Photoshop Tutorial: Fake a Background Blur

One major drawback of digital photography (and point and shoot cameras in general) is that everything is in focus!  But what if you’d like parts of your photos (such as the backgrounds) to be blurry and out of focus?

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to use Photoshop to fake a background blur.  The blurry background (and sometimes foreground) effect is called “shallow depth of field”, just to give you some terms to search for if you’d like to read more!

Difficulty Level: Complete Beginner
This tutorial was created using Photoshop CS5, but most image editing software packages have similar features!  

Before You Begin

First, ask yourself: will your blur make sense?

Remember that you’re trying to create the illusion that some elements of your photo are blurry because they’re too far or too close to be in focus.  If everything in your image is equally close to the camera lens, that blur effect will seem out of place.  Here are two images that illustrate the concept:

fake a background blur does it make sense


fake a background blur on images with depth


Photoshop’s Blur Brush

The Blur Tool is a great way to control how much blur gets applied and where.  In Photoshop, find the Blur Tool in your tool palette.

Not using Photoshop?  Most other image editors have this brush, including Pixlr Advanced (our favorite free online photo editor).

fake a background blur with photoshop's blur tool

Set the Blur Tool’s strength to 50% so you can “layer” the strength of its effect.  Resize the brush as needed for your image.

fake a background blur with photoshop's blur tool

Left-click and drag your blur tool over the area you want to blur.  Left click again to re-apply the blur.  Layering is best – apply more layers of blur on the furthest-away parts of the image, and less blur on the closer elements.  Leave the foreground completely untouched so that it remains sharp.

fake a background blur with the blur tool in Photoshop

The finished result:

photoshop fake background blur before and after

Another example made using this technique (look on the left and right sides of the blanket roll):

before and after photoshop fake background blur

More Photoshop Blur Techniques

There’s more than one way to blur a photo!  Here are two more Photoshop blur tutorials from around the web.

Hello there! I'm Mandi, a lifelong crafter with a passion for helping others use technology. DIYCraftPhotography shows artisans how to photograph and publicize their handmade goodies. Thank you for visiting!

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