Tutorial: Creating Orbitals in Photoshop Elements 9

How to create a fun special effect in 5 easy steps

How to do you create Orbitals, a special effect that flips, twirls and transforms images into round art objects? Let’s take a closer look at this fun effect.

I love reading and editing Diane Miller’s Photoshop tutorials because I always learn something. Last week, in an article that primarily focused on Actions for Photoshop, she happened to mention a special effect called Orbitals. Orbitals transform straight shots into twisted circular images that are kind of trippy and cool.

Diane wrote her article for users of full Photoshop—software that not everyone can afford or needs. I’m always looking for tricks and techniques that could also be done in Adobe’s more affordable Photoshop Elements and by following Diane’s directions I was delighted to discover that you can create Orbitals in Photoshop Elements 9.

First, choose a photo. Not all images will work, but finding out which ones do can be a hit-or-miss proposition. Intense colors seem to work better than muted ones. It may take a few times to find the right one but when you do find it, you’ll know immediately.

Here’s the procedure:

1. Make sure your image is flattened. You don’t have to worry about converting it down from 16 bit to 8 bit, because Photoshop Elements runs in 8 bit only.


Photo © Mason Resnick

2. Distort your image to a square by going to Image > Image Size, uncheck Constrain Proportions and put in the same dimensions for Height and Width, or crop it to a square by going to Image > Canvas Size and enter the size for the shorter side of the box for the longer size.


3. Go to Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates and check Polar to Rectangular. This is the first really distorted look, but we’re not done.

4. Rotate the image 180 degrees (Image > Rotate > 180 degrees)

5. Go back to Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates and this time check Rectangular to Polar. 

That’s it! You’re done!

Here’s another before-and-after set…

 Photo © Mason Resnick


Try it yourself and see!

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