Free Action: Orton Effect with Contrast Kick!

One effect I love to use on many of my photos is the Orton Effect .
Here are two versions of a photo taken at our pond. The first is SOOC (straight out of camera) and the second has the Orton effect applied to it.

SOOC (Straight out of camera)

Orton Effect

I actually combined a few things I have picked up along the way to get this effect. I use PS7 so this should work in PS7 and up. It might work in Elements, and please let me know if you find that it does. The free action can be downloaded via the link at the bottom of this post.

Open your image. Do a quick Curves to boost contrast and adjust color. Then open levels and bring the middle slider up until your image is very light and the middle input level above the curve is around 2. Your photo will look completely washed out, that is what you want.

If you used adjustment layers, flatten your image. Make two copies of your image. On the top image apply a Gaussian blur of 20. Merge this down. Now you should have 2 layers. Change the top layer's blending mode to multiply. Flatten the image. If you are happy with how this looks then you are finished. If you want more contrast like I have in my picture, continue on to the next steps.

First I will bring up the contrast in the darker sections. Ctrl-click on your RGB channel (this selects the highlights), invert it, then feather it 5-10. Then Ctrl-J to make your selection into a new layer. Change its layer blending mode to soft light. Ctrl-click on your RGB channel once again, invert it, then feather it 5-10. Add a brightness/contrast new adjustment layer. Bring up the contrast to 10-20 (whatever looks nice to you).

Now I like to bring up the contrast in the lighter sections. Ctrl-click on your RGB channel, feather it 5-10 (do not invert it this time!), and add a brightness/contrast new adjustment layer. Bring up the contrast to 20 (or whatever number you need to get a nice punch of contrast). Flatten your image.

Here is the effect on a photo of a child. The B&W Orton turns a color picture to B&W and then applies the orton effect.

Download CoffeeShop Orton Effect with Contrast Kick


Kirsten April 9, 2008 at 10:48 AM  

Love this. Applied it to a photo I took in December of childhood stomping grounds. Kind of just sat there until I applied this action. Now it _feels_ like memory.

Rita April 9, 2008 at 1:02 PM  

I know what you mean. I just love the Orton Effect. I can't believe I had never heard of it before the last few weeks.

msbelle April 30, 2008 at 11:27 PM  

Oh, I soooooo can't wait to try this!

Daniela Lamarão June 10, 2008 at 9:41 AM  

I love this. Its like a dream. I can't wait to try.

Anonymous August 9, 2008 at 1:07 PM  

Looks like a great action. Thanks for sharing.

valerie August 20, 2008 at 8:20 PM  

What is the best thing for a newbie to learn? Any help?

valerie August 20, 2008 at 8:22 PM  

PSE 4.0

Metzger Photography August 21, 2008 at 10:23 PM  

has anyone tried this on Elements yet?

ironacres December 24, 2008 at 6:18 PM  

Just found you on a google search for orton action. Wow! Another Photoshop 7 user! And from TX to boot. Thanks!!!

J and R January 2, 2009 at 1:14 PM  

thank you!! but it doesn't seem to work on PSE7...:(

Joanie February 19, 2009 at 12:50 PM  

The Orton Effect is one of my favorites! Thanks for turning it into an action!

Anonymous March 20, 2009 at 11:22 PM  

Hello from Nicole (Southern Cali). I am amazed with the time and energy that you've put into your blog. What I found most helpful here were the directions on uploading actions into PSE7... which is how I stumbled upon your website through a digital scrapbook forum. I am very new (2 months) to digital scrapbooking and have only produced a few layouts... but already, I'm encouraged when I see fantastic photos like yours!

Love & Blessings, Nicole (

Sherri Dale April 16, 2009 at 8:31 PM  

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!! Thank you for sharing, thank you for your great ideas and thank you for your inspiration! I love the Orton effect!

Angela December 31, 2009 at 11:14 AM  

Thank you so much. Love your web site!!

Manuela Busack September 19, 2010 at 7:25 PM  

Thank you so so much!! Just love popping in to see the goodies that you have created, so very much appreciated. Hugs M xxx

Adrian Harvey December 1, 2011 at 2:43 PM  

i just tried it out, needs a little practice on my part but a very nice effect and a welcome change from Color Efex Pro´s equivalent thanks for the free effect.i´m goint to be feverishly digging aruond my archives to apply it!

MB December 25, 2011 at 8:52 AM  

omg ... I have been like a kid in a candy store with this website! Thank you for all you do and offer! Loving it!
I so much wld like this Orton Effect Action!!! I have PSE 8&10, Lightroom and Portrait Professianl 10. Has any one been able to use this in PSE8 or 10? I cant see purchasing Photoshop for just this one Effect (although???,lol)

Donna from Finland October 5, 2014 at 9:36 AM  

Thank you for the orton effect! I used it here