Messing with Photoshop twirl filter


I’ve seen a few images on social media recently where the user has created a rather aesthetically pleasing image that could perhaps be used as a type of screensaver background or similar, and thought I’d have a go at this myself. I subscribe to the Photography pack from Adobe which comprises Lightroom and Photoshop, but have rarely used Photoshop as I tend to post process all of my images using the excellent Lightroom application. Anyways, this is how I used Photoshop to create theses type of images.

These images are not created from a blank canvas per sé, but are based on an existing image that is manipulated using a selection of filters in Photoshop. Any image would suffice but depending on the look and feel of the end result you are after it is best to select an image containing the range and contrast of colours required for your desired effect. As is the case with any type of image manipulation using Photoshop, experimentation is the order of the day and if you’re going to have a go yourself I would urge you to try several source image that contain different colour palettes and contrasts so that you begin to get a feel of how applying the various Photoshop filters affects the end result.

Using a base image with broad contrast and a limited colour palette also allows interesting final images to be created…

When experimenting with Photoshop there is never a right or wrong way to do things, you choose how much of a filter is applied, what filters are applied etc according to your tastes. Here’s a rough process as to how I created the images in this post.

  • Select the image you wish to use as your source image, I used this image of an Elephant Hawk Moth.
  • double-click on the layer to unlock it.
  • right-click on the layer and select convert to smart object
  • select filter>distort>mezotint
  • select filter>blur>radial blur (100) – do this several times, how many times is up to you, in this final image I did it three times
  • select filter>distort>twirl – experiment with the numbers, I used between 150-200
  • double-click twirl layer, select mode Lighten
  • repeat twirl filter this time using negative figure used in the previous twirl filter step
  • double-click second twirl layer, select mode Lighten
  • adjust curves/saturation/vibrance according to your own preferences

I made final adjustments to the image in Lightroom however if you prefer to remain within Photoshop for this it can also be done using filter > camera raw filter.

More experimentation with different source images and the combinations of filters / effects used above will result in an interesting range of effects being applied to the final image. Adjust the final image according to your own personal tastes.

There are many YouTube videos available providing a greater insight to Photoshop filters and their use, with dozens specifically relating to the twirl effect thus providing more detailed instructions if you need further detail.

Have fun.

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