I’ve discussed quite a few different types of blurs on this blog so far, but I’m not sure I ever touched upon the Spin Blur filter in Adobe Photoshop. This particular blur is extraordinarily helpful when attempting to add motion to something that rotates. It could be anything; an engine pulley, wind fluttering through the pages of a book or even the blades of a huge wind turbine. Adding motion to an object brings that object to life. It adds excitement to an otherwise stagnant photograph. I enjoy using this filter for these reasons and I hope you will too.
In today’s post, I’ll use a photo of a wind turbine, of which the blades aren’t moving at all. I’ll apply the Spin Blur filter to the image and then I’ll take things one step further and add some different effects to those blades. Finally, I’ll edit the accompanying filter mask to perfect the look of the photo. All of this right in Photoshop.
Here’s the image I’ll be using today. As you can see, it’s fairly lifeless. That’s going to change.
Applying the Spin Blur Filter
I already have this image opened up inside of Photoshop. The first thing I’ll do to it is to right-click on the background (image) layer and select Convert to Smart Object from the menu that appears. Doing this will make my work non-destructive and it will also create the layer mask I’ll need later on.
Next, I’ll head up to the Filter > Blur Gallery > Spin Blur menu option in the top toolbar. I’ll click that option.
Once inside the blur filter workspace, I’ll click on the center pin of the circle that appears. All of the blur will be contained inside this circle. I’ll then drag the center of the blur to the center of the blades.
Since the filter area is smaller than the diameter of the area of the blades, I’ll click and drag the edge of the circle outward. This will expand the blur area.
Since that’s set up, I’ll head over to the right column to push the Blur Angle slider back and forth. This slider speeds up and slows down the speed of the spin. I’ll push the slider to the right until it reaches 15 degrees. That will give me enough movement to work with.
Adding Motion Effects
At this point, I’ve already made it look like the turbine’s blades are moving. That’s what I was after. Now, I’d like to see what things look like if I add a few effects to the perceived motion. To add the effects, I’ll head down to the Motion Effects tab in the right column.
I’ll adjust the sliders so the Strobe Strength is set to 10%, the Strobe Flashes equal 4 and the Strobe Flash Duration is 2 degrees. What do these values mean? Here you go:
Strobe Strength – This value controls how much blur will be visible between the virtual flash exposures.
Strobe Flashes – This value controls how many virtual flashes exist.
Strobe Flash Duration – This value controls the length of the virtual flash.
I say virtual here because, obviously, the flash isn’t real. It’s just an effect, but I’ll tell you one thing; it looks real.
Here’s the output of the effects I set up. If you compare this screenshot to the ones above, you’ll see that the independent movement of the blades are now slightly visible, which offers a dramatic speed perception.
Next, since I’m finished in this workspace, I’ll click the OK button up in the options bar. Doing this will apply the blur filter and will return me to the regular workspace.
Refining the Image
Now that I have the blur I want, I need to clean up the image a bit. If you take a look at the above screenshot, you can see that the blur is also applied to the large pole that’s carrying the turbine. I don’t want that pole blurred, so I’ll have to do a bit of masking work. First though, let’s take a look at what I have going on in the Layers panel.
As you can see, I have the Smart Object layer, but I also have a Smart Filters layer. Applied to this Smart Filter, I have a layer mask as well as the Blur Gallery option below that. Since I have a mask, I shouldn’t have any issues removing some of the blur from the image. All I’ll need to do is select the mask thumbnail to activate it and then use the Brush Tool set to black to paint over any area that I don’t want to see blur. I’ll do that now.
Let’s see what I get after painting over the pole with black.
That’s pretty good. Now, let’s take a look at the entire final image.
I like it. I think you’ll agree that the wind turbine now appears to be spinning. I don’t think anyone would argue with that.
I hope I clearly explained how to use the Spin Blur filter in Adobe Photoshop to make an object appear to be moving or spinning. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!