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Photoshop Tutorial : Swirls and Twirls with Filters

Does this technique have a practical purpose, probably not really. You could use it as a backdrop in a composition, or maybe as a background in the header for a website. You could also create some artwork to sell.

Mostly it’s about playing and seeing what different images you can come up with. I’ve also tried some variations to the technique I used in the images above and came up with more interesting stuff – so it really is all about playing.

A word of caution – I would definately grab a pen and paper to jot down what you’ve done as you go along because you really don’t want to be trying this out on a 5,000px X 3,000px @300dpi – I would suggest that you use a 800px X 600px @ 72 dpi file do whatever you want to do (keeping notes) and then do it on the larger image if you happen to like the end result. The filters will take a lot longer to run on a larger size file and with the likes of the Radial Blur Filter you are going to use it at ‘Best’ rather than ‘Good’. The good news is that the filters used are available in all versions of Photoshop.

Create a new file 800 X 600 @ 72 dpi and then duplicate the b/ground by using Ctrl + J on the keyboard or drag the b/ground to the create new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette. Turn off the b/ground layer for now. You may or may not end up using this layer depends if you’d like to use a solid colour or gradient to blend your final image with.

Make sure the default colours are set to black and white, then go to Filter>Render>Clouds. This is where teaching this gets a little tricky – you can accept the default clouds or press Ctrl + F on the keyboard to get some more variation, that will be entirely up to you. I haven’t done any variation with mine, but you will end up with different effects if you repeat the filter. The next part is tricky as well 🙂

Go to Filter>Pixelate>Mezzotint and choose Long Strokes from the drop down menu. I’ve tried a couple of other effects from the pixelate menu and they have worked quite well – experiment.

Now go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur and use the settings that I have below. Once it renders press Ctrl + F on the keyboard so it renders again. You should end up with something similar to the second image

Duplicate the layer you just did the radial blur on and turn the topmost layer off by clicking on the little eyeball. Click on the other radial blur layer to make it active and go to Filter>Distort>Twirl and you can punch in the numbers I have below if you like. the amount of Twirl you use will change the final image, so again, experiment. You can also try out some of the other Distort filters if you like.

Click the eyeball to turn the top layer back on and click on the layer to make it active. Go to Filter>Distort>Twirl and you can punch in the numbers I have or try some of your own. You will notice this is a negative number.

Once you have completed that, change the blend mode of the top layer to Lighten. Isn’t that pretty 🙂

You can add colour in a couple of ways, but I’m going to use a Hue/Sat adjustment layer here. So, working on the top layer, go to the bottom of the layers palette and click on the little ying yang symbol and choose Hue/Sat from the menu. Once the dialogue opens, check the Colorize box. Fiddle around with the colours until you get something you like, then Clip the Hue/Sat adjustment layer with the layer below. Hold Down the Alt key and hover the cursor on the line that seperates the hue/sat layer from the topmost layer, wait till that strange symbol appears then click. Click on the first layer you did the Twirl on and repeat the steps but use a different colour … and remember to clip the hue/sat adjustment layer with the Twirled layer. You might end up with something similar to the image below

That is the basis of the tutorial. You could merge down the layers by merging visible and this will leave you free to add a gradient to the b/ground layer you turned off right at the start of the tutorial and then change the blend mode to get an interesting effect. You could also look at my tutorial on making a mirror image effect and try it out on your image. You’ll notice I’ve done that on the image below. I’ve also gone ahead and duplicated the layer, then changed the blend mode to Multiply. I then merged the 2 layers and used a Colour Balance adjustment layer.

I then duplicated the layers and ran the twirl filter on both of them again and changed the blend mode to Darken.

Here is another one that I was messing around with earlier, which was done using some different Distort Filters.

Have fun with it 🙂

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