The Blur Gallery filters in Adobe Photoshop have an extraordinary amount to offer in the way of enhancing the look of a photo. Just a few days ago, I wrote a post that discussed the Iris Blur and a while before that, I wrote one that talked about creative blurs in general. Both were really good posts, but if I had to choose one for you to read to preface this one, I’d say it should definitely be the one that has to do with the Iris Blur. In that post, I show you how to access the Blur Gallery workspace and how to operate many of its controls.
In today’s post, I’d like to pick up where I left off. I’m going to start off in the Blur Gallery workspace, but instead of working with the Iris Blur, I’ll work with the Tilt-Shift blur. To access this particular filter, I’ll simply uncheck the Iris Blur check box in the right column (Blur Tools panel) and check the Tilt-Shift one instead. If I were starting from the beginning, I’d first transform the layer I’m working on into a Smart Object and then use the Filter > Blur Gallery > Tilt-Shift menu item. I’ll end up in the same exact spot with both methods.
What is the Tilt-Shift Blur?
Simply put, the Tilt-Shift blur is a feature in Photoshop that allows us to add straight-line blurs around a center point. While many other blurs can be created in many different shapes, this one is straight. The center will remain clear and unaffected while the outer edges become more and more blurry, according to our instructions.
For this post, I’ll be using a photo of a plate setting on a restaurant table. The reason I chose this particular photo is because of the way the original blur (from the camera’s natural depth of field) is shown. It seems to cover the upper right corner and the lower left corner. I really like the way the original photo is displayed, but I’d perhaps enjoy seeing it with some additional blur in those two areas. I can’t think of a better tool to use to make this happen then the Tilt-Shift blur filter in Photoshop.
Controlling the Strength of the Blur
As I said, I’m already inside of the Blur Gallery workspace. Basically, this blur tool consists of a set of parallel lines. There’s a center pin, some handles and an area where the blur transition begins and where it ends. I’ll cover all of these aspects in this post. For now, take a peek at what this tool looks like.
In the screenshot above, you can’t see the bottom dashed line. That’s okay. It’s still there.
Okay, the first thing I’ll cover is how to control the strength of the blur. To do that, I could either click and drag that small line around the center pin or I could push the Blur slider in the Blur Tools panel. If I were to go ahead and click and drag the line around the center pin, I’d drag it clockwise to strengthen the blur and counterclockwise to weaken it.
If I were to use the Blur slider over to the right, I could simply push the slider to the right to strengthen the blur and to the left to weaken it.
Relocating the Blur Effect Overlay
Next, I’ll show you how to relocate, or move, the entire blur effect overlay. Basically, you’re most likely going to want to do this because your focal point probably isn’t going to be dead-center in your photograph. In my case, the focal point in the demo photo is the plate. So, to move the center pin so it sits over the plate, all I have to do is to click and drag the overlay center pin to the area I want it to sit. I’ll need to be sure to click directly on the center of the pin.
In the above screenshot, please notice how I centered the overlay tool on the dinner plate.
Rotating the Tilt-Shift Blur Overlay
Since I’d like my blur to cover only the upper right corner and the lower left corner, I’ll need to slightly rotate the filter tool. To do this, I’ll click on either small white handle that sits on either solid white line. When I hover my mouse over these handles, I’ll see that the normal mouse pointer turns into a curved double arrow. It’s at that point that I can click and drag until the overlay twists the way I want it to.
In the above screenshot, I circled the two pins in red.
Reducing & Expanding the Blur Transition Area
With all of these blur filters, we have the ability to control how much blur is showing, where it’s showing and what type of transition occurs between the areas of no blur to full blur. With this filter in particular, the blur transition area lies between the dashed outer lines and the solid inner lines. So basically, I can control how far the blur goes out or how close in towards the center I can make it. By clicking and dragging on any of the lines I just mentioned, I can move them. If I increase the area between the dashed lines and the solid lines, I’ll reduce the intensity of the blur transition and if I reduce the area between these lines, I’ll increase the intensity. Also, by default, the dashed lines move independently of any other lines, but the solid lines move in tandem with the dashed lines. To be more clear, if I click and drag one dashed line, I’ll move just that one. If I click and drag a solid line, I’ll move that one in addition to the dashed line that sits on the same side, when in relation to the center point.
If I wanted to control both sides of the center point simultaneously, I could click and hold the Alt key (Option in Mac) on my keyboard to lock whichever line it is I’m clicking and dragging with my mouse with the other side. This is an effective method for saving time while using this tool. As an example, I’ll reduce the area between the outer dashed lines and the solid inner lines. I’ll also bring the inner lines closer to the center point, so the blur transition is very intense.
Adding Distortion & Symmetric Distortion to the Blurred Areas
This feature can be kind of confusing because the result of any movement isn’t overwhelmingly visible or distinct from other types of blur. Basically, what the Distortion slider in the right Blur Tools panel controls is how much distortion is applied to the blurred pixels. This distortion takes the form of radials in the same way the Radial Blur filter applies them. While the result of this type of thing isn’t noticeable, I’ll still go ahead and push the slider all the way to the right and then take a screenshot so you can see the result.
In the above screenshot, you can see the Distortion slider circled in red. You can also see the Symmetric Distortion check box as well. I’ll get to that below.
This is an example of full blur with no distortion.
And here’s an example of full blur with full distortion.
See? There’s not a crazy difference.
Now, by default, this distortion is only applied to one side of the center point. To apply it symmetrically to both sides, you’ll need to check the Symmetric Distortion check box. It’s that easy.
To sum things up, I think I’ll add a soft blur to both corners of the photo as I suggested I would at the beginning of this post. Let’s see how that might look.
It’s subtle, but the corners are now softer than they were originally. After settling on the blur effect I want in the Blur Gallery workspace, I’ll click the OK button up in the options bar to apply it.
There is a heck of a lot more to the Blur Gallery workspace, but I’ll leave that for future posts. It mostly has to do with various effects that can be applied. For today, I think I gave you a good primer for how to use the Tilt-Shift blur filter in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment area below. Thanks for reading!