The Orton Effect is named after photographer Michael Orton, who attempted to imitate watercolours with his photographs using darkroom techniques. The result is an out-of-focus, highly saturated look with detail around the edges retained. Orton achieved his results using two slides; one in focus and one out. In this tutorial I’ll show you how to achieve the same effect in Photoshop using one image.
Choosing your image
This is the image I’ve chosen to demonstrate the effect:
Images with quite muted tones but some colour work well, as do pictures with trees, autumnal scenes and black and white images. Portraits don’t work well with this effect in my experience.
1. Create 'Screen' Layer
Open your image in Photoshop and duplicate your background layer. In the layers tab, change the blending mode from normal to screen.
I've named my duplicated layer ‘screen’ as that’s what the blending mode for that layer now is. You may wish to name your layer the same thing to make the process easier to follow. You’ll notice this layer has become brighter than our original image.
2. Create 'Multiply' Layer
Duplicate your 'Screen' layer, rename the new layer to 'Multiply' and change the blending mode to Multiply:
Your image will now be quite dark, so to fix this, create an adjustment layer for levels:
Then slide your mid-tones, marker left until the brightness looks correct:
Create another adjustment layer, this time saturation, and use the saturation slider to boost your colours slightly. You’re going for an over the top look so don’t be afraid to increase them to the point that they look unnatural.
Once you’ve made your adjustment layer tweaks, select your 'Multiply' layer again (make sure it’s highlighted) and click Filter > Blur >
The settings for your blur will really depend on your image. Drag the slider until you have enough blur but still retain the details you want to keep. For this image, I found about 20px was enough.
5. Finishing Touches
Add any finishing touches you think the picture needs (in my
case I straightened up the horizon line and made a small crop) and you’ll have
your finished image.
The Orton Effect is a great way to jazz up mundane shots that you may not have used for anything. It’s also very handy for rescuing an image you like but that isn't in sharp focus. Doing this the non-digital way would be time consuming with no real way to guarantee your results. As a quick Photoshop technique though, it works very well and you can try this on any photo you have without changing the original; getting varied, interesting results every time.