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Dragan Effect, Gimp Tutorial

In this tutorial you will learn how to proceed to get Dragan effect.

Italian Web master: Bad English, but good tutorials.

This is my personal Dragan Effect tutorial for Gimp. Sometimes draganized pictures could be amazing, I suggest you to try this dramatic effect on portrait photos. Draganize a photo is a long work, anyway with the help of this tutorial, you will find it very easy. Dragan Effect takes its name from the Polish photographer Andrzej Dragan. His photos are a little but scary, but really interesting.

A funny thing to know about Andrzej Dragan is that he doesn't like to shoot photos, he likes to work on them. Each one of Dragan's photos has taken many hours in post production, in some cases a month of work. So you can't hope to get the same result in half an hour :D

dragan effect complete

This effect, similar to bleach bypass, is the digital manipulation of an image, to make it more dramatic. The main features of a draganized photo are a disproportionate increase of contrast, high sharpness of small details such as wrinkles and hair, and skin color altered, usually toward the greenish or grayish.

I have to apologize for an error that you will find. In the screenshots of dragan tutorial, the background layer is named Sfondo instead of Background, sorry. "Sfondo" is the italian word for background.

1) First of all open Gimp and your image, then duplicate the background layer. Just Right Click - Duplicate Layer. If you can't find the Levels Window, press Ctrl+L on yor keyboard. In the rest of the tutorial this operation will be called just Duplicate Layer.

For a good dragan effect, as first thing, duplicate the background

2) Now desaturate the background-copy layer, by click Colors - Desaturate, choose Luminosity method, then press Ok.

desaturate colors

3) Now we need to enhance the contrast of the black and white image, so click Colors - Brightness-Contrast, and set +30 of Contrast, then press Ok. After that, invert colors by click Colors - Invert.

Enhance contrast with Gimp

4) At this point you need to blur the background-copy layer. Proceed by going to Filters - Blur - Gaussian Blur. The radius depends from the size of your photo, the right result is if you can see the shapes, but not the details. I choosed a radius of 20px.

Dragan next step: blur
Continues after the advertising...

5) Now merge down the background-copy layer, select as blending mode "Overlay", and set the opacity to 50%. (Right click - Merge Down). Now it seems to be a Dragan photo.

Blend as overlay

6) Duplicate the Background Layer (Right click - Duplicate layer on the layer window), then desaturate (Colors - Desaturate, select Luminosity), and merge down, selecting Soft Light as blending mode, set opacity to 100%.

blend as soft light

7) A characteristic of an optimal Dragan Effect is a photo with weak colors.
Proceed by going on Colors - Hue-Saturation, and set saturation to -50, then press Ok.

Desaturate 50

At this point your image should appear as an old and faded photo. Now you need to accentuate the wrinkle of the subject with light and dark, using the brush tool. Remember to brush all the details carefully, it may take some time, but is probably the most important step to get a realistic Dragan effect with Gimp. Setup a brush as you can see below.

Setup brush for enhance draganized details

9) Duplicate the background layer, then brush it. You have to use white for enhance light, and black for shadows.
For a better understanding you can refer to left side of the image below. Green is the white, and red is the black.
The scale of the brush should be varied according to the size of the details, to get a precise result.

Brush Details for dragan effect with black and white colors

10) Merge down the layer, choose Blending mode Normal, and opacity to 50%.

Merge down

11) Now duplicate layer for the last time, then set the Brightness of the upper layer to -30 and contrast to +10, then press Ok.

brightness and contrast for dragan picture
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12) Setup color balance (Colors - Color Balance) only for midtones to -50 Yellow/Blue, then press Ok.

Change colors to yellow

13) Now merge down The Background-Copy with Soft light as blending mode, opacity 60%.

Dragan tutorial is almost finished, merge down

14) The work is almost finished, you just need to select and darken the background.
Proceed by selecting the subject with your favourite mask, then invert selection and feather it. Now modify the Brightness until you are satisfied (Colors - Brightness-Contrast).

Select draganized subject

After make my selection, I realized that the result would have been better without selecting the helmet, I proceeded changing the selection and this is the result:

Obviously any one of the parameters of this tutorial can be varied as you desire. If you like the dramatic photos, you may be interested also to bleach bypass tutorial.

dragan effect complete
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