Blue and white twirl effect image
Colour,  Photographic techniques,  Themed galleries

Gallery: twirling away with a new photo effect!

Who says photographs have to be faithful representations? Sometimes it’s fun to play around with images to create something that’s quite wildly different from the original subject matter.

I recently learned, from John Steiner’s helpful tutorial on his Photos by JohnBo blog how to create twirled images with Photoshop Elements, and I’ve gone a bit mad with them. I love the abstract colours and slightly random nature of the finished results.

For many of the images below I’ve followed John’s instructions to the letter, but for others I’ve played around a bit with the settings; in particular I’ve sometimes increased the angle of the final twirl from -100 to -200 or even -250. It’s all a matter of preference and if you want to have a go yourself I recommend experimenting a bit once you have the hang of it.

Thanks John for the inspiration and guidance!

Pink flowers against black backgroundPink and black twirl effect image
Bougainvillea in Laos
Pink flowersPink and green twirl effect image
Bougainvillea in Luang Prabang
Colourful flowers in a white potTwirl effect image
In Rapperswill on Lake Zurich
Stained glass windowTwirl effect image
Stained glass in Zurich
Purple and cream flowerTwirl effect image
Iris in Koprivshitsa, Bulgaria
Blue irisYellow and blue twirl effect image
Iris in Lammas Park, Ealing
Mural of girl's faceTwirl effect image
Street art in Shoreditch, London
Detail opf eacock's tailGreen twirl effect image
Peacock’s tail
White Orthodox church with blue domeWhite and blue twirl effect image
Church in Jelgava, Latvia
Red and cream flowersGreen and red twirl effect image
Flowers in an Abu Dhabi hotel
Ornate gatehouse illuminated purple at nightPurple and orange twirl effect image
Entrance to Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi
Autumn leaves in front of blue doorPale blue and orange twirl effect image
Door in Whitstable at Halloween
Yellow door with hand-shaped knockerYellow twirl effect image
Door knocker in Albufeira, Portugal
Oranges growing on a treeGreen and yellow twirl effect image
Oranges in Faro, Portugal


  • Amanda

    I love the effect, especially the Latvian church and peacock. Didn’t it change the photo radically. Makes it more of a impression of colour fantasy. Well done.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Amanda, I’m glad you enjoyed these. I was especially pleased with the peacock myself, mainly because the original isn’t as crisp as I’d have liked 😉

    • Toonsarah

      Thank you 😊 Yes, the effect works best with colourful photos although I’m curious to try black and white as Marsha suggests below.

  • Marsha

    Hi Sarah, I agree with john about the compare image. I hadn’t thought of that when I posted mine in his interview. I love the church. I also love the face. The important thing, it seems is that you have bright colors. I haven’t tried it in black and white, but I think your church would look well in a black and white twirl as well. It is addicting. I experimented a bit, too, but I haven’t done a post about it. I’m so glad you tried it. It doesn’t take away from the original photo because you don’t lose it. I don’t know that there is a great use or calling for twirls, but they are just fun. 🙂 Thanks for playing with it and sharing! 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful comment Marsha 🙂 It seemed to me these were crying out for the comparison block, so people could see the ‘before and after’ images. But I hadn’t thought about trying a black and white twirl. I may do so – I think it would need to be a high contrast image with a fairly even mix of the two shades.

      You’re right, there’s no real use for these unless you could create one so beautiful it would make good abstract art. I think the church comes close to that. And maybe they’d make good background images for text as in a headline? Otherwise no, they are just for the fun of doing them and seeing what you can create!

      • Marsha

        I used one for a background. It was awesome. No one would know what it was though and the time it takes to make. It’s just pure fun.

  • margaret21

    You can put me down as a Grumpy Old Woman. These are great images in their own right, but in each case I prefer the original. Your shots are always first rate, and I enjoy them for what they are. But you have plenty of followers who love them too, so you can leave me to whinge in the corner of a darkened room.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Haha – nor grumpy at all, just with an opinion!! In some cases I prefer the original myself (the two bougainvillea shots, for instance, and the Portuguese front door). But it’s still fun to play around and see what you can create. It’s not about replacing the original but creating something new out of it. And in some cases I preferer the twirl, e.g. the peacock’s tail which wasn’t a great shot (focus slightly off) 🙂

  • Suzanne@PictureRetirement

    Sarah, thanks for linking back to John’s post. I’ll have to check this out and maybe create some abstracts of my own. I like the church best. Blue is my favorite color and this photo is especially peaceful to me.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      That’s one of my favourites too – not just the colours but the patterns seem to be especially effective in that one. Pure fluke – you don’t know what you’re going to get with this effect although you can tweak it a bit!

  • Simone

    Cool abstract effects Sarah! The first ones I could sort of imagine how they would look like. But some have really creative unexpected results. Quite fascinating!

  • photobyjohnbo

    Great use of the Compare block. The Compare capability didn’t exist when I first wrote the article.

    I am particularly struck by the image of the church. The curves in the original image affect the final twirl in a way I haven’t seen before. Very interesting!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks for coming over to check these out. The image compare block seemed perfect for this – maybe you’ll have to post some more one day now that you have the option!

      I was very happy with the church one too. It could be (I can’t remember) that this is one where I adjusted your instructions – I found that sometimes using an angle of -150 or even -200 on the final twirl produced more interesting results 🙂

      I also found that using the Sunlight filter in Color Efex, but toned down a bit, was a very effective adjustment for many of the final shots.

Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! And please include your name in case WP marks you 'anonymous' - thank you