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Photoshop Motion blur tutorial

Photoshop's Motion Blur can be used to add some speed to a moving vehicle. Here we use the Gradient tool on a layer mask to recreate a Cokin Speed filter effect.

| Adobe Photoshop

  • Software used: Photoshop CS4
  • Time taken: 10 minutes.
  • Try this tutorial for yourself by clicking on the image to the left to download a high resolution image.
 Photoshop Motion blur tutorial: Motocross

Adding your own motion blur is useful when you haven't quite got the right kind of drama in your original action shot.

In this photo, taken at a local motocross event, I was careful in getting the exposure right and ensuring the necessary focus point was on the bike as it passed. In doing this I'd failed to notice that the shutter speed was too high and it's resulted in a super sharp shot, but one that looks static and lifeless. It's easily fixed with Photoshop's Motion Blur filter.

There are various methods of applying this effect. This first one is a super fast option that takes just a few minutes to complete and emulates the Cokin Speed filter.

Step 1: Duplicate the background layer

Duplicate the layer by dragging the background layer icon over the New Layer icon. Or on the menu Layer>Duplicate Layer.

Photoshop Motion blur tutorial: motocross - duplicate the layer in photoshop

Step 2: Adding motion blur

Add some motion blur to the background layer copy. Filter>Blur>Motion Blur.
In the pop up box, set the angle to match the direction of your subject. In this case it's -9 as the bike is traveling down a slight incline. Make sure the Preview box is ticked so you can see the effect on your main image and adjust the distance slider so you get a good heavy blur. Make sure you maintain some detail in the streaks or it will look unatural. In this example 376 pixels was set. Click OK.

Photoshop Motion blur tutorial: motocross - add motion blur to the background

Step 3: Add a layer mask

Add a layer mask to your background copy layer. With this layer selected go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All. This adds a white square at the side of the layer icon. Click on this square.

Photoshop Motion blur tutorial: motocross - add a layer mask in photoshop

Step 4: Select the Gradient tool

Select the Gradient tool. Make sure black and white are the foreground and background colours. Select foreground to transparent in the gradient options and the linear gradient option. 

Photoshop Motion blur tutorial: motocross - choosing the correct gradientlick

Step 4: Draw a gradient over the mask

Click on the photo near the front of the subject. Hold the mouse down and drag to the rear of the subject following the same angle you applied the blur at. Let go of the mouse and the gradient will be applied over the mask, revealing the sharp bottom layer at the front of the photo.

Photoshop Motion blur tutorial: motocross - adding a gradient on the mask

Photoshop Motion blur tutorial: motocross - motion blur added to create a sense of speed

Photoshop Motion blur tutorial:
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