How to Blur Background in Photoshop (and Adding Bokeh Effect)

In Artwork Skills, Image Editing Skills
How to blur background in Photoshop

You can blur the light image in the background that doesn’t fit the camera’s focus thanks, t Photoshop. When you blur it in Photoshop, the light will form a colored circle. It’s what we call as bokeh. Actually, you can capture a great original bokeh by doing some settings to your DSLR camera lens. But, you can also blur the background of your photo using Photoshop to make bokeh effect. So, here is the easy Photoshop Tutorial on how to blur the background in photoshop and how to add bokeh effect in Photoshop.

How to Blur Background in Photoshop

Step1: Open Your Image

Open the image or photo that you want to blur. To have a stunning result of blur background, I recommend you use an image that has a broad background view.

Open an image in Photoshop
Open your image in Photoshop.

Step2: Separate the Models from the Background

To blur the background in Photoshop, firstly you need to separate the models from the background. To select the models (focus object), we use the Pen Tool (P). But before you do it, create a new path by clicking the Create new path icon in Panel Paths.

Pen Tool (P)
Activate the Pen Tool (P), and select Path.

Separate the focused object from the background

Step 3: Change the Paths to Selection and Duplicate the Background into a New Layer

Change the path to become a selection by pressing Ctrl + Enter. As the chosen one is the model, not the background, we need to reverse the selection. Press Ctrl + Shift + I to reverse the selection. Duplicate the background to a new layer by pressing Ctrl + J.

Step 4: Adjust the Background Bluriness

Next, we are going to adjust the background opacity. Click Filter  Blur Gallery  Field Blur. Slide the Field Blur slider to adjust the background’s bluriness as you want. In case your photo has light sources, you may also want to add the Light Bokeh effect slider. The light bokeh function is to reinforce the light source display, and the Bokeh Color slider function is to strengthen the color saturation. At this image, I don’t use the Light Bokeh and Bokeh Color settings as I will add artificial Bokeh effect using Photoshop.

Field Blur Setting Preview
Field Blur Settings

Step5: Remove Unwanted Effect

Oftentimes in using field blur some unwanted effects or damaged areas appear. So, if necessary, you need to fix them.  The damaged areas would be the glow of light is visible through the back of both models, where it should not. The shoulders of the models are shading. Use Eraser Tool (E) or Healing Brush Tool (J) to fix them.

Step 6: Add Layer Mask and Use Gradient Tool to Adjust the Blurred Area

The next problem is the background is all blurry, so it’s as though the models are not blending with the photo. To fix this, add a layer mask with a Gradient Tool (G) create a linear gradient from top to bottom with black to white to gradually restore the area near the models back to focus mode (not blurred background).

Layer Mask and Gradient Tool

The final Result

Before and after blur effect
Before and after blurred.

That’s all the simple steps on how to blur the background in Photoshop. Now, we forward to the steps of how to add bokeh effect in Photoshop.

Read also: How to create a double exposure in Photoshop.

How to Add Bokeh Effect to an Image in Photoshop

The preparation of making artificial bokeh effect in Photoshop is creating your own brush. You will use the brush to create the bokeh effect. This brush will be applied as part of the background. Here are the steps to create bokeh effect brush.

Step 1: Create a new File

Create a new file in your photoshop by clicking on the File New or pressing Ctrl + O on the keyboard. For the file size, we use square size. Make both height and width 2000 pixels wich the resolution of 72 pixels/inch. Choose RGB Color at 8 bit and set the Background Contents to White.

Make a new file in Photoshop

Step 2: Make a Circle

Activate your Ellipse Tool (U) and then, create a perfect circle with black color by adjusting to the size of the worksheet.

Ellipse Tool in Photoshop


Step 3: Add Stroke to the Cyrcle’s Layer

Go to Layer Layer style  Stroke, then, follow the settings’ parameter below. Clik OK. Next, set the Opacity to 45% and the Fill to 35%.

Add Stroke to a layer

Step 3: Create a Bokeh Brush

Hide the background layer by clicking on the eye button on the left side of the layer. Then, go to Edit Define Brush Preset and name it as Bokeh Brush. This tool is to make this cycle to become a brush.

Create Bokeh Brush in Photoshop


Step 4: Apply the Bokeh Brush to the Photo

Now, it’s the time to apply the bokeh brush you just created earlier. Follow the steps below about how to create bokeh effects in Photoshop.

1. Open Your Photo and Select Focus Area

Then, select the focus area on your photo and copy it to a new layer.

Focus Area Selection

2. Adjust the Brush Settings

Next, activate the brush tool (B). To adjust the brush settings, press F5. Follow the settings below.

Set the Scattering parameters.


2. Apply the Bokeh Brush to the New Layer

Brush the new layer slowly and adjust the size of every bokeh effect you created.

Apply the Bokeh Brush to Your Image



3. Add a Gradient Layer Style to the Bokeh Layer

After applying the bokeh brushes, add a Gradient layer style. Go to Layer  Layer Style  Gradient Overlay. Set the composition to the layer style as the settings preview below.

4. Add Gaussian Blur to the Bokeh layer

Go to Filter Blur Gaussian Blur. Set the Radius to 2. This way works to blur the bokeh layer.

5. Add a New Layer

Now, we are going to add more Bokeh brush again on the new layer above the first bokeh layer. Then, set also the Gradient Overlay and Gaussian Blur settings the same as the previous Bokeh layer settings.


6. Lighting Settings

You may also adjust the lighting with curves function on the background layer and the focus object layer. To bring up the curves function, go to Image Adjustment Curves or press Ctrl + M on your keyboard. The following is the final result of how to add bokeh effect in Photoshop.


That’s all about the tips and tricks on how to blur the background in Photoshop and how to add bokeh effect in Photoshop. If you have any question or suggestion related to blur and bokeh effect, feel free to comment on the comments box below.

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