How to add a blur effect to photos.

Give life to any photo by adding movement with the blur tool.

A woman celebrating the Hindu Holi festival on a background of colour with a blurry effect

Mimic in-camera techniques. 

The blur tool lets you add an artistic look and achieve advanced in-camera techniques in post-production. Simulate a shallow depth of field by blurring the background during editing or redirect focus to your subject using radial blur. Camera techniques such as tilt-shift photography and panning can easily be achieved with linear blur. Learn how to blur backgrounds in Photoshop


Use a brush or direction tool for a blurry effect.

Screenshot of the Blur Tool used to create a blur effect in Photoshop

Select a brush to blur.

Your favorite brush lets you soften your image and draw attention to areas you want to highlight. Go to Filter > Blur Tool and choose a brush to drag over the image you want to soften. You can change the brush characteristics and save a preset for quick access to the brushes you use most. You can also use this technique in Lightroom.

Screenshot of a Smart Filter in Photoshop being used to add a motion blur effect to a photo of a dancer

Use motion blur to show movement.

A directional Path Blur filter in Photoshop will add drama to a static image. Kathleen Martin uses a motion blur effect to add excitement to her work and replicate a long exposure shot. You can also[MK1]  use blur filters to add drama to an image.

Draw attention to the subject with radial blur. 


Lead the viewer’s eye to a specific focal point and blur the rest by applying an Iris Blur found in the Blur Gallery. It’s easy to create a radial blur and control the amount of gradient. Here’s how:


In Photoshop, select Filter > Blur Gallery > Iris Blur.


Place the pin at the centre of the ring and drag it to your focal point.


Click and drag the outside dots to elongate the ellipsis or drag the outer line to resize the blur area.


Click and drag the dots inside the blur preview ring to adjust the size of the blur transition area.


Adjust the round blur dial in the centre of the ring to control the amount of blur applied.


When finished, press Enter or click OK at the top of the Blur Gallery window.

Add an artistic spin. 

Explore using blur tools beyond creating motion or softening focus to reveal your artistic style. 

Blur together a composite image.

You can blend a composite image with the radial and directional blur tool. Add motion and texture, or decrease background noise with radial blur.

Explore colours with blur.

Julieanne Kost uses blur to create her Colours of Place artwork using the Photoshop blur tool, distilling the colour palette of photos in her series.


Pro tips.

●   Save your favourite brush profiles as presets

●   Experiment with brush sizes and blurring effects

●   Convert your photos to Smart Objects before you begin adding a blurry effect


Blur tools in Photoshop open doors to artistic expression. Once you master how to blur the background of a photo, try each option under the blur tool individually. Add various blur effects and discover endless possibilities. 

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