Photoshop Tutorial: Using Gaussian blur to focus

In Photoshop, the blur tool can take a long time depending what you want to do, and may also distribute the blurring effect unevenly. Here’s a tutorial on utilizing layers and the Gaussian Blur effect to focus in on an item in your photo.

Step 1: Get ready. Open up Photoshop and open your image. The important “floating windows” you should be concerned about is your Layers palette (pictured on the right of my window, above); you can find these in your Window menu. Your Toolbar will be on the left side of your window (that long vertical bar of icons on the left).

Step 2: Duplicate your picture. In your Layers palette, you will notice that your image is one layer named as “Background”. You can right click (or Control-click if your mouse doesn’t have a right-click button) on the “Background” layer and a menu will pop up — choose “Duplicate Layer…”. This will prompt a window asking you to name your new layer; you can leave it as-is. You will now have two layers: “Background” and “Background copy”.

Step 3: Apply Gaussian Blur. With your new layer, “Background copy” selected (or highlighted) in your Layers palette, go to your Menu bar at the top, select Filter. In the drop-down menu, you will see an option for Blur. Roll over Blur, and you will see lots of options for blur effects — choose “Gaussian Blur…”.

A window will pop up — you will be able to control how much you want to blur this layer. While changing it around to see how you like it, you can also choose to see a preview of the blur effect on your photo. I usually Gaussian blur my photos around 8 pixels. Once you feel you like the blur amount, hit OK!

Step 4: Focus in on your item. Choose the Eraser tool in your toolbar on the left (pictured above, the tool right above the Paint Bucket). Make sure the “Hardness” of the Eraser tool is at 0% — this will give it a feathering effect when used — but make sure the Opacity and Flow are at 100%.

Size your Eraser brush size to just a little bit bigger than the item you want to focus in on. Play around! Once you have your brush size figured out, click (using the Eraser tool) right on top of your item. It will clear out and reveal the sharp duplicate image in the layer below the blurred layer and — voila! Way to stand out!

Step 5: Do more (optional). Now that you’re already in Photoshop, you can choose to add text if you want. Don’t go overboard, though! Once you’re satisfied with your image, don’t forget to save!

This is a little bit more advanced, but can be a fun effect if used sparingly. However, you must begin with a good photo! The Gaussian blur can be useful if you want a little bit more blur than the macro option on your camera can offer, especially if you’re not a professional photography or just don’t own equipment to get a nice blur from your lens alone.

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