By Lesa Snider
A fun effect referred to as the “twirl” has taken many Photoshop-based Facebook groups by storm. You can use it to quickly convert an ordinary image into a spectacular series of colorful swirls and twirls. While practical uses for this effect are admittedly slim—abstract art and funky backgrounds—it’s the perfect excuse to give yourself permission to play in Photoshop, which feeds your creative soul.
Happily, the technique works in nearly any version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. (While I was unable to confirm the original creator of this effect, Digital Darkroom Techniques and The Artist Makena have been credited by some.)
Prepare your image layers
The first step is to open an image in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements; if you’re in Elements, make sure you’re in Expert mode (it’s called Full Edit in older versions). In order to protect your original image, duplicate your image layer by pressing Command-J, which you can think of as jumping the active layer content onto another layer. If your image consists of multiple layers—say, an image layer plus a Levels adjustment layer or whatever—create a stamped copy by activating the topmost layer and pressing Shift-Option-Command-E. Next, double-click the duplicate (or stamped copy) layer’s name and enter Twirl 1.