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How to create a soft focus portrait in Photoshop

Give your portrait shots a soft focus feel with the help of Photoshop.

|  Adobe Photoshop
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Step 1: Duplicate your layer

Duplicate your layer (Layer>Duplicate Layer) so you have a copied layer of the original you can apply a blur effect to.

Step 2: Gaussian Blur

Make sure the layer you've just created is selected then go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and enter a value of around 20-30 pixels. Hit OK and you'll see the layer is now diffused.

Add Gaussian Blur


Step 3: Opacity

Reduce the opacity of the layer. We reduced ours to 62% but this isn't set in stone. Simply reduce the opacity until you have a soft focus effect you're happy with. The colours will look slightly washed out at this point but this is something we will be fixing later on in the tutorial.

Step 4: Layer Mask

We are going to create a Layer Mask which you can do by clicking the Layer Mask icon in the Layers Palette or by going to Layer>Layer Mask. Select the Paintbrush tool with black as the foreground colour. Now lower the brush opacity to around 10-20% and paint over your subject but don't go onto the background. The idea is to just bring a little detail back into the face so don't over brush your portrait.

Layer Mask

Step 5: Curves and saturation

Make sure the background layer is selected and go to Image>Adjustments>Curves. Create an S-shape curve to enhance the contrast then go to Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation and increase the Saturation slightly. This will give your subject a warm glow but don't over do the saturation as they'll end up looking like they took a bath in fake tan.

Curves Hue/Saturation

Final Image:
Finall image with blur added
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