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How to create an out of focus background in Photoshop

How to create an out of focus background in Photoshop - To make sure eyes stay on your subject try adding blur to the background.

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Adobe Photoshop

Before you start any work in Photoshop make sure your monitors are calibrated correctly. Visit Datacolor, the Colour Management Experts, to see what calibration systems they have available.

If you're trying to focus the viewer's attention on a person or object in your image one of the easiest ways to do this is to blur the background. You can do this in camera but if you get home and realise your image which has a background that's in focus would look better out of focus put it into Photoshop and after a few easy steps you won't be able to keep your eyes off the subject.

  • Software used: Photoshop CS4
  • Time taken: 15 minutes
Blur background in Photoshop

Duplicate the layer

Go to Layer>Duplicate layer and rename it.

Duplicate layer

Add blur

Go to Filters>Blur>Gaussian Blur and change the pixel radius until you're happy with the amount of blur in the image. We moved ours up to 16.7 but as little as 5 pixels can work for some images.

Add blur
Gaussian Blur

Bring your subject into focus

Adding the Gaussian Blur will have blurred the whole image so now we need to remove the blur from your subject. To do this select the erase tool and simply brush over your subject to remove the blur. Use a smaller sized brush when you get to the edges and select a slightly softer brush by right clicking on the image and adjusting the hardness slider. This will help stop too much of the background coming back into focus. If you do go over some of the background you can use the Undo command or if you need to go back more than one step use the history window. Go to window>History if it's not already open.

Erase Tool Using the Erase Tool

See the before and after images here:

Blur the background

To ensure the colour you capture is the colour you keep, use Datacolor - the Colour Management Experts.

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