Fake HDR Look in Gimp

Posted by jneurock
Created Jul 10, 2008
Category Special Effects
Views 206,736
Favourites 13  

Here's an easy fake HDR tutorial for Gimp.

I have seen some fake HDR tutorials for Gimp but I haven't had much luck getting the effect I was looking for. This tutorial has quite a few steps but is very simple. I use Gimp 2.4.6 for Windows.

Note: all small images link to a full size image.



Before you begin you will need the dodge and burn script. You can download it from the Gimp plug-in registry (click here) or you can download the .zip file attached for this tutorial. The .zip file also includes the original image used in this tutorial as well as a Word document version. Download the .zip file: click here.

Open your image. If you need to adjust the brightness or contrast of the image do it now.

The first step is optional but I find that about half of the pictures I've tried this on could use it. From the menu go to Colors\Auto\White Balance. The image may look a little better. In the example image it does.

Next you will duplicate the layer. Select the new layer and from the menu go to Colors\Desaturate. Set the option to average and click desaturate. This will give you a grayscale image.

Now from the menu go to Colors\Invert.

Next apply the soft glow filter. From the menu go to Filters\Artistic\Softglow. Use the default settings.

Now set the layer to soft light and the layer opacity to 50%. Duplicate the layer and set the new layer's opacity to 75%. The image should look like this:

Now select the original image layer and duplicate it. Move it to the top of the other layers and make sure it is selected. From the menu go to Colors\Levels. Set the leftmost field of the input levels to 100 and click ok. This will darken the layer.

Set the layer to darken only and set the opacity between 30% and 50%. For this and most images I find 35% to be the best setting. Now merge the layers.

Now from the menu go to Script-Fu\Enhance\Dodge and burn. Set the thin amount to 10 and the thick amount to 25.

You will now have two additional layers, one called "Dodge" and the other "Burn". Select the original layer (not the dodge or burn layers) and from the menu go to Colors\Hue-Saturation. Set the master saturation to 50 and click ok.

Now for the last step: from the menu go to Colors\Levels again.

For the input levels, set the leftmost value to 25 and the rightmost value to 225.

That's it. Every picture will be different and you can play around with the settings to achieve the desired effect. Another trick to try after all the previous steps is an unsharp mask. From the menu go to Filters\Enhance\Unsharp Mask. Set the radius and amount to your taste. If the HDR look is not for you then this tutorial can still be helpful in enhancing your images. Try skipping the dodge and burn step and/or the color saturation step. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

Here are some more examples:







All images used in this tutorial were obtained from http://commons.wikimedia.org and are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation license, the Creative Commons license or exist in the public domain. Thanks!!!

Note: If you have multiple sites on different web hosts sometimes it is best to get a reseller web hosting plan so that you can manage all your sites in a single web host.


  1. Jul 13, 2008, odicon said:

    nice tutorial.

  2. Jul 13, 2008, jneurock said:

    Thank you!

  3. Jul 18, 2008, barisistanbul said:

    Could you explain if we have different exposured photos(lets say +1 0 -1) how can we use this method? Great Tutorial, Thanks.

  4. Jul 19, 2008, barisistanbul said:

    And could it be possible make this tutorial as script?

  5. Jul 21, 2008, jneurock said:

    I have no experience making scripts but I might give it a shot sometime in the near future. If you have different exposures you could try the exposure blending script. I forget the exact name of it but it may work for you to achieve the desired effect. You could also try layering the exposures and changing them to dodge and burn for the lower and higher exposures. I'm not a photographer and I do apologize if I don't have any good advice for you. Good luck!

  6. Nov 22, 2008, AmuroRayVV said:

    I have creat a script-fu from this tut

    You can get it here : http://registry.gimp.org/node/11776

  7. Nov 26, 2008, martweb said:

    An other interesting script can be made by replacing the line: (set! subdra (gimp-hue-saturation theNewlayer3 0 0 0 statunum)) by (plug-in-color-enhance RUN-NONINTERACTIVE inImage theNewlayer3)

  8. Nov 28, 2008, jneurock said:


    Thank you for making a script from my tutorial! That's very cool.

  9. Jun 7, 2009, gimpman said:

    thanks jneurock u rock :D

  10. Jun 14, 2009, Rantz said:

    Thanks for this tutorial - it's my introduction to this site.

  11. Jun 23, 2010, kapris said:

    This tutorial is featured on 70 creative Gimp tutorials

  12. Jul 1, 2010, AmuroRayVV said:

    @ jneurock Sorry for long time reply ><

    Your tut is really cool so i can't help me to do this script. Thanks

  13. Mar 21, 2012, ricardorighetto said:

    The tutorial and the script are very good. However, I find that shadowed regions in my photos get even darker (mostly black) after pseudo-HDR, in an undesired way. I've tried to play with the parameters but couldn't get to good results. Anyone has an idea on how to avoid this effect? Thank you!

  14. Nov 10, 2012, Lollie said:

    When I get this far - Now set the layer to soft light and the layer opacity to 50%. Duplicate the layer and set the new layer's opacity to 75%. The image should look like this: - where do I find the controls for this??? I've looked everywhere. New to GIMP - be gentle.

  15. Nov 10, 2012, Lollie said:

    Sorry, found it! Like I said, I'm new to this, and it's getting late, I've had a looooong day.

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