How to Create Blur Effects in Adobe Photoshop

  • Thread starter CraigHardy
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May 11, 2021
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  • #1
Can you imagine not having control over what’s blurred out in the photographs you take? In my opinion, having aperture control has got to be one of the most critical and popular aspects of photography today. There’s so much creativity involved. It’s sort of like telling someone, “Hey, look at this and not at that.”

I can remember years ago when I used to take early morning walks in the woods with my camera. The area I used to walk to housed tons of fallen trees that were totally coated with the most beautiful moss. I had a nice Canon kit lens (18-135mm) that, when zoomed in all the way, would give me an extremely shallow depth of field. Add a magnifying lens to the scene and that depth of field was chopped in half. I enjoyed getting down on the ground to shoot away from all sorts of different angles. Considering everything I did, I remember the blur to sharp and back to blur again the most.

Adobe Photoshop has really stepped up their game in the creative blur arena. There’s a relatively new filter called Blur Gallery that lets us add some really cool blur effects to photos. So far, there are blurs called Field Blur, Iris Blur, Tilt-Shift, Path Blur and Spin Blur. Each selection offers its own effect and all of them are rather intuitive to use. So intuitive, in fact, that you can simulate various lens aperture settings right inside Photoshop with ease.

Using Blur Gallery for Creative Blurring Effects in Adobe Photoshop​

In today’s post, I’ll be walking though a few demonstrations using the Blur Gallery, simply to introduce you to the filter. I’ll begin with an original, unblurred photo, turn it into a Smart Object and then apply a filter or two to it. The goal for this post is to not only demonstrate the power of this filter, but to encourage you to experiment with it in your own post-processing.

By the way, here’s the photo I’ll be using for this post:


Creating a Smart Object​

I wrote a post a while back that discussed Smart Objects in Photoshop ad nauseam. If you haven’t read that one yet, I think it would be great if you did.

What are Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop?

I’ve also got a few other posts that expand upon the topic, so if you’d like to read further, you can search “Smart Object” in the search bar up at the top of this blog.

To kick things off, I’ll open the demo image into Photoshop. From there, I’ll right-click on the background layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.


The last thing I want to do is add a creative blur to a layer and then not be able to change it in any way. This is one of the reasons Smart Objects were invented in the first place. To give us flexibility.

Once I convert the layer, I’ll see the small icon in the lower right corner of the layer thumbnail. If I roll over that icon, I’ll see the words Smart Object Thumbnail appear.


Applying Tilt-Shift Blur​

Now that I’ve got a Smart Object, I can begin applying some different blur effects. I’ll start off with the Tilt-Shift blur. If I take a look at Adobe’s site, I’ll find a good explanation for what this blur effect is all about. Check this out:

Use the Tilt-Shift effect to simulate an image taken with a tilt-shift lens. This special effect blur defines area of sharpness, and then fades to a blur at the edges. The Tilt-Shift effect can be used to simulate photos of miniature objects.

To apply this filter, I’ll head up to the Filter > Blur Gallery > Tilt-Shift menu item and select it.


Once I click on Tilt-Shift, I’ll notice that an overlay appears on the image. It looks like this:


Also, the right panels inside Photoshop turn into Blur Gallery panels. They look like this:


There are quite a few controls in the Blur Gallery panels. I won’t go over all of them. I’ll limit myself to only what I plan on using. I will tell you, however, that if you want to drag the effect around, all you need to do is to click inside the blur area and drag. To intensify or reduce the blur effect area, you can drag the top or bottom lines of the overlay up and down. To intensify or reduce the blur itself, head over to the right panel where it says Blur and drag the slider to the left or to the right. It’s good to experiment with a feature like this.

For this first example, I’d like to add some blur above and below the model in the photo. I don’t want to go crazy or anything, but I do want to focus as much attention as possible on the face. After all, it’s that which is looking at the camera and as they say, it’s all in the eyes.

To accomplish this, I’ll drag the center of the overlay so it sits right on the model’s face. Then, I’ll click on and drag the bottom dashed line of the overlay down a bit. Doing this will smooth the transition of the blur that’s located between the solid line and the dashed line.


When I’m finished, I’ll click OK in the top options bar and I’ll end up back at the original photo, but with the blur effect applied to it.


Looks pretty cool, right?

As a side note – if you’re adjusting the options in the Blur Gallery and would like to see the photo you’re working on without the overlay lines, all you need to do is press the H key on your keyboard. This will keep your effects, but will hide the lines, which definitely be distracting. Let go of H and the overlay lines come back. It’s that easy.

Applying Iris Blur​

I’ll go ahead and back out of the previous blur effect so I’m working with the original photo again. This time, I’d like to experiment with the Iris Blur option. Now, I could have gone into this new blur option if I stayed in the previous and simply clicked on the Iris Blur panel, but since I clicked OK in the section above, I’m no longer in the Blur Gallery area. I’ll need to go back up to the Filter > Blur Gallery > Iris Blur menu item and click. This will bring me back into the gallery area.


As you can see, I’ve now got an oval blur area over part of the photo. I can do many things to this, such as move, shrink, grow, rotate and alter the blur transition. I can also intensify or reduce the blur itself. If you look at the above screenshot closely, you’ll see the circular outline with the handles attached to the outline. Inside the oval, there are four white dots. To alter the blur transition, you have to click and drag one of these dots either to the center or to the outside of the oval. I’ll drag the oval up and to the right so its center is on the model’s face again. Then, I’ll click and drag the white dots so they’re closer to the center.


And if I click OK up in the options bar again, I’ll create a blur effect like this:


Again, this is a fantastic blur effect that required hardly any work. By the way, if you’re wondering what Adobe has to say about this blur effect, read below.

Use the Iris blur to simulate a shallow depth-of-field effect to your picture, irrespective of the camera or lens used. You can also define multiple focus points, an effect almost impossible to achieve using traditional camera techniques.

Applying Path Blur​

If you’re into special effects, this last blur might be for you. While I personally wouldn’t use this for a regular photo, I might use it in a Photoshop action or for video. It definitely has a special place in the creative arsenal. This is what Adobe says about this blur effect:

Using the Path Blur effects, you can create motion blurs along paths. You can also control the shape and amount of blurring. Photoshop automatically composites the effects of multiple path blurs applied to an image.

To activate the Path Blur, go back up to the Filter > Blur Gallery > Path Blur menu and click. This will bring you back to the Blur Gallery.


As you can see from the screenshot above, the photo has become soft and there’s a line towards the center. If I click on either end of the line, I can drag it in either direction. Also, if I click on the center handle, I can drag anywhere I wish, resulting in a curve. If I continue clicking on the line, I’ll create more handles that can be dragged. This is what I mean:


Now, if I go into the Path Blur panel over to the right and push the sliders around, I can customize what the blur looks like. And if I select Rear Sync Flash from the drop-down in this same panel, I can create more of a “fantasy” look.


When finished, I’ll click OK and this will be the result:


Again, this one is a little weird. I’m just trying to show you the possibilities. You’ll have to get creative and come up with some cases for these different blur effects.

I hope I’ve wet your whistle for blurring different areas of a photograph. I truly hope you open some of your own to see what you can create. If you’ve got any comments or questions, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks!


May 11, 2021
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  • #2

How a Curved Blur Can Add Motion to a Photo in Adobe Photoshop​

I’ll admit, I have yet to come across a need to add a curved blur to a photo, but I wanted to write a post on the topic nonetheless. I was introduced to this feature in Photoshop a few weeks ago by a friend and have been meaning to jot down a few notes on it ever since. After playing around for a while, I can definitely see how this would be a handy function to become more familiar with. There are all sorts of different situations where one would need a curved blur. Any type of water movement being one of them.

In today’s post, I’d like to walk you through the steps of using a small portion of the Path Blur filter. While what I cover will be extremely fundamental, it will give you some decent insight into what this filter is capable of and what types of photos may necessitate the resulting type of enhancement. More specifically, I’ll be taking a static photo of a woman standing under a waterfall and will be adding some movement to the water that’s falling on her. I think the result will be eye opening and that it will inspire you to explore this tool on your own.

Demo Photo​

As you can see, this photo was taken with a rather fast camera shutter speed. The way I know this is because the falling water is captured in stasis. Currently, there’s no motion in regards to the water’s movement. Obviously, we all know the water is falling because of experience, but it sure doesn’t look that way in the photo. My goal with this photo is to add some blur that curves around the woman at the bottom of the waterfall. The curve will be subtle, but it will be there. I’ll also take advantage of some layer masking so the entire image isn’t blurred. I’ll show you how to remove the blur effect from the remainder of the photo down below.


Creating a Smart Object​

As with any layer that I apply a filter to, I want to convert this one to a Smart Object. I’ve discussed the reasoning for this many times over on this blog. It all has to do with making non-destructive edits.

What are Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop?

To create a Smart Object, I’ll right-click on the layer thumbnail in question and then click on the Convert to Smart Object menu item when it appears.


Once that’s done, I can move onto applying the filter.

Applying a Path Blur​

I want to tell you right off the bat that like many other areas of Photoshop, the Path Blur filter is much like an application unto itself. It’s huge and deep and it would take quite a while to cover all aspects of it. Because of this, I’ll merely be touching on one small area of the entire thing. My goal here is to introduce you to the Path Blur filter so you can explore more on your own. I’m sure I’ll share much more about this feature in future posts. Okay, I just wanted to get that out of the way.

To access the Path Blur filter, I’ll head up to the Filter > Blur Gallery > Path Blur menu item and click.


After I click, a few things will change. First, the options bar up top will show various settings that can be taken advantage of. Second, any panels I had open on the right side as well as the left vertical toolbar will disappear, to be replaced by the Path Blur settings and third, a small blue line will appear at the center of the image. It’s this blue line I’ll be manipulating next. But first, take a look at some screenshots of what I just described.

First is the Path Blur options bar.


Next up is the Blur Tools.


And finally, we have the blue line I just mentioned.


Making the Blur Curve​

If you’ll notice in the above screenshot, a blur has actually already been formed. The problem is, it’s not following any path we set and it’s applied to the entire image. I’ll need to correct these things so it makes sense to what I’m working on.

If you look closely at that blue line that’s been placed at the center of the image, you’ll notice that there’s an arrow attached to one end of it. This arrow should point in the direction of the blur. Also, there are two large handles at either end of the line as well as one in the middle. To start off, I’ll click the handle closest to the arrow and drag that to the point at which I’d like to blur to end. After that, I’ll click and drag the opposite end of the line and drag that to the point at which I’d like the blur to begin. Finally, I’ll click and drag the center point so it creates a curve, or an arc, that will guide the flow of the blur. Here, take a look.


As you can see, the blur is now curved. It’s still applied to the entire image, but I’ll deal with that later.

While the blur certainly is curved and it’s following (or guiding) the water that’s falling, I’m missing the other side of the falls. I’d like the falls to split around the woman so it appears that they are encapsulating her. To create another path, I’ll simply double click my mouse on the other side and when the new path appears, I’ll click and drag the end points in a similar fashion as to what I did previously.


Okay, that’s looking good. I’m not even going to get into any other controls regarding this filter today. I’m merely going to leave things like this and move onto clicking OK up in the options bar so the filter is applied to the photo. It’ll take a little while to complete. A lot of changes are taking place.

Let’s take a look at the blurred photo. I think it’s evident that the falling water now conveys motion.


Correcting the Filter Mask​

Now that the filter has been applied, I’d like to remove much of it from the photo. Because I transformed the image layer into a Smart Object back at the beginning, this is a very simple task to accomplish. All I need to do is to paint the area I don’t want the blur to show, black. That’s it. I’ll do that now.

I’ll go ahead an activate the Brush Tool by clicking on its icon in the left vertical toolbar. Then, I’ll make sure the color black has been selected in the Color Picker. Finally, I’ll adjust the size of the brush and give it a very soft edge.

How to Adjust the Brush Tool Settings in Adobe Photoshop

Once that’s all complete, I’ll paint away the much of the blur. Of course, I’ll leave some on the falls because that’s what I was after from the beginning. Let’s take a look at the Layers panel now.


Before I painted, I made sure that I clicked on the filter mask to select it. Then I painted. You can see the difference between the white and black areas in the thumbnails. If I hold down the Alt key on my keyboard and click once on the mask thumbnail, that thumbnail will enlarge and cover the entire image. Doing this gives a more close up view.


Remember, anything that’s black will be invisible and anything that’s white will be visible.

Let’s take a look at the final product. There should be blur only over the top of the falls, indicating direction and movement.


I’d say that looks pretty good. Not bad, considering I didn’t dive into even a small percent of the Path Blur filter tool. I’ll surely do this in the future. For now, I encourage you to explore this filter and push some sliders around. Don’t worry, you’re not going to break anything.

I hope I clearly explained how to apply a curved blur using the Path Blur filter in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 11, 2021
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  • #3

A Closer Look at the Iris Blur Filter in Adobe Photoshop​

Have you ever wondered if it was possible to fake a shallow depth of field? In the next few posts, I’ll show you three different methods for doing just that. While they won’t give you an exact representation of the blur a lens might offer, they should give you that spark you just might need to launch into some serious creativity.

In today’s post, I’m going to talk about some of the finer aspects of the Iris Blur filter in Adobe Photoshop. I know I already wrote a post that glanced at this particular filter, but today’s post will be a little bit different. In this one, I’d like to cover some of the controls that will really allow you to open up your game when it comes to something like this. Don’t worry, there aren’t very many of them and each control really is very intuitive. The whole thing is straightforward and easy to understand.

Using Blur Gallery for Creative Blurring Effects in Adobe Photoshop

Demo Photo​

I think I have a pretty good photo to work with today. I tried to find one that had a lot of noise in it that I could calm down as well as one that also had an isolated subject. If you look at the image below, I’m sure you’ll agree that the girl is the subject and the city is the noise. This one should work nicely.


Creating a Smart Object​

By now, you know that it’s important to convert any layer you’re going to apply a filter to into a Smart Object. I’ve written about this extensively in the past, so I won’t go into detail here. Basically, I’ll right-click on the image background layer thumbnail (in the Layers panel) in Photoshop and when the menu pops up, I’ll select Convert to Smart Object. From there, I can begin working in the filter workspace.

What are Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop?

Entering the Blur Gallery Workspace​

One workspace in Photoshop controls many different types of blurs. To access this workspace, I’ll head up to the Filter > Blur Gallery > Iris Blur menu item in the top menu.


Once I click this menu item, I’ll notice a few things change. First, the options bar for this item will appear up top, second, the left vertical toolbar will disappear and third, the right column will change and new, more appropriate panels will take the place of the old. I’ll be primarily dealing with the Blur Tools panel in this post. Inside this panel are a few different drop-downs; one for each type of blur. Since I clicked on Iris Blur earlier, that one is already opened up.


The Iris Blur Tool​

For the remainder of this post, I’ll be discussing how to navigate the Iris Blur tool. Once I’m finished, you should have a grip on the majority of what needs to be known to effectively manage this type of blur in a project. To start off, I’ll show you what the iris looks like in the workspace.


If you look closely, you’ll see the radius of the iris, along with a few different handles on its edge. Towards the center is a dial, surrounded by further pins. I’ll cover what all these things do below.

Resizing & Rotating​

Most people tend to resize and rotate the iris upon entering this workspace. Because of this, I’ve decided to start there. To resize the iris, all you need to do is to hove your mouse pointer over an edge of the radius, click and drag either towards the center or towards the outer edge of the photo. As you hover your mouse pointer over the outer circle, you’ll see that it turns into a double arrow. As an example, I shrunk the one I’m working on down a bit.


To rotate the iris, all you need to do is to hover your mouse pointer over one of the four small pins along the outer edge. When you do that, you’ll see the pointer turn into a curved double arrow. I’ve outlined one of the four pins in red in this next screenshot.


Repositioning the Iris​

Another common task when using this tool is to reposition it all together. Basically, people like to move the oval around. To accomplish this, you can either nudge it with the arrow keys on your keyboard or you can simply grab the center pin with your mouse and drag it around anywhere you wish.


Changing the Shape of the Blur​

This is a fun one that many people aren’t aware of. If you’d like to alter the shape of the blur from an oval or circle to something more along the lines of a square or rectangle, you can certainly do that. If you’ll notice the outer edge of the tool, you’ll see a larger, more prominent pin in the upper right quadrant. That pin controls the shape of the blur. If you click and drag that pin either in towards the center or out towards the edge, you’ll see that the shape changes.


Changing the Strength of the Blur​

Obviously, somewhere along the lines, you’re going to want to change the strength of the blur you’re using. To do this, there are two readily available methods. First is the Blur slider that’s available in the Blur Tools panel over to the right. Pushing this slider to the right increases the strength of the blur and pushing it to the left decreases it.


Alternately, you can click on the broken line that surrounds the center pin of the blur oval. If you click and drag that line around in a circle, you’ll see the blur intensity change. Dragging the line clockwise increases the strength and dragging it counterclockwise decreases the strength.


Softening or Hardening the Blur Transition​

The last aspect of this tool that I’d like to show you is how you can change the range of the blur inside the Iris Blur filter. Basically, I’m using the word range here to describe where the blur begins from the center of the iris and where its transition ends at the edge of the iris. This is what I’m talking about.


In the above screenshot, I included a red outline in the shape of an oval. At the point of this red oval, the blur begins. Anything between the red oval and the outer edge of the filter tool I’ll call the fade. The outer edge is where the change in intensity stops and anything outside the outer edge is consistent with that edge. It neither gets stronger nor weaker after that. I think this is fairly straightforward.

To change the intensity of the transition, all I need to do is click on one of the four white dots that sit inside the oval and drag it towards the center or towards the outer edge. Dragging towards the center will looses the transition and dragging outward will tighten (intensify) it. In the above screenshot, I have those dots hidden by the red outline I created. Here’s a better view.


By default, those four white dots move in tandem when any one of them is clicked and dragged. If I wanted to break them apart and move one independently from the others, I could press and hold down the Alt (Option on Mac) key on my keyboard and drag from there. Check this out.


Do you see how the anchor pin that I circled in red isn’t in line with the others? You can also see how the blur is distorted because of this. To accomplish this, all I did was press Alt and then click and drag that pin towards the center. It’s that easy.

Let’s see if I can add a good looking blur to the demo photo.


I’d say that looks pretty good. It quiets down some of the noise created by the city in the background and keeps the girl in the photo crystal clear.


I hope I have given you some good background on how the Iris Blur filter works in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 11, 2021
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  • #4

Exploring the Tilt Shift Blur Filter in Adobe Photoshop​

The Blur Gallery filters in Adobe Photoshop have an extraordinary amount to offer in the way of enhancing the look of a photo. Just a few days ago, I wrote a post that discussed the Iris Blur and a while before that, I wrote one that talked about creative blurs in general. Both were really good posts, but if I had to choose one for you to read to preface this one, I’d say it should definitely be the one that has to do with the Iris Blur. In that post, I show you how to access the Blur Gallery workspace and how to operate many of its controls.

A Closer Look at the Iris Blur Filter in Adobe Photoshop

In today’s post, I’d like to pick up where I left off. I’m going to start off in the Blur Gallery workspace, but instead of working with the Iris Blur, I’ll work with the Tilt-Shift blur. To access this particular filter, I’ll simply uncheck the Iris Blur check box in the right column (Blur Tools panel) and check the Tilt-Shift one instead. If I were starting from the beginning, I’d first transform the layer I’m working on into a Smart Object and then use the Filter > Blur Gallery > Tilt-Shift menu item. I’ll end up in the same exact spot with both methods.


What is the Tilt-Shift Blur?​

Simply put, the Tilt-Shift blur is a feature in Photoshop that allows us to add straight-line blurs around a center point. While many other blurs can be created in many different shapes, this one is straight. The center will remain clear and unaffected while the outer edges become more and more blurry, according to our instructions.

Demo Photo​

For this post, I’ll be using a photo of a plate setting on a restaurant table. The reason I chose this particular photo is because of the way the original blur (from the camera’s natural depth of field) is shown. It seems to cover the upper right corner and the lower left corner. I really like the way the original photo is displayed, but I’d perhaps enjoy seeing it with some additional blur in those two areas. I can’t think of a better tool to use to make this happen then the Tilt-Shift blur filter in Photoshop.


Controlling the Strength of the Blur​

As I said, I’m already inside of the Blur Gallery workspace. Basically, this blur tool consists of a set of parallel lines. There’s a center pin, some handles and an area where the blur transition begins and where it ends. I’ll cover all of these aspects in this post. For now, take a peek at what this tool looks like.


In the screenshot above, you can’t see the bottom dashed line. That’s okay. It’s still there.

Okay, the first thing I’ll cover is how to control the strength of the blur. To do that, I could either click and drag that small line around the center pin or I could push the Blur slider in the Blur Tools panel. If I were to go ahead and click and drag the line around the center pin, I’d drag it clockwise to strengthen the blur and counterclockwise to weaken it.


If I were to use the Blur slider over to the right, I could simply push the slider to the right to strengthen the blur and to the left to weaken it.


Relocating the Blur Effect Overlay​

Next, I’ll show you how to relocate, or move, the entire blur effect overlay. Basically, you’re most likely going to want to do this because your focal point probably isn’t going to be dead-center in your photograph. In my case, the focal point in the demo photo is the plate. So, to move the center pin so it sits over the plate, all I have to do is to click and drag the overlay center pin to the area I want it to sit. I’ll need to be sure to click directly on the center of the pin.


In the above screenshot, please notice how I centered the overlay tool on the dinner plate.

Rotating the Tilt-Shift Blur Overlay​

Since I’d like my blur to cover only the upper right corner and the lower left corner, I’ll need to slightly rotate the filter tool. To do this, I’ll click on either small white handle that sits on either solid white line. When I hover my mouse over these handles, I’ll see that the normal mouse pointer turns into a curved double arrow. It’s at that point that I can click and drag until the overlay twists the way I want it to.


In the above screenshot, I circled the two pins in red.

Reducing & Expanding the Blur Transition Area​

With all of these blur filters, we have the ability to control how much blur is showing, where it’s showing and what type of transition occurs between the areas of no blur to full blur. With this filter in particular, the blur transition area lies between the dashed outer lines and the solid inner lines. So basically, I can control how far the blur goes out or how close in towards the center I can make it. By clicking and dragging on any of the lines I just mentioned, I can move them. If I increase the area between the dashed lines and the solid lines, I’ll reduce the intensity of the blur transition and if I reduce the area between these lines, I’ll increase the intensity. Also, by default, the dashed lines move independently of any other lines, but the solid lines move in tandem with the dashed lines. To be more clear, if I click and drag one dashed line, I’ll move just that one. If I click and drag a solid line, I’ll move that one in addition to the dashed line that sits on the same side, when in relation to the center point.

If I wanted to control both sides of the center point simultaneously, I could click and hold the Alt key (Option in Mac) on my keyboard to lock whichever line it is I’m clicking and dragging with my mouse with the other side. This is an effective method for saving time while using this tool. As an example, I’ll reduce the area between the outer dashed lines and the solid inner lines. I’ll also bring the inner lines closer to the center point, so the blur transition is very intense.


Adding Distortion & Symmetric Distortion to the Blurred Areas​

This feature can be kind of confusing because the result of any movement isn’t overwhelmingly visible or distinct from other types of blur. Basically, what the Distortion slider in the right Blur Tools panel controls is how much distortion is applied to the blurred pixels. This distortion takes the form of radials in the same way the Radial Blur filter applies them. While the result of this type of thing isn’t noticeable, I’ll still go ahead and push the slider all the way to the right and then take a screenshot so you can see the result.


In the above screenshot, you can see the Distortion slider circled in red. You can also see the Symmetric Distortion check box as well. I’ll get to that below.

This is an example of full blur with no distortion.


And here’s an example of full blur with full distortion.


See? There’s not a crazy difference.

Now, by default, this distortion is only applied to one side of the center point. To apply it symmetrically to both sides, you’ll need to check the Symmetric Distortion check box. It’s that easy.

To sum things up, I think I’ll add a soft blur to both corners of the photo as I suggested I would at the beginning of this post. Let’s see how that might look.


It’s subtle, but the corners are now softer than they were originally. After settling on the blur effect I want in the Blur Gallery workspace, I’ll click the OK button up in the options bar to apply it.


There is a heck of a lot more to the Blur Gallery workspace, but I’ll leave that for future posts. It mostly has to do with various effects that can be applied. For today, I think I gave you a good primer for how to use the Tilt-Shift blur filter in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment area below. Thanks for reading!


May 11, 2021
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  • #5

Using the Field Blur Filter Effect in Adobe Photoshop​

Do you remember when I was talking about cheating by creating your own narrow depth of field with the Iris Blur filter? Well have I got a treat for you. While the Iris Blur is really great, the Field Blur is even better. Especially when you want to isolate different objects in a photo to apply different levels of blur to each one. This is the most versatile blur filter yet and it’s so simple to use.

In today’s post, we’re going to head back into the Blur Gallery workspace to experiment with the Field Blur filter in Adobe Photoshop. This blur filter is actually the easiest to grasp because there are very few controls, but you’ll likely have to do some masking work when you’ve completed adding the blurs. All of this is quite straightforward, so read along below to add a new tool to the rest of your arsenal.

Demo Photo​

For this post, I needed a photo that showed independent objects to add various blurs to. I decided to choose this image of various pieces of fruit because it’ll give a very clear idea of what’s going on and what I’m doing to the photo.


What is the Field Blur Filter​

Let’s say you have a photograph of three marbles. Each one of those marbles is clearly focused, but is in a different range. This means that you have one marble that sits at up front, another that sits slightly further back and the last one that’s all the way behind the rest. The Field Blur filter allows you to add a blur to smaller, independent areas, or fields. So, instead of applying a blur that sits over a larger area or one that uses parallel lines, such as the Tilt-Shift Blur, you can really separate and part out exactly where you want to soften different objects. This is a very versatile filter that can closely emulate an actual depth of field effect straight out of a camera.

Extra Reading​

I have three posts I’d like you to read that will enhance your understanding of the Blur Gallery area. I wrote the first post a while ago and the second two just this week. If you decide to go ahead with reading these, you’ll have a really good handle on what will follow below.

Using Blur Gallery for Creative Blurring Effects in Adobe Photoshop

A Closer Look at the Iris Blur Filter in Adobe Photoshop

Exploring the Tilt Shift Blur Filter in Adobe Photoshop

The Field Blur Filter​

Okay, let’s get going with some blurs.

I already have the demo photo opened up in Photoshop. I’ve right-clicked on the layer in the Layers panel and selected the Convert to Smart Object menu item. At this point, I can head up to the top menu and click the Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur item to access the workspace I’m after.


From here, the workspace opens up and I’m ready to get started. Here’s a screenshot of the right panel where the Field Blur section of the Blur Tools panel is exposed.


As you can see, there’s not a lot to it. There’s only one Blur slider and it controls the strength of each pin’s blur. To control strength with this slider, the pin will first need to be clicked on and selected.

At the center of the photo in this workspace, we’ve got the same pin that was used with the previous two blurs I recently spoke of. Here it is, circled in red.


I also increased the intensity of the blur, just to show you how far it currently goes. Basically, as it stands, this pin’s blur covers the entire photo. How do I know that? Well, for one, I can see the blur. There’s actually a better method for viewing the overlay effects in a much more precise way. If I press and hold the M key on my keyboard, I’ll see the mask version of the current blur. Let’s see what happens if I do that.


Okay, that’s all white, so the entire blur is visible. Remember, when it comes to masks in Photoshop, white reveals and black conceals. If I clicked somewhere else to quickly add another pin, I can create a new field. That’s right, all I need to do is click and the new pin will just appear. I’ll go ahead and add three more pins for a total of four. I’ll also randomly strengthen or weaken each pin’s blur effect by clicking and dragging the circular line that sits around the outside of the center pin. I’ll circle the pins in red.


Let’s see what things look like if I press the M key so the mask version is displayed.


How’s that? Pretty cool, huh? The darker the area, the less the blur effect is showing (black conceals the effect). The lighter the area, the more it’s showing, relatively speaking (white reveals the effect). What I mean by relatively speaking is that all the different blurs in one photo are related. If you were to limit yourself to just one, no matter the strength you set it to, it would always show as pure white when you press the M key. The additional pins work off of that one.

So, in the example above, I set it so the center pin has the most blur, the one to the right of it has the least and the other two are somewhere in the middle. I can add as many pins as I would like and set all of their strengths differently. This is what I was referring to when I said you can fake a narrow depth of field. If I were to do that in the photo I’m currently working on, I’d find one piece of fruit that is completely in focus. Then, I’d choose which pieces look like they’re slightly closer to and further away from the camera lens and I’d add a slight blur to each one. That would give me the narrowest of depth-of-field effects.

Using the Mask Method​

Just to mess around, let’s say that I used just one pin so the entire photo is affected and I set it to a medium blur. I can exit the Blur Gallery workspace by clicking the OK button up in the options bar. I’ll do that now.


Here’s the image I’ll end up with in the regular Photoshop workspace.


This is the fun part. Since I initially converted the photo layer to a Smart Object in the Layers panel, I can turn this blur effect on and off. It’s really just an overlay. To hide the effect, all I have to do is to click the small eye icon that sits to the left of the Smart Object mask thumbnail.


Since this effect is being stored as a mask, I can manipulate it any way I want. I can use the Brush Tool with varying degrees of black and white to paint away part of the effect or all of it. I can do anything I want to it.

For instance, let’s say I wanted to keep most of the photo blurry, but reduce the blur that’s covering the three pomegranates. To do this, I wouldn’t touch the anything, but I’d change the color of the Color Picker to black (or dark gray) and I’d paint over the pomegranates. All this after clicking on the mask thumbnail in the Layers panel to select it. By the way, here’s a primer on layer masks in Photoshop.

What are Layer Masks in Adobe Photoshop?

Let’s see what this result looks like.


Do you see what I’m trying to do here? Even though this example is extremely basic, it gives you an idea of what you can accomplish by simply painting over the mask with white, gray and black. You’ll need to learn about masks before you do this, of course, but really, the sky’s the limit with this stuff. I hope you get the idea.

4 Super Layer Masking Tips for Adobe Photoshop

How to Quickly & Easily Invert a Layer Mask in Adobe Photoshop

I hope I clearly explained how to use the Field Blur filter in Adobe Photoshop as well as how to use masking to affect the filter output in some creative ways. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 11, 2021
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  • #6

Adding Movement to a Wind Turbine with Spin Blur in Adobe Photoshop​

I’ve discussed quite a few different types of blurs on this blog so far, but I’m not sure I ever touched upon the Spin Blur filter in Adobe Photoshop. This particular blur is extraordinarily helpful when attempting to add motion to something that rotates. It could be anything; an engine pulley, wind fluttering through the pages of a book or even the blades of a huge wind turbine. Adding motion to an object brings that object to life. It adds excitement to an otherwise stagnant photograph. I enjoy using this filter for these reasons and I hope you will too.

In today’s post, I’ll use a photo of a wind turbine, of which the blades aren’t moving at all. I’ll apply the Spin Blur filter to the image and then I’ll take things one step further and add some different effects to those blades. Finally, I’ll edit the accompanying filter mask to perfect the look of the photo. All of this right in Photoshop.

Demo Photo​

Here’s the image I’ll be using today. As you can see, it’s fairly lifeless. That’s going to change.


Applying the Spin Blur Filter​

I already have this image opened up inside of Photoshop. The first thing I’ll do to it is to right-click on the background (image) layer and select Convert to Smart Object from the menu that appears. Doing this will make my work non-destructive and it will also create the layer mask I’ll need later on.

Next, I’ll head up to the Filter > Blur Gallery > Spin Blur menu option in the top toolbar. I’ll click that option.


Once inside the blur filter workspace, I’ll click on the center pin of the circle that appears. All of the blur will be contained inside this circle. I’ll then drag the center of the blur to the center of the blades.


Since the filter area is smaller than the diameter of the area of the blades, I’ll click and drag the edge of the circle outward. This will expand the blur area.


Since that’s set up, I’ll head over to the right column to push the Blur Angle slider back and forth. This slider speeds up and slows down the speed of the spin. I’ll push the slider to the right until it reaches 15 degrees. That will give me enough movement to work with.


Adding Motion Effects​

At this point, I’ve already made it look like the turbine’s blades are moving. That’s what I was after. Now, I’d like to see what things look like if I add a few effects to the perceived motion. To add the effects, I’ll head down to the Motion Effects tab in the right column.


I’ll adjust the sliders so the Strobe Strength is set to 10%, the Strobe Flashes equal 4 and the Strobe Flash Duration is 2 degrees. What do these values mean? Here you go:

Strobe Strength – This value controls how much blur will be visible between the virtual flash exposures.

Strobe Flashes – This value controls how many virtual flashes exist.

Strobe Flash Duration – This value controls the length of the virtual flash.

I say virtual here because, obviously, the flash isn’t real. It’s just an effect, but I’ll tell you one thing; it looks real.

Here’s the output of the effects I set up. If you compare this screenshot to the ones above, you’ll see that the independent movement of the blades are now slightly visible, which offers a dramatic speed perception.


Next, since I’m finished in this workspace, I’ll click the OK button up in the options bar. Doing this will apply the blur filter and will return me to the regular workspace.

Refining the Image​

Now that I have the blur I want, I need to clean up the image a bit. If you take a look at the above screenshot, you can see that the blur is also applied to the large pole that’s carrying the turbine. I don’t want that pole blurred, so I’ll have to do a bit of masking work. First though, let’s take a look at what I have going on in the Layers panel.


As you can see, I have the Smart Object layer, but I also have a Smart Filters layer. Applied to this Smart Filter, I have a layer mask as well as the Blur Gallery option below that. Since I have a mask, I shouldn’t have any issues removing some of the blur from the image. All I’ll need to do is select the mask thumbnail to activate it and then use the Brush Tool set to black to paint over any area that I don’t want to see blur. I’ll do that now.

Let’s see what I get after painting over the pole with black.


That’s pretty good. Now, let’s take a look at the entire final image.


I like it. I think you’ll agree that the wind turbine now appears to be spinning. I don’t think anyone would argue with that.


I hope I clearly explained how to use the Spin Blur filter in Adobe Photoshop to make an object appear to be moving or spinning. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 11, 2021
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  • #7

How to Create Blurry Text in Photoshop​

I’ve been working on a lot of different text effects lately and one interesting effect I discovered had to do with blurring. If you aren’t aware, or if you’ve never looked closely at blurred text, you can actually see different colors stemming from the edges. It’s strange to look at and even stranger to notice, but I figured that since that’s the way things are in real life, I may as well try my best at duplicating them. So today, I’ll be showing you how to create some very realistic appearing blurry text right in Adobe Photoshop. Use this tutorial for what you will. You may never need this information or it may save the day. If it has value to you, I’ll be happy.

I’ve already gone ahead and opened up Photoshop. I created a new document and have written out the word BLUR in black using the Impact font. Take a look.


The next step I’ll take is to make three duplicates of this black text layer. So, I’ll use the Ctrl (Command)+J keyboard shortcut to make the duplicates and then I’ll change those layers from black to cyan, magenta and yellow. I’ll keep the layers in this order as well, from top to bottom: yellow, cyan, magenta and black in the Layers panel.


Then, I’ll select all of the text layers and apply the Multiply blend mode to them. After that, I’ll nudge the yellow layer up by five pixels, the cyan layer to the right by five pixels and the magenta layer to the left by five pixels. This is what the text will look like at this point.


The text looks blurry, doesn’t it? It’s sort of like a trick on the eyes. But wait, I’m not finished yet. Let’s make it look even better.

I’m going to select all of the text layers once again and then right-click on one of them and select the Convert to Smart Object option in the menu that pops up. The layers will collapse into one Smart Object layer after that.

Now, I’ll go to the Filter > Blur > Motion Blur menu item and click.


When the Motion Blur dialog box appears, I’ll set the Angle to and the Distance to 5 Pixels.


After that, I’ll create another filter that’s exactly the same, but with an angle of 90°. When I’m finished with both of these steps (individually), I’ll click the OK button and this will be my final blurry text result.


Now that’s some realistic blurry text. If you have any questions or comments about this technique in Photoshop, please ask down below. I’d love to help. Thanks for reading!