The Polar Coordinate Filter – Amazing Circles

Photo manipulating programs have a polar coordinate filter that can turn a photo into a circular shape that is reminiscent of a fortune teller’s orb or marble. They are also commonly called Amazing Circles. I recently found a post by Russel Ray with full directions and illustrations for how to create An orb in Photoshop. Be sure to go to his post to see his intriguing results!

I’m very excited with my marble photos, though I will soon have so many of them that I expect the novelty will wear off – for you. I don’t think I will tire of it soon because each one is so unpredictable. I never know what will be inside the marble photo until it is complete! Here are the directions for making these using one purchased program and one freeware program.

1. Photoshop Elements 10:

a. Open your picture in Photoshop Elements or Photoshop and enhance it as desired. I usually adjust the lighting levels and sharpen.

10-1-cotoneaster-leaves-square

b. Crop it to a square, or a ratio of 1:1 (photo above)

10-2-polar-coordinate

c. Click on Filter – Distort – Polar Coordinates – Polar to Rectangular – OK (photo above)

10-3-invert

d. Click on Image – Rotate – Flip Vertical (photo above)

e. Click on Filter – Distort – Polar Coordinates – Rectangular to Polar – OK. Then I opened FastStone Image Viewer to add borders and text, and also t0 resize it to fit my blog. This finished marble is 778X778 pixels.   (photo above)

2. GIMP: is a freely distributed program. The technique for making Amazing Circles is similar to above.

a. Enhance the photo as desired.
b. Choose the Crop Tool (looks like a knife, sort of). Select a Fixed Aspect ratio of 1:1 and select the area you want to use.
c. From the menu bar, choose Filters- Distorts- Polar Coordinates. Uncheck the “To Polar” button.
d. From the menu bar, choose Image- Transform- Flip Vertically.
e. From the menu bar, choose Filters- Distorts- Polar Coordinates again. Check the “To Polar” button.
f. The resulting circle may not have the background color you desire. Use the Color Picker Tool to select a color from the image. Then use the Paint Bucket Tool to fill the background.

GIMP also has a plug-in that you can download and use – it automates most of the task for you. It is called Darla-Amazing Circles. You crop the photo as before, then select the Script-Fu Darla-Amazing Circles script. I use these settings:

a. set to the maximum size of 2000 or whatever setting is closest to the original
b. set border size to 10
c. set border % to 10
d. set edges: border growth 1; border feather 1
e. run script
f. add color to background – use paint fill on the white section
g. save as jpg

This isn’t a new technique. It has been around for a few years. Click on this link to see a large number of Amazing Circles that have been submitted to flickr.

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22 thoughts on “The Polar Coordinate Filter – Amazing Circles

    • That is what I thought – glass paperweights with things embedded inside them. I could also see them being glass Christmas tree ornaments.
      On a more practical note – I’m trying to think how to use my new found orb making skills to bring peace to the world, or make a heap of money, or, at the very least, attract new readers to my blog.

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    • I’m not a flickr or twitterer or instagramer either. I couldn’t figure out why there were so few google links to the search term ‘photo orbs’. Then I discovered that these orbs were the rage about 4 or 5 years ago, but they were called ‘Amazing Circles’.
      The flickr link has so many great examples – I can hardly wait to go through my photos and try to replicate some of the ideas.

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    • Yes Lorna, I am going to tell you that anyone can do this. Go to Dumpr.net (http://www.dumpr.net/) and choose Amazing Circles. Upload a photo, and the program will make a circle for you. When it is done, right click on the photo and then save it onto your computer.

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  1. Pingback: My Garden in a Globe | Undercover Surfer

    • I like your photo through the glass ball.
      I’ve also seen a blog post with pictures taken through a clear glass marble. The marble would be very easy to take on your travels!

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