Photoshop Sunday via Gimp; Droste Effect Experiments

I will preface this post; I have never got along with Gimp, I have tried to use it several times and I always walk away with a headache but today I was forced to use Gimp due to anything after CS5 not being compatible with a plugin I needed to use.

I had be reading about the Droste Effect and looking at images where the Droste Effect had been applied, the outcomes looked pretty interesting and there really wasn’t much work needed to create them except a little bit of experimentation.

The Droste Effect is also known as “mise en abyme” and is the effect where an image appears within an image. It is a recursive effect with each image becoming smaller and smaller as it is place inside the other, if the image was printed at a large enough resolution the effect would go on for eternity. The effect is named after the Droste Cocoa Powder which in its 1904 packaging had a woman holding a tray of with a box and cup, on the box is the same picture. The first time the effect was used was  in 1320 by Giotto di Bondone in the Stefaneschi Triptych. In the central image of the triptych Cardinal Giacomo offers this same triptych to Saint Peter.

Stefaneschi Triptych Front Side. In the middle image on the left side is Cardinal giving the Triptych to Saint Peter

If you have Photoshop CS4 or CS5 you would need to download an extension called Pixel Bender ( to apply the effect to an image. Install the plugin and then download the Dorste filter ( Then open Photoshop and you can simply apply the filter to an image of your choice.

For those who have gone beyond CS5 then the only option is to use Gimp as Adobe no longer support the Pixel Bender extension. Gimp, if you didn’t know, is a free Graphic editor that people claim is an alternative to photoshop. I downloaded Gimp and then downloaded a filter called Mathmap . Here I came across my first frustration with Gimp.
Gimp 2.8 works in a 64bit environment and the Mathmap plugin works in a 32bit environment. Gimp 2.8 apparently does support filters in a 32bit environment yet it doesn’t make it easy to install them. After 30mins of reading forums and posts I gave up, I downloaded Gimpo 2.6 from file hippo. Version 2.6 works solely in a 32 bit environment and installing Mathmap was simple.

Once installed I exported an image to my desktop and opened it in Gimp. Filter- Generic – Mathmap-Mathmap to apply the filter, once inside the filter you need to program what you want the filter to do, don’t worry other intrepid photographers have written the code that you can copy and paste from here. When you have pasted the code, you click preview and then switch to the  “user value” tab where you can play with sliders. To be honest from here I had no idea what to do and all I did was experiment.


What I did find was that you need an image which is square and the effect is applied from the centre out. Because of this I used a simple image of a flower to play around with.

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Once I had got a hang of a flower I thought I would move onto doing something grander, I am always one to run after crawling.


I took a now old miniplanet that I had created and applied the Douste Effect to it. The first time I tried nothing was working, this was because I had not cropped the image to a square format. Once I had done that then It became a lot easier.


This image is not as a balanced as its original version but it is quite fun.

The Droste effect is something that with a bit of planning when shooting has the possibility to create some really creative images.

Have you ever tried using the Droste Effect? Is this something you would want to try? How do you think my images came out? let me know in the comment box below, or just say hi if you like.

If you wish to get notifications when I post on my blog, you can follow me on Twitter@apertureF64, on or alternatively be emailed by subscribing below. All images are the Copyright of Benjamin Rowe , ALL RIGHTS Reserved unless credited to another photographer. For more information please read my Copyright Statement

4 thoughts on “Photoshop Sunday via Gimp; Droste Effect Experiments

    • THe technical side on the computer is really just installing Gimp and Mathmap, after that it was just playing around. Give it a go you might be surprised by the outcome.

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