating The Orton Effect

  1. nancy says:

    from redbubble:
    Peter this is an interesting lesson and I thank you for sharing this. I intend to utilize it on some photos to get the knack of it. I do not use photoshop, but my corel has similar executions and I believe I can still use this lesson with it 🙂

  2. Lauren says:

    I’ve been using a web-based program to get the ‘orton effect’ and I’m happy that I can do it on photoshop now, under a little more control. Thanks for the tutorial!

  3. Pingback: Does Orton have a who… « Lois Reynolds Mead's Blog

  4. Gerry Lauzon says:

    Awesome tutorial. Thanks for sharing.

    Gerry 🙂

  5. hannah uk says:

    I have a confession to make: I can hardly any difference between the befores and afters.
    Not usually that visually obtuse. Anyway, I know what people are on about now. Thank you for that.
    I loved your writing style when I went through some of your redbubble forum posts. So glad to have found you there and here.

  6. Mark says:

    Very good tutorial. Thanks.

  7. Heather says:

    Thank you for the great tutorial! It was extremely easy to follow and worked wonders!

  8. Greg says:

    Thanks, your tutorial is very useful and very concise. I followed your instructions and made this into an action. I fear all my photo soon be subjected to this very useful effect. THANKS!

  9. Vic Zubakin says:

    Thanks for the tutorial Peter – appreciated. You explain things very clearly.
    Looks like a interesting technique. I have actually seen it described in another tut where they used a couple of images, one of which was sharp & in focus & the other was blurred & shot out of focus.

  10. Nick Milsum. says:

    Came across this tutorial after reading your awesome waterfall tutorial. I wish I had discovered your site years ago. I am going to make an “action” of creating the Orton effect”.

  11. Sharyn Warner says:

    Thank you Peter, you helped me understand each step so it makes more sense to me…and I love the effect. Sharyn.

  12. Stanley Sims says:

    Truly enjoyable. Learned a lot. Thanks for sharing this method.

  13. Pingback: Flowers Galore – Inside and Outside – Part 4, Some Creative Ideas « PhotoWestGuy

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