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Photoshop CC (2014 release) Visual Quick Start: Refocusing

In this chapter from Photoshop CC: Visual QuickStart Guide (2014 release), you’ll blur areas of an image using the Field Blur, Iris Blur, Tilt-Shift, Path Blur, and Spin Blur filters (collectively called the Blur Gallery). And you will apply sharpening via the Smart Sharpen, Unsharp Mask, and Shake Reduction filters, and via the Sharpen tool.
From the book


  • Applying a filter in the Blur Gallery
  • Applying the Smart Sharpen filter
  • Applying the Unsharp Mask filter
  • Applying the Shake Reduction filter
  • Using the Sharpen tool

In Photoshop, just as in photography, you can use focusing techniques to enhance a scene, such as a shallow depth of field to differentiate a subject from its background or blurriness to convey a sense of motion. And you can use sharpening methods to counteract the effects of resampling, to remedy blurring from camera shake, or to prepare a file for output.

In this chapter, you’ll blur areas of an image using the Field Blur, Iris Blur, Tilt-Shift, Path Blur, and Spin Blur filters (collectively called the Blur Gallery). And you will apply sharpening via the Smart Sharpen, Unsharp Mask, and Shake Reduction filters, and via the Sharpen tool.

Note: For lens corrections, we recommend using the Lens Correction tab in Camera Raw (instead of the Lens Correction filter in Photoshop), either before you open your photo into Photoshop, or by way of Filter > Camera Raw Filter in Photoshop.

Applying a filter in the Blur Gallery

The Field Blur, Iris Blur, Tilt-Shift, Path Blur, and Spin Blur  filters provide powerful and flexible on-canvas and panel controls for blurring parts of an image.

Note: To apply filters in the Blur Gallery, Use Graphics Processor must be checked in Edit/Photoshop > Preferences > Performance. You will see a more accurate preview while making on-canvas adjustments if your system has a graphics card with 1 GB or more of VRAM or an embedded HD graphics processing unit.

To apply a filter in the Blur Gallery:

  1. Open an image (preferably one that is all or mostly in focus). To keep the filter settings nondestructive and editable, convert a duplicate of an image layer or the Background to a Smart Object.
  2. Optional: To mask the filter effect partially, create a selection. The selection area will appear in the Smart Filters mask when you exit the gallery.

  3. Choose Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur to produce multiple blur areas, Iris Blur to blur areas around a focus ellipse, Tilt-Shift to apply blurring in straight bands across portions of the image, or Spin Blur to create an effect of radial motion within a circular area. To apply the Path Blur filter, see pages 330–331.
  4. A default pin with controls appears in the image, and panels with option settings appear in a dock on the right. On the Options bar, make sure Preview is checked (P).
  5. To control the degree of blurring for a Field, Iris, or Tilt-Shift blur, either adjust the Blur slider in the dock; or in the image, drag around the blur ring that surrounds the pin (add more black to the ring to reduce the blur, or reduce black to increase the blur).

  6. For a Field Blur, add another pin by clicking in the image. Set the Blur value for one pin to 0% (full focus), then click the other pin and give it a higher Blur value (blurring). To use the full potential of this filter, add more pins, some with a Blur value of 0 and some with a Blur value greater than 0 (A–C, next page).
  7. For an Iris Blur, do any of the following: To adjust the shape of the focus ellipse, drag one of the small outer round handles; to scale the ellipse uniformly, drag its edge; to rotate the ellipse, drag outside one of the small handles (double-arrow pointer); to reposition where the blurring begins, drag one of the feather handles (or to move one feather handle separately, drag it while holding down Alt/Option); to change the ellipse to a rounded rectangle, drag the square Roundness knob outward (A–D, page 328).

    For a Tilt-Shift Blur, do any of the following: To adjust where the blurring begins, drag either or both of the solid focus lines; to adjust the transition between the in-focus and blurred areas, drag either or both of the dashed feather lines; to rotate the focus area, drag a rotation handle slightly to the left or right (A–C, page 329).

    For a Spin Blur, do any of the following: To reshape the focus ellipse, drag one of the outer round handles; to scale the ellipse uniformly, drag its edge; to adjust the angle, drag around the blur ring or change the Blur Angle value in the panel; to move the blur, drag anywhere inside the ellipse; or to reposition the rotation point (say, to make it look as if subject was shot at an angle), drag the point with Alt/Option held down). See C–D, page 331.

  8. You can also do any of the following optional steps:
  9. To add a pin, click in the image.

    To reposition a pin, drag its center point. You can move a pin outside the canvas area.

    To delete a pin, click its center point, then press Backspace/Delete.

    To copy a pin, drag its center point with Alt-Ctrl/Option-Cmd held down.

    To control the amount of focus within the currently selected ellipse for an Iris Blur, or between the two feather lines for a Tilt-Shift blur, adjust the Focus setting on the Options bar.

  10. To hide the on-canvas controls to judge the blurring effect, press and hold down H (then release).
  11. Optional: To brighten the blur highlights to the point that they become abstract, colored orbs, for a Field, Iris, or Tilt-Shift Blur, click a pin, check Bokeh in the Blur Effects panel, then adjust the settings (A–C, page 332).
  12. Optional: To save the blur mask that Photoshop created for the filter to an alpha channel, check Save Mask to Channels on the Options bar (A–D, page 333). To preview the mask, press and hold down M (then release).
  13. To accept your blur filter edits, press Enter/Return or click OK on the Options bar. To edit the blur settings or to mask the results, see pages 360–362.
    • To remove all blur pins from an image, click the Remove All Pins button on the Options bar.
    • To switch to a different filter in the Blur Tools panel, uncheck the box for the current filter, then expand the category for the desired one.
    • To the same Smart Object, you can also apply nonblur filters. We don’t recommend applying multiple Blur Gallery filters to an image (except possibly to add a small Field Blur ring to a sharp area), as doing so is likely to blur the whole photo.

The Path Blur filter applies a motion blurring effect to a path. You can edit the path to control the shape of the blur, say, to mimic the result of camera movement.

To apply the Path Blur filter:

  1. On the Layers panel, click a Smart Object.
  2. Choose Filter > Blur Gallery > Path Blur. A blue path appears on the image. The arrow on the path indicates the direction of motion.
  3. After doing any of the following, you can press and hold down H to hide the on-canvas controls:
  4. To change the length or angle of the path, drag either endpoint.

    To produce a curve, drag the center point or a straight segment.A

    A To create an illusion of fast motion, we repositioned the two endpoints on the blue path for a Path Blur, then dragged to curve the path to match the road. To minimize blurring at the end of the road, we set the right endpoint to an End Point Speed of 0%. (The original image is shown in the inset.)

    To add more curve points, drag a segment.

    To convert a curve point to a corner point, or to convert a corner point to a curve point, hold down Alt/Option and click it.

    To produce another (straight) path, drag in the image.B Or to produce a path that has multiple segments, hold down Alt/Option and click several times, then to end the path, press Enter/Return or Esc, or click the last point you created. To produce multiple curve segments, click without Alt/Option.

    B To straighten the blurring on the left side of the road, we dragged to create a new, straight path.

    To control the speed of the blur, adjust the Speed value in the panel. To control how gradually the blur fades, use the Taper slider. These settings affect all Path Blurs in the image (A, next page).

    A We chose these Speed and Taper settings for all of our Path Blur paths.

    Check Centered Blur for a more uniform, anchored blur; or uncheck this option for a more malleable blur, and to let imagery move more fluidly as you drag paths or blur shapes.

    To move a path, hold down Ctrl/Cmd and drag it.

    You can also move the midpoint along the length of a path (you can’t delete the midpoint).

    To delete a point or path, click it, then press Backspace/Delete.

    To further manipulate a blur shape, click an endpoint, check Edit Blur Shapes in the panel, then drag the white dot at the end of the red guide to rotate just that guide.

    To change the blur speed, raise the End Point Speed value on the panel; or with Edit Blur Shapes checked in the panel, drag the end of the red guide to lengthen or shorten it.

    To remove the blur from a blue endpoint, hold down Ctrl/Cmd and click the endpoint; or click the endpoint, then set the End Point Speed value in the panel to 0 (zero) (B, next page). The red guide disappears and the endpoint becomes gray.

    B To eliminate blurring from the background, we dragged to create another Path Blur, then set the End Point Speed for both endpoints on that path to 0 px.

  5. Keep High Quality checked to help prevent the blur from looking jagged.
  6. Follow steps 8–9 on page 326.

The spin blur filter

After choosing the Spin Blur filter, roll over the image to make the on-image controls appear.C–D

C We chose the Spin Blur filter, set the Blur Angle to 15°, and enlarged the focus ring by dragging its edge. (The original image is shown in the inset.)

D After exiting the Blur Gallery, we clicked the Smart Filters mask thumbnail, then applied brush strokes to the bike frame and foot to mask the Spin Blur filter effect from those areas.

Using the bokeh options in the blur gallery

To achieve good results from the Bokeh feature in the Blur Gallery, you may need to experiment with various images and settings (it took us a number of tries).

The bokeh will be more pronounced in some areas of an image than in others; you will see this if you drag a pin to a different part of the image. Also, if you change the Blur value for a pin, the size of the bokeh is also affected.

  • To control the brightness of the bokeh, adjust the Light Bokeh value.A–C
  • A This is the original image.

    B We created multiple pins for the Field Blur filter, checked Bokeh, increased the Light Bokeh value to brighten the bokeh, increased the Bokeh Color to intensify the color saturation, and moved the Light Range sliders near each other at the right end of the bar to limit the effect to the image highlights.

    C This is the final image.

  • To control the amount of color variation in the bokeh, adjust the Bokeh Color value.
  • To control the range of brightness values in which the bokeh can appear, drag the Light Range sliders. For smaller bokeh spots, position the sliders near each other at either end of the bar.
  • For higher-quality bokeh (but slower rendering), check High Quality on the Options bar.

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