AB Friday Forum – Week 44 (Combining Grungy + Faux HDR Effects in GIMP)…

On Tuesday, I checked out some tutorials (both video and text)  on faux hdr and grunge techniques in GIMP*.  I combined the ideas and then added my own flare.

I want to pat my own back here, the grunge video didn’t have a voice over just music, and the labels on the software were in German, which I don’t know, but I still managed to figure out what to do by pausing the video often and figuring out which tool/filter/adjustment was being used. Yay me! 😀

*** Note: Images are clickable to make them larger. ***

I sent the Bird Sculpture photos to Stacy for the AB Friday Forum…

and then continued to ‘perfect’ my idea on two other photos…

By the time I created this awesome eagle image it was after 10pm my time which is well after 1am for Stacy.  I didn’t want to be *that* person who changed my mind after the deadline.  So the tutorial will be what I did on the eagle, which is a cleaned up and perfected tampering that I did to all the photos.

Before anyone comments on the composition of the Bird Sculpture image, I am aware that there is a palm tree coming out of its head, which is unfortunate.  Please remember that I just grabbed an image to play around with, one that needed work and in the process I came up with this sequence that led me to the really cool Eagle image.  You have to start somewhere, right?


Kind thoughts and comments are welcome!

Go find out what everyone else did this week for AB Friday Forum here.

I have joined ABFriday (after before Friday), it is a forum hosted by Stacy at Visual Venturing. This week’s forum can be seen here.

Every Friday Stacy showcases after/before photos we’ve submitted. Then, if we choose, we can tell how we did it on our own blogs.

How To…

diagram 1

diagram 1

This is going to be long and convoluted, I’m really not sure how I’m going to tackle this.  I’m just going to jump in and hope you understand my ramblings.

I did things a bit differently than I normally do, this time I did a lot of ‘merge down’ which means that several things were done to the same layer.  Rather than my normal flow of making lots of layers along the way so that I can redo a portion if I wanted to.  In the future I’ll probably find a way to compress some of these steps, but currently it is pretty convoluted.  This is not for the faint at heart.  I’m sure that you can do this with presets in other programs, but I am a control freak, and I like knowing what is going on under the hood.

Ready?  Don’t say I didn’t warn you…


diagram 2

diagram 2

  1. Create a grungy layer.
  2. Create a faux hdr layer.
  3. Stack these and tweak by changing their blend mode and opacity to get the look you want.
  4. Add a freaky-details layer, change opacity as needed.
  5. Add a high pass layer, change blend mode.
  6. Admire your work. 😀

Visual Cues

Are you ready for some visual cues? Yeah, I thought you’d say that. 😀

Here are the three images with their layers (click to enlarge)…


(check out this video, it’s in German)

diagram 3

diagram 3

  1. Duplicate base layer [diagram 5].  *** At all times I kept at least one layer that was the base layer untouched. ***
  2. Create a new transparency layer [diagram 5] filled with 50% grey [Edit->Fill with FG Color] (for a refresher on setting the foreground to grey check out this tutorial).  Blend mode set to Color [diagram 5].
  3. Merge down (grey layer and duplicated layer) [diagram 1].  Blend mode set to Multiply [diagram 5].
  4. Add a white mask [Layer->Mask->Add layer Mask], paint areas that you don’t want to be dark (like eyes) with black.  This will vary from photo to photo… for the eagle I used the airbrush tool so that it wasn’t such a stark difference along the edges of the eyes.  I skipped this step for the elephants.  And I used the paint brush tool on the bird sculpture in the AB Friday photo [diagram 3].
  5. Duplicate base layer [diagram 5], then merge down the white mask layer and duplicated base layer [diagram 1].
  6. Duplicate merged layer [diagram 5], Gaussian Blur, set to 8.0 [diagram 4].  Add a white mask [Layer->Mask->Add layer Mask], fill it with 50% grey [Edit->Fill with FG Color], then paint black in the areas where you want to keep it sharp, like eyes.  I skipped this step in the elephants photo.  I painted the entire eagle (using the paint brush tool), but left the background blurry.  And I painted the bird sculpture in the AB Friday image [diagram 3].  Merge down the blurred layer and the layer from step 5 [diagram 1].
  7. Levels, set mid to 0.65, and white to 224 [diagram 2].
  8. Unsharpen mask, set amount to 1.0 [diagram 4].
  9. Curves, adjust mid-area up and shadows down [diagram 2].
  10. Hue-Saturation, set saturation -40 [diagram 2].

*** You should now have a base layer, and a grungy layer.  Turn off visibility to the grungy layer and continue to the Faux HDR section. ***

Images below are at 100% opacity…

Color Grading (only used on Bird Sculpture image)

I added a layer created by the G’MIC Filter called Color Grading [Filters->G’MIC->Colors->Color Grading] in between the Grungy and the HDR for the bird sculpture image because it was so dark to begin with.  This filter has a lot of the same adjustments I’m used to from Camera Raw (shadows, highlights, blacks, brightness, contrast, clarity).  As well as some other adjustments like changing the tone to cool/warm, saturation, tone map, and color grading (which has several controls).  I just found this filter and have only used it on the bird sculpture image.


Faux HDR

(check out this tutorial)

diagram 4

diagram 4

  1. Duplicate base layer [diagram 5].  ***At all times I kept at least one layer that was the base layer untouched.***
  2. Desaturate layer, using Average selection [diagram 2].
  3. Invert desaturated layer [diagram 2].
  4. Softglow [Filters->Artistic->Softglow] set Radius 10, Brightness 0.75, Sharpness 0.85 (defaults) [diagram 4].  Blend mode set to Soft Light, opacity set to 50% [diagram 5].
  5. Duplicate softglow layer, opacity set to 75% [diagram 5].
  6. Duplicate base layer, move to top of stack [diagram 5].  Levels, set black to 100 [diagram 2].  Blend mode set to Darken Only, opacity set to ~35% [diagram 5].
  7. Duplicate base layer.  Then turn off visibility to base layer (and grungy layer) [diagram 5], then merge the 4 visible layers (duplicate base, 50% softglow, 75%softglow, and levels) [diagram 1].
  8. I did not get the dodge/burn script that is mentioned in the tutorial.  So I skipped that step (my grungy layer was created to take the place of this step… we’ll get to that later).
  9. Hue-Saturation, set Master saturation to 50 [diagram 2].
  10. Levels, set black to 25 and white to 225 [diagram 2].

*** You should now have three layers; a base layer, a grungy layer, and a faux HDR layer. ***

Images below are at 100% opacity…


diagram 5

diagram 5

The three layers should be in this order:

  • Grungy
  • Faux HDR
  • Base
  1. Set the Blend mode of the Grungy layer to Overlay [diagram 5].
  2. Adjust the opacity of the Grungy layer and the Faux HDR layer until you like it [diagram 5].  For the Eagle image I kept the grungy layer at 100%, and set the faux hdr ~75%.  For the Elephants image I set the grungy layer ~25% and kept the faux hdr at 100%.  For the Bird Sculpture image I set the grungy layer to ~55% and kept the faux hdr at 100%.

Freaky Details

I have the G’MIC Plug-In for GIMP.

  1. Make a New Layer from Visible [Layer->New from Visible].
  2. G’MIC Filter Freaky Details [Filters->G’MIC->Details->Freaky Details] at the default values, input set to active layer (the New from Visible Layer), output set to new layer(s).
  3. Adjust the opacity until you like it [diagram 5].  For the Eagle image I set it to ~50%.  For the Elephants image I set it to ~24%.  I didn’t do this step for the Bird Sculpture image.

Images below are at 100% opacity…

High Pass Filter

diagram 6

diagram 6

Your layers should now look like this:

  • Freaky Details
  • Visible
  • Grungy
  • Faux HDR
  • Base
  1. With the Visible and the Freaky Details layers turned on [diagram 5] (the others can be on or off, they don’t matter since we have the Visible layer) create a New Layer from Visible [Layer->New from Visible].
  2. G’MIC Filter High Pass [Filters->G’MIC->Details->High Pass] at the default levels, input set to active layer (the New from Visible Layer), output set to new layer(s).
  3. You can delete the Visible layer you created in step 1 of this section.  Set the blend mode of the High Pass layer to Overlay [diagram 5].
  4. With the Visible, Freaky Details, and High Pass Layers turned on [diagram 5], create a New Layer from Visible [Layer->New from Visible].  This is your final image.

This is so long already that I’m not really sure how much more to add before it gets ridiculous.  If you’ve read one of my GIMP tutorials before, most of what is here is not new to you.  Also the Grungy and Faux HDR sections have links to their original posts.  I just combined them and altered the blend mode and opacity, then I added two G’MIC filters on top of that.

If you have any questions, or need something explained in more detail, feel free to ask me in the comments sections.  I’d be happy to help. 😀

I told you it was convoluted, didn’t I?  But it’s a pretty cool effect.  At least I think so.  What do you think?

Until next time…

* GIMP is Open Source software that is available for all platforms (Linux, Mac, and Windows), it is a photo editor that does many (if not all) of the things you can do in Photoshop. You can download it for free here. The GIMP online manual can be found here.


Like Wilber? You can get him here.

18 thoughts on “AB Friday Forum – Week 44 (Combining Grungy + Faux HDR Effects in GIMP)…

  1. Wow, Nic, just wow! I can’t even begin to imagine how long it took you to decipher that video let alone how long it took you to put this post together! I can’t say I understand it all, but I certainly will know where to look should I ever try GIMP. As for your images, I had to laugh at your comment about the palm tree growing out of the bird sculpture – so glad you were aware 😉

    My favorite image, by far, is of the eagle. Breathtaking, majestic, with a gorgeous low-key effect to highlight and focus attention on the star of this photo!

    By the way, thanks for your concerns about the deadline. On the other hand, don’t ever hesitate to email me something a bit later. If I can’t accommodate, I won’t hesitate to let you know 🙂

    • Thanks, Stacy! I will do my best not to ask for things after the deadline, but it’s great to know that you won’t be put off by my lateness. 🙂 I tend to run a bit chaotic and it’s not easy to get things in on time. heh.

      As for the German video, I watched it through once, then I watched it again and paused often to see what they were doing. Many things were familiar, I’m sure you recognize certain adjustment dialogs in Lightroom. Merge down was something I’ve done rarely, but recognized that it was happening. And for all we know I got some things wrong, haha.

      As for putting this post together, it was time consuming for sure. Once I started writing it just started to pour out of me. And I actually thought I was finished on Wednesday night. But while I slept I thought of how I could add images and diagrams to explain better. The diagrams took some time to create, and I spent the majority of Thursday adding all the ‘extras’. It’s a monster now. 😀 I don’t mind the work, it helps make me remember what I did. I just really hope someone will try out one of my tutorials and let me know how it went. I sometimes feel like I’m writing into the ether.

      As for the palm tree growing out of the bird sculpture, I was trying to cut off those comments at the pass, and focus on the grungy + hdr effect. The comments made in jest were pretty cool though. 😛

      My favorite is the Eagle too! 😀 Would you believe that I took that photo at the zoo, and the Eagle is on the other side of a wire cage? I always think it is so cool when you can shift the focus to blur out the wire cage in zoo photos. 😀

      • If I used GIMP, Nic, I would certainly try out some of your steps! You provide such amazing tutorials on the program, you should become their spokeswoman 🙂 (I’d say earn a commission, but since it’s a free program, that doesn’t quite fly!)

        Did I miss the cage reference in your post? That is really so awesome!

        • Thanks again, Stacy! 😀 Nah, I didn’t mention the cage thing in the post, there was so much information in there already. I guess I was just making conversation. 😛

          • I had to look it up, I took the photo back in 2013. I used a 70-300mm lens at focal length 180mm. 1/250s, f/3.5, iso 200 on my Canon Rebel T2i. 😀

            Ok, that’s weird. My lens is f/4-5.6 so I’m not sure why the exif data says that my aperture is f/3.5. I looked under three different programs and they all claim f/3.5. So I got out my camera and lens… it is f/4 at 70mm… f/4.5 at 100mm… f/5.0 at 135mm… and f/5.6 at 300mm… so I’m inclined to believe that at 180mm the aperture was f/5.0. So weird. :/

          • Oh my, I feel like such a dork. It has been bugging me that the exif data would be wrong. No, I’m the one who is wrong. I used a different lens … I used my 180mm f/3.5 Macro lens… so the exif data is correct. I got one of the programs I was using to cough up which lens I was using. So to answer your question my aperture was set to f/3.5, using a 180mm lens. 😛

          • Disregard my previous comment. My iPad posted it before I was finished. So here it is again, in it’s entirety 🙂

            Phew, glad you sorted that out for yourself 😉 In all seriousness, thanks for the info. It’s definitely helpful!

          • Yeah, sorry about the total spaz attack. Basically, a long (telephoto) lens and the aperture was as open as it would go. 😀

    • Thanks, Robin! It was a bit of work to write up the tutorial, but hopefully it explains it in a way that makes others want to try it out. 😀

    • Thanks, Mary! If you ever want to try out GIMP, it is free and available for all platforms (Linux, Mac, Windows). Check out gimp.org if you are interested. 😀 I’ve written quite a few tutorials on various things you can do in GIMP and I have many more tutorials I plan to write. 😀

Kind thoughts and comments are always welcome...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.