How to Create the Orton Effect

Orton Effect 75%
Orton Effect 75%

I was asked recently what the Orton Effect is, after referring to it in a recent post, it’s funny – not so long ago I was asked if I used the Orton Effect on an image, and I had no idea what that was back then either. However I was too embarrassed and instead of asking for help, I googled it. It has now since become something I love to use, however it is really only suitable in certain situations. But I do love to play around with it and occasionally add a subtle grunge effect to it as well. Below is my take (with a twist) on how I create it. I also have it set as an action in Photoshop, which does it all really quickly for me, but here I have put down the steps involved.

So what is the Orton Effect?

Orton imagery, also called an Orton slide sandwich or the Orton Effect, is a photography technique which blends two completely different photos of the same scene, resulting in a distinctive mix of high and low detail areas within the same photo. It was originated by photographer Michael Orton in the mid 1980s.

– Wikipedia

The Technique

Some of this is based on personal taste, so please feel free to adjust any settings as you like.


  1. Open your selected image
  2. Create 3 Duplicate Layers; ‘Base Layer’, ‘Screen Layer’ and ‘Blur Layer’
  3. With the screen layer active, change blend mode to Screen
  4. I have added an additional layer, which has a Grunge effect…….but this is personal taste and not really necessary and can be dropped
  5. With the “Blur Layer” active, go to Filter > Gaussian Blur. Adjust the blur to a point where everything is blurring and nothing stands out; 20 is a good starting point.
  6. With the “Blur Layer” active, change the blend mode to Multiply, and adjust the opacity and / or fill slider bars to achieve the desired effect, try 50%, 75% and 100%.
  7. Depending on what you like you may find the blacks are over powering, try using an adjustment layer in curves, or adjust your levels until you are happy with the result.



This was hastily put together in PS3 (just to prove it can  be done on almost anything). But here are a couple of great links for tutorials as well.

So have fun and experiment you can come up with some really cool effects, and remember any time you are playing in Photoshop, you are learning and improving your skills.

– Julz