Oct 04, 2016

How to Add Motion Blur to Backgrounds in Photoshop

Add Depth and movement to photos by adding Motion Blur to Backgrounds. This Simple Technique will make Action and sports photos more dynamic.

Remove the Subject From the Background

When adding motion blur to a photo, it is important to blur only the background. The subject should stay un-blurred to make them stand out from the background.

In order to blur the Background and not the subject, the two elements must be separated first. The easiest way to separate the subject and Background is to remove the subject from the background.

Create a duplicate of the background layer and use the Spot Healing Brush Tool to remove the subject. Be sure that “Sample All Layers” and “Content Aware” are checked on the top of the Screen.

Paint over the subject and the Tool will fill them in with information from the background. This doesn’t have to be perfect, after all, you will be applying a blur to the background. The main goal is to make sure the subject is not blurred with the background.

Add Motion Blur to the Background

After removing the subject from the Background, turn the duplicate layer into a Smart Object by right-clicking on the layer and going to “Convert To Smart Object”.

With a Smart Object you can use Smart Filters, and when adding a blur of any kind, it is best to be done as a Smart Filter. Smart Filters can be changed at any time, making them more versatile and less destructive.

It is time to add the blur to the Smart Object. The type of blur will change depending on the Motion of the photo. In this case, we use a simple “Left-to-Right” Motion Blur because the subject is moving horizontally across the image.

If the subject in your photo is moving towards or away from the camera, choose a Path Blur and create paths in the direction of the movement.

Reveal the Subject

After applying a Motion Blur or Path Blur to the background, it is time to reveal the original subject. Lower the Opacity of the layer to about 80% and add a layer mask to the blurred Smart Object. Paint black on the Layer Mask over the original subject to reveal them through the Smart Object Layer.

Take your time to create an accurate selection around the subject. After completing the layer mask, change the Smart Object layer Opacity to 100% and you are done!

To change the amount of blur on the background, double click on the Blur Smart Filter, and adjust the blur amount. The Layer Mask will stay intact, revealing the subject and provide an instant preview of the Background blur with a still subject.


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    Allun Hamblett

    GREAT lesson! You make PS so easy to understand. I really enjoy your lessons.

  • user image

    Simply great, in fact one might say obvious, but as usual Arron explains clearly without loosing my attention (a problem I have at my age) keep it up I look forward to the next tutorial.
    A suggestion for a re-visit to the latest photoshop cc for quick selection tool and selection dialogue. Since the latest update the refine dialogue box has been replaced….HELP

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    Robert Roussel

    Thank for the many good excellent teaching……………. love your work

    Photoshop Tutorials: How to Add Motion Blur to Backgrounds in Photoshop

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    Paul Mellon

    Great explanation, and good to see the Path Blur also. Would you consider a tutorial on some of the techniques used to create the desktop backgrounds that Apple provide in System Prefs? There’s a lot going on in these I know, but it would be great to understand some of the colour toning effects, sky replacements and haze/fog creation for example. Really look forward to your videos every week – thank you!

    Photoshop Tutorials: How to Add Motion Blur to Backgrounds in Photoshop

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    Srdjan Barac

    Why not use a selection on the objeckt, and make refine age, and then create a layer with this objeckt without a beckground, and beckgroound make blur?

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    rajoo rajendran

    nace I like you face the slime the teaching skill your command of in the sixty I took photo shop for teaching poor kids not good in math some how after doing adobe course. I did not make it but some how learning some use full tutorial lessons you sent . I have made many kids happy .I have learn some from you with my six grandkids after me now .math
    make fun with picture .I am happy I learn form you. the god have bless you with this money canton buy love. thank you

  • user image

    Perfect lesson – thanks so much.
    How does one be the brush tool, so you can see the area of influence with a soft brush?
    Thanks a lot and greetings from Germany

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    Greg Gulbransen

    You just made my job photographing the local university track team a lot easier! Thanks Aaron.

  • David Rice

    Great video; love the way you handled the separation on the subject matter. Just curious though, which cursor set-up are you using? It looks like a hybrid between Lightroom and Photoshop, really love that style. Be a great one for masking and cloning.

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    Rajiv Chopra

    This is brilliant. I love your videos.
    They are fun, and you give some great tips

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    William James

    I have learned so much from your tutorials, thank you. You make it fun to learn instead of it being a tedious drawn out session. Keep on Tuting

  • user image

    spot healing brush is not working for a car or a monster truck … can you tell some other way to save our object which i don’t want to be blue

  • user image

    Why not cut/copy the selection on to a new layer (right click on the subject) and then remove the subject from the background by using content-aware fill (Shift+F5)?

  • user image

    New comment and New followers.)
    exellent tutorials: thank you so much”= from now I’m ready to learn all your new tutorials.)