Bokeh in Photoshop

Bokeh in photography terms refers to the blur quality of a photograph. This allows a photographer to focus on a subject by creating a soft out of focus blur in the background–often by using a wider aperture on a camera. However if you don’t have the kind of camera that makes it easy to control these aspects, you can always use Photoshop to create the same effect.

Step 1: Open your image in Photoshop and create a new layer. This will allow you to make edits over the photograph without changing the original picture. Image

Step 2: Select the brush icon on the left toolbar or use the shortcut ‘b’. Then go to “Window” and select “Brush” to pull up your brush tool window. You’ll want to select a thick, round brush preset to start.


Step 3: Leave the Hardness at 100% but adjust the spacing to about 150% so that your brush will create spots instead of a solid line. Image

Step 4: Under the Shape Dynamics tab, move the Size Jitter to 100% so that circles will become un-uniform in size. You can change the Minimum Diameter, but it is not necessary. You can also adjust the Roundness Jitter so that all the circles are not perfectly round, I left mine at about 20%.


Step 5: Under the Scattering tab, set the Scatter to 1000% and make sure the check off the “both axes” box so that your brush will randomly scatter the shapes. You can change the count but it’s recommended to leave it at a low number. Image

Step 6: Next on the Transfer tab, change your Opacity Jitter to 100% so not all the dots are the same opacity. After this you can save your new brush by clicking the “Create New Brush” button on the bottom right corner of the window.


Step 7: Now that you have your brush you can “paint” spots on your photo. It is recommended to use white for this. You can also change your brush size to be bigger or smaller by using the “[” and “]” keys. Make sure you’re doing this on a layer.


Step 8: After this, you’ll want to go to “Filter” on the top toolbar select “Blur” and then “Gaussian Blur”. You can Adjust the radius of the pixels to your liking and this will soften the brush.


Step 9: From here you’ll want go to the layers tab and change the blending mode from “Normal” to either “Soft Light” or “Overlay” depending on your preference. This will make the brush look less obviously white and blend the photo. You can repeat steps 7-9 on multiple layers varying the brush size and Gaussian Blur radius to create more bokeh.


Step 11: When you’re satisfied with your brush, you can apply the Gaussian Blur effect to the background layer to finish the bokeh. A smaller radius would work better in this case so that your photo is still recognizable. Image

Step 12: Now with your bokeh in the background you can add anything like text or an image to the foreground to create an obvious focus.


Here’s a super helpful video that explains in depth!


~ by kimhaley on October 5, 2013.

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