Add Silky Punch to Your Photos with the Orton Effect {Plus a FREE Action!}

before and after

A while back I came across a technique called the Orton Effect, which gives photos a saturated and dreamy feel.  So pretty!  From Wikipedia:

The original technique invented by Michael Orton was to overlay two or more images of an identical scene with very different exposures on slide film.  One image is sharply focused and the others are very out of focus.


This effect can be replicated in Photoshop with the following steps:

  • Open your photo! (Here is our before…)


  • Duplicate the background layer twice, so you now have 3 identical layers.
  • Set the top layer to the Screen blending mode.
  • Now right click the top layer and select ‘Merge Down’ from the menu.  You’ve just merged the top 2 layers together.  You should have 2 layers left.  Rename the top layer to ‘Focus.’
  • Now duplicate the ‘Focus’ layer.  It will be called ‘Focus Copy’.  Rename the layer to ‘Blur and Deepen’.
  • Set the ‘Blur and Deepen’ layer to the Multiply blending mode.
  • With the ‘Blur and Deepen’ layer still selected, in the top menu bar, choose Filter –> Blur –> Gaussian Blur.  You can experiment with different Radius settings, but I find a radius of 13.0 pixels works nicely for many things.
  • **Note: the steps above are for the basic Orton Effect.  The steps below are ones I’ve added.  Smile  **
  • Now I want to apply some sharpening, so we’re first going to create a new composite layer.  To do this, make sure your top layer is selected (‘Blur and Deepen’), and hit Ctrl/Cmd+Alt+Shift+E.  This will create a new layer at the top of your Layers palette that combines all the effects.  Rename this layer ‘Sharpen’.
  • With the ‘Sharpen’ layer highlighted, in the top menu go to Filter –> Other –> High Pass.  (This is the High Pass Sharpening method).  Again, you can experiment, but I find that a radius of 8.0 pixels works well.
  • Change the Blending Mode of the Sharpen layer to Overlay or Soft Light.
  • We are going to create a Group for the effect.  Highlight the top 3 layers we’ve created (Sharpen, Blur and Deepen, and Focus), and hit Ctrl/Cmd + G.  I renamed the group ‘Silky Punch’.  Smile
  • Next, I add layer masks to all layers to make our ‘Silky Punch’ effect fully adjustable.  Here’s what my layers palette looks like…

layers palette

Voila!  After tweaking the opacities of the different layers and masking out areas that got too dark/soft, here is the After:


This effect is really pretty on nature.  It also can be used for portraits on skin and hair at reduced opacity (20% or so – you can see an example here).

And finally, you can download the free Silky Punch action here!  If you use this effect, I’d love to see your photos posted on Polished Picture’s Facebook Page!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by.  If you liked this post, I’d love to hear from you!  Until next time.  Winking smile

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4 Responses to Add Silky Punch to Your Photos with the Orton Effect {Plus a FREE Action!}

  1. Kayte says:

    This looks like such a pretty technique! I’m attemping with PSE… not sure how (or if it’s possible) to create a group in Elements. Also, I’ve been wondering if your actions are compatible with Elements?

    Thanks for all the amazingly helpful info on here! Loving it!

    • Angie says:

      Hi Kayte! For the Orton Effect, it’s not actually necessary to create a group. It just makes it easier to adjust the opacity and use masking on the entire effect as a whole. That being said, Rita at The Coffee Shop ( has a free Group It action for Elements that sounds like it will let you create a group. She is a great source for Elements users, as is Everyday Elements ( Some of the actions on my site may be compatible with Elements, but I don’t have it to test them out. I hope that helps, I’m so glad that you have stopped by the site!!

  2. Karin says:

    Was the High Pass layer supposed to have the blending mode changed to Overlay?

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