May 12, 2014

How to Master the Motion Blur in Photoshop

The 3 Steps of Applying Motion Blur in Photoshop

In order to apply motion blur to an image in Photoshop and make it look realistic there are 3 things you must keep in mind. In this episode we show you how to master the motion blur in photoshop using these techniques and give some insights on how to make motion blurs look real.

Step One: Cut Your Subject Out

The first step you will need to do when applying motion blur to an image is to cut out your subject. Most of the time you will want your subject to remain still while the rest of your image looks blurred.

The best way to cut out your subject is by using the Pen Tool. If you need help with the Pen Tool be sure to check out these episodes on the Pen Tool.

Step Two: Remove Your Subject From Background

It is important to remove your subject from the background before applying the blur because these blur filters effect the entire layer, including your subject. If you don’t remove your subject from the background first you will see a blurred “halo” around your subject in the final image.

In order for there to be a clean blur on the background and no haloing on your subject simply copy the background over top your subject. In this episode we use the Clone Stamp tool to cover the subject with the background. Now we have a cut out of our subject as well as a clean background.

Apply the Appropriate Blur

The last step is to apply a motion blur that is appropriate for your image. In many cases a simple “Motion Blur” will do the job.

If the blur needed for your photo is a bit more complex you will need to be a little more creative. In this episode we show you how to make a complex blur that changes with the direction of the photo.


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  • user image

    Why did you shave Aaron Why? I understand to many people giving you hard time with it as I get the same with my facial hair. Glad to have you back though and great episode.

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      Natasha Heredia

      Hmmm… this took me to a page on for “Wildstar – The Deluxe Edition”….

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    Pierre Tridorel

    Noooooo why did you shave that beard ?!? you were great with it 🙁 anyway, good tuto and good tips, thanks a lot again Phlearn!

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    Navendu Mandal

    Hi, can you please tell about calibrating the monitor for proper colors.
    I work on a laptop but the colors on laptop are different from print i take, also sometimes trhe brightness is different. Any tips please.

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    John Hewick

    Hi Aaron I can’t find the link for the pen tool, could you post it again? Spanks!

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    Aaron, I need help to understand what you are doing. I get the process and I don’t have a problem there. The problem lies in why, as in, why would there be two blurs???

    If the camera lens was following the movement of the skater (hence a clear image/focus on the skater and blurred surroundings), why then would there be a right-to-left movement blur when nothing has made that movement at the moment of recording it? I would understand a gaussian blur to express a shorter depth of field, but a second moment?? Is my thinking wrong?

    A really cool tutorial anyway to say the least.

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    The blur is
    wrong, because the camera movement is just in the direction of the
    skater. If the camera would move on around the bend in a very long
    exposure time, the skater being at the actual position would also be
    blurred. In this example it only can be a one-directional blur.

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      Dominik is right. If the effect being tried to be achieved is that the photographer is standing still and panning as the skater passes by there would only be one direction of blur (the 1st one). As the skater hadn’t moved beyond the curve there is no chance the photographer could follow the pan that would create the 2nd horizontal blur. The camera didn’t make any horizontal panning move thus there’s no possibility of a horizontal blur).

  • user image

    Useful, awesome! Thanks! Maybe, an awesome abstract PH painting will be fun to phlearn us! 🙂

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    Thanks…this is my first attempt at it…would love you feedback…awesome tutorial….

  • user image

    Thanks…this was my first attempt…you skills are spot on..would love you feedback…

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    David Mair

    Another great tutorial! Suggested topic. Banding. Banding. Banding!!! 🙂 Please do banding!

    Did I mention banding?

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    Anthony Hazlewood

    Pretty cool, this is just what I was looking for to make a sharp photo into a motion photo… Thanks Aaron – keep up the good work…

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    Photoshop CC 14 has a path blur in the filter gallery that lets you create a path in a similar flexibility to the pen tool for a blur, that should be able to take care of this issue.

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    Please can u tell me how u apply the selection on the paths , I tried to do the same u did but when i select the paths there’s nothing just empty .. Is there any way to make the paths work as the video
    thank u so much

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    Carol LaConte

    This will help me a ton with minamizing backgrounds during soccer games. Thanks.