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How To Create The Tilt-Shift Lens Effect In Photoshop

How to create toy model type photos using a tilt lens effect in Photoshop

|  Adobe Photoshop
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Article by Peter Bargh. (Updated December 2011).

Pick A Photo

Choose a suitable photo. One taken from a higher viewpoint is better as this is how you would normally view a set-up such as a model railway.

Quick Mask Mode

Tilt lens Photoshop effect - adding the quick mask gradientOpen the photo in Photoshop and select Quick Mask mode (shortcut key Q). Now select the Gradient tool (1) making sure the foreground / background colours are set to white / black.

If you've been using different colours press key D to reset. If they are set to black / white press X to switch them.

Select the Reflected gradient (2) and click and hold down the mouse at a central point of the sharp zone, and drag to a point where you want the gradient to end. In the illustration above (point 3) it shows where I dragged  from (circle) to the finishing point (tip of arrow) before letting go of the mouse. This covers the non sharp areas in red (the mask)

Press Q to turn off the mask and you will notice that the area that you want sharp now has the selection around it.

If the selection is at the wrong angle or not wide enough hit Q again and redo - the previous mask will be replaced.

Add Blur

When you're happy go to Filter>Blur> Lens Blur. Tick the Invert box to switch the soft focus from the selection to the non-selected area.

Now adjust the Iris section to fine tune the blur effect. For this technique the only slider we need to control is the Radius. Drag out to the left reduces the softer areas and to the right strengthens them. You need to set a radius that softens quite heavily but it's easy to visualise the effect and drag it to a point that looks most realistic. When you're happy click ok and be prepared for short delay as it processes and applies the effect.

You may then want to adjust curves to give the shot more contrast and a plasticy feel.

Tilt lens Photoshop effect - applying lens blur Tilt lens Photoshop effect - adjusting contrast using curves

The shot below is the end result and I've included a couple of other examples of the effects you can achieve.
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jenquest 20 561 1 Tokelau
8 Oct 2009 11:56AM
I've been meaning to try this out for a while. Thanks.
Pagnobito 16 2 United Kingdom
14 Oct 2009 6:47AM
Can this be done with elements 7?
I am not sure because it does not seem to have the same masking ability, although there is a website that will automatically do the job for you
chase Plus
17 2.4k 638 England
14 Oct 2009 8:17AM
An effective yet quite simple technique,thanks for sharing.
NikLG 17 1.7k England
14 Oct 2009 12:03PM

Quote:Can this be done with elements 7?

You can get a mask plug-in / action for Elements that will let you do it this way ( the tutorial way ), or you could do it using multiple layers of the same image, blurring them and erasing the bits you don't want ( to reveal the unblurred bits.. )

I also up the saturation a bit when I do this effect, it seems to give things a punchier 'miniature' appearance.
DRicherby 13 269 726 United Kingdom
24 Mar 2010 3:55PM
Pushing up the saturation and doing an edge-preserving smooth help to increase the feeling that you're looking at a model.
Dvaid 13 257 United Kingdom
5 Jan 2012 3:46PM
Wheres the "edge preserving smooth" please?

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