Use Adobe Photoshop to create a motion blur effect.

In photographs, motion blur—the apparent streaking of moving objects caused by rapid movement or long exposure times—can add dynamic excitement to a subject. Follow Adobe art director Kathleen Martin’s process as she uses Adobe Photoshop to create a motion blur effect.

Close up of dancer with blue color cast and blue background, face and arm are in focus, other parts blurred to show movement

Take a quick one-minute look at Martin’s movement technique—the steps are written out below.

Before you start.

Use this a sample photo if you’d like, or practice with your own.

Step 1: Prep images

Start by opening the dancer photo in Photoshop and click on the Lock icon on the layer to unlock it. Martin then chose Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object to protect the dancer photo.

Unlock dancer layer and convert to Smart Object in Adobe Photoshop.

Step 2: Get moving

Martin applied a blur to the entire image by choosing Filter > Blur Gallery > Path Blur. To create the appearance of movement on specific parts of the model, Martin updated the default marker that Photoshop added by dragging the arrow to control the direction of movement. She dragged the points to refine the movement; then she added more markers by clicking on the image with the Pen tool.

Apply Path Blur from Blur Gallery to the model’s head and feet to give appearance of movement .

Step 3: Speed up

Use the Speed slider to adjust the appearance of movement and click OK.

Adjust the speed slider for the Path Blur.

Step 4: Stay focused

Martin wanted some parts of the model to be more in focus. She clicked on the Smart Filters mask thumbnail in the Layers panel to specify which parts of the model would be in focus. Then she chose the Brush tool, adjusted the brush size, and brushed over the areas that should not be blurred.

Paint with Brush tool on Smart Filters on the dancer to bring parts of the model into focus.

Keep moving.

See how adding motion to your images can bring new life to your photos.

Image with Path Blur set in poster placeholder in front of two city buildings.

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

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