Creating a Diorama Effect

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I remember when I was young when I would build dioramas for school projects and for fun. They were always amazing to me because it was like having my own little town where I could control anything that went on. I found a Photoshop tutorial by Don Engel from psdtuts+ that shows you how to create a diorama illusion using almost any photo and I thought, well, wouldn't that make a great Gimp tutorial? And here it is.

The original tutorial has a lot of explanation on what makes a good photo for this type of work, details that can make or break the effect, lighting, color, depth perception, etc that I won't be explaining here. Go ahead and head on over using the link above and check it out if you want. For now, let's get started!

Step 1

First, I would like to start with a landscape image, as in the original tutorial. Download this photo and open it up in Gimp.

Let's select a focal point for our image. The general rule here is the selected focus point needs to be mid-ground. Using the Ellipse Select Tool, create a selection in the area that I have below. Invert the selection by going to Select > Invert or by hitting CTRL-I. Go to Select > Feather. Enter 400 for the value and hit the ok button. Go to Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter 7 for both values. Hit ok. Select > None.

Step 1

Step 2

Go to Colors > Curves. Raise the line slightly upward and to the right like I have done below. Hit the ok button.

Step 2

Step 3

Download this Color Vibrance script. To install it, go to (In Windows) your main hard drive (usually the C Drive)\GIMP-2.0\share\gimp\2.0\scripts\ Paste the .scm file you downloaded into that folder. In Gimp, go to Filters > Script-Fu > Reset Scripts.

Go to Filters > Eg > Color Vibrance. Enter 11.67 for the intensity and 97.05 for the Color Layer Opacity. Hit ok.

Step 3

1st Image Final

My result could definitely use some improvement, but play around with the lighting and vibrance enough, you can definitely get a great dioramic looking image.

Final 1

Step 1

Now we'll try the same effect with a photo of some very detailed aircraft. Download the photo and open it up in Gimp. This image has a lot of detail that models would not normally have. Select the Clone Tool and, using a soft brush, take away the ropes in the image that are surrounding the planes.

Step 1

Step 2

We will be defining on four main areas in the image. These areas include the fore, mid, mid-back, far backgrounds. They will each have their own mask.

The Foreground Mask
The foreground mask will contain the foremost aircraft. Select the Paths Tool. Make a path like I have below. Once you have that, go to the Paths window and click the Path to Selection button.

Step 2a

Go to Select > Feather. Feather the selection by 50 and hit ok. Go to Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter 20 for both values and hit ok. Select > None. Select the Rectangle Select Tool. Make a selection of the bottom portion like below. Select the Ellipse Select Tool and, while holding down CTRL, select a top portion of that rectangle, like below. You should now have the same selection as I do below. Go to Select > Feather. Enter 50 for the value and hit ok. Go to Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter 30 for the value and hit ok. Select > None.

Step 2b

The Background Masks
The far background masks include the buildings and trees, but not the farmost planes. Using the Pen Tool like before, create a seleciton of this area like I have below and then hit the Path to Selection button. Go to Select > Feather. Feather by 75 pixels and hit ok. Go to Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Blur it by 45 pixels and hit ok. Select > None. You may need to take the blur tool and blur the edges around some of the planes wings where the background did not blur.

Step 2c

Using the Pen Tool, make a selection like I have below. Hit the Path to Selection button. Go to Select > Feather. Feather by 60 pixels and hit ok. Go to Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter 15 for both values and hit ok. Select > None.

Step 2d

Step 3

Now for the lighting. Go to Colors > Curves. Adjust the curve upwards slightly like we did for the first image. Now using the Color Vibrance filter from the third step of the last image, go to Filters > Eg > Color Vibrance. Enter 16.19 for the intensity and 93.52 for the Color Opacity. Hit ok.

Step 3

2nd Image Final

There you have it. A simple way to create a diorama effect. The look for both of these could be improved, but hey it's a start and with enough time and patience, you will have a great real but fake diorama.

Final 2

-Sarah Davison (SGlider12) ~2009 sglider12.blogspot.com

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