Posts Tagged ‘Photoshop’

How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

17 Feb

Photography can be traced back all the way to the camera obscura; which was an aid for artists who could then draw their subjects from the projection created by the light passing through the pinhole. Following that tradition, in this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to create a drawing by outlining the subject from your digital photo to create a fun, cartoon-like image.

Deer cartoon - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Getting started

You can use this technique on any photo you want and apply it to any subject you like. However, I find it best, especially for your first attempt, that the subject is well defined or isolated so it’s easier for you to outline it. I also personally prefer and recommend that the image is not too busy. So, once you have chosen your photo, open it in Photoshop.

Outline the subject

To trace your subject you are going to use the Pen tool. The way it works is that you create anchor points with each click. A straight line then connects those points. Do this all around the subject.

Once you have this, change the Pen tool to the Convert Point Tool, which you can find by holding down on the Pen until the drop-down menu opens. With the Convert Point, you can curve the straight lines to make it fit the silhouette best. Just click on the anchor point and start dragging it. From each anchor point, you will have to handles, each one to control the line in each direction of the anchor.

Pen Outline - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

This will help you get a smoother silhouette and avoiding unnecessary bumps that you would get if you only trace by adding anchor points.

Straight lines - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

A straight line.

Curve - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Using curved lines.

Create your outline

Once you have outlined the silhouette of the subject, create a new layer. You can do this by going to the top Menu > Layer > New Layer. You can rename it as “silhouette” or “outline” just to keep things tidy, as you will be creating more layers further along.

What you’re going to do next is turn this path into a drawing, more precisely, the line that borders your drawing. Therefore, you can choose which color it will be and how thick you want it. To set it you need to go to the Brush tool and select a hard brush as thick as you want. I’m doing 8px in this case.

You can also choose the color by clicking on the foreground color at the bottom of the tool palette, for this example, I’m using black. Turn off the background layer (click the little eye icon) so you can see how it will look like and then choose your settings.

Silhouette - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Now that you have this ready, leave the new layer active go to the path palette. If it’s already opened you can open it by going to the top Menu > Windows > Path. In there you will see that a Work Path has been created, the icon will show the image as a grey rectangle and the path is the silhouette you traced.

Next, right-click on the Work Path and choose Stroke Path. A pop-up window will appear, make sure the Brush option is selected and click OK.

Stroke Path - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Adding details

You have a border or a silhouette now, but you still need details. Each one will be a new layer and a new path, that way you have it separated and can, therefore, control it more precisely.

If you want two details on the same layer, for example, to keep the two ears in one layer so that any changes apply equally, then you keep working in the same layer. But you do need to create a new path for each one.

Notice here that I have my background layer which is my original image; a Layer 1 that corresponds to the Work Path which is the outline; and a Layer 2 that contains Path 1 and Path 2 which are the two details of the ears. This is why I suggested earlier that you should rename the layers and the paths to keep track of them easier. Continue doing this as many times as you need to finish your drawing.

Layers and Paths - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Apply a filter

Once you’re finished with this, duplicate the background layer. With this new layer active, go to the Work Path (the one that has the outer line of the drawing) and right-click it. From the drop-down menu, choose Make Selection. This will select your subject so that the filter you’ll apply next doesn’t affect the background, otherwise the entire will turn into a cartoon.

Now go to the top Menu > Filter > Filter Gallery. A window will appear with all kind of filters that you can apply and a preview image. In this case, you’re going to select the one called Cutout from the Artistic Filters. On the right side there are sliders to refine the effect, just move them around until you are satisfied. I’m going to do it as Number of levels 7, Edge simplicity 5 and Edge fidelity 2. When you’re done just click OK.

Cutout - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Other tricks

You can also multiply your cartoons, apply modifying layers to change colors or saturation, and anything else you can think of! And the best part is that you can do this to any kind of photo, here are some other examples; share yours as well in the comments!

Three deers - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

The post How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

03 Feb

You might not know it, but even if you’ve never heard of tilt-shift photography you have probably seen a photograph that was captured in just such a way. A few years ago tilt-shift photos exploded into the mainstream with oddly miniaturized images of cities, cars, and even landscapes going completely viral seemingly overnight.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

Tilt-shift photography, in itself, is nothing more than a literal optical illusion. Essentially, it is nothing more than adding a strip of sharp focus to an otherwise blurred image. Even the name itself refers not to the type of photograph but rather the camera or lens movements needed to achieve the effect.

Yes, tilt-shift photos have their roots in large format photography but don’t worry, I’ll only touch on that as much as needed to in order to get the point across. What I will focus on (get it?) is showing you how the tilt-shift photo effect can be very closely and easily simulated using Photoshop. Oh, and don’t think that in-camera tilt-shift photos can only be made with large format cameras. There are quite a few tilt-shift lenses available for your SLRs and DSLRs.

What is Tilt-Shift?

The best way to understand the concept behind tilt-shift photography work is to understand what “tilt” and “shift” actually mean as they relate to photography. As I mentioned earlier, they refer to the movements of a large format camera.

The tilt aspect refers to the physical tilting, either forward or backward, of the front or rear part of the camera. This tilt impacts the focus plane.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

Front and rear tilts demonstrated with a large format camera.

Without going too far into large format camera movements, tilting the front and/or rear of the camera allows for very selective depth of field control.

The “shift” is less important for our purposes today, but since I like being thorough, shifting the front or back of the camera simply means it is moved from side-to-side (or up and down) and literally shifts the image from left to right or up and down.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

Right and left shift movements on a large format camera.

The tilt effect is what you’re about to learn how to simulate in Photoshop right now.

How to use the Tilt-Shift Filter in Photoshop

To begin, first, select an image that is conducive to the tilt-shift effect. Photos which have a relatively isolated subject with large areas of foreground and background usually work best. Make most if not all of your basic edits before you start your tilt-shift, including sharpening. Here is my image after I’ve made some core adjustments.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

Open the image in Photoshop

I like to start off in Lightroom and then pitch the image over to Photoshop as a Smart Object to apply the tilt-shift effect. I’ll show you why in just a bit.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

Now that you have the image opened in the loving hands of Photoshop the fun can begin! Yes, I think this is fun….

Duplicate the Layer

The first step in applying the tilt-shift effect is to duplicate the base image layer. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd+J. It’s this duplicate layer to which you’ll apply the tilt-shift blur.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

Applying the Blur

Tilt-shift is essentially a blurring effect, so it makes sense that it is located along with the other blur filters in Photoshop. Click on Filters > Blur Gallery >Tilt-Shift.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

This brings you into the tilt-shift blur module of Photoshop. You’ll notice that you can also add other forms of blur here, but ignore all that as we are just going to work with tilt-shift.

When the module opens you will see a masking tool already on top of your image. It resembles a dual graduated filter tool. In fact, it works very similarly to the graduated filter. The effect will feather out to the top and bottom from the central axis dot in the center of the filter. The solid lines control the border of the effect with the dotted lines determining the feathering. Here’s a breakdown.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

The tilt-shift filter overlay.

The intensity of the blur is controlled by the Blur slider or by adjusting the intensity dial. Keep in mind that the entire filter can be moved either simultaneously or the top and bottom portions can be moved and adjusted separately. This happens to be the final position of my tilt-shift filter.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

Click Ok and allow Photoshop to render the blur.

A few tips for you

While we’re waiting…this is a good time to go over a couple of things that will help make your tilt-shift more effective.

Always remember that, if you’re going for realism, an accurate tilt-shift simulation should adhere as closely as possible to the optical principles of photography. This means that since tilt-shift controls the depth of focus, your effect should also follow those rules. Be careful you don’t have significant irregularities at the borders of the blurred areas. Also, pay special attention to the elements within your photo and their spatial relationship to one another to avoid an overly artificial appearance.

Keep in mind that there are quite a few other sliders to be seen here in the tilt-shift module; namely those for distortion, bokeh, and light range. (Of course if you’re feeling adventurous then, by all means, try out those sliders but I generally leave them as is for virtually all of my work.) Distortion can be added to varying degrees to the blurred areas as well as bokeh enhancement/coloration. The light range slider allows control over blur based on specific luminance values. However, in most cases, the default settings for these sliders will be just perfect for your image.

After your tilt-shift effect is complete the image will automatically reopen in the main Photoshop window with your edits applied.

Tweaking the Effect

Just because you have to loosely adhere to some rules of optics doesn’t mean you are totally bound by them. I actually attempt to never use the word “rules” when it comes to photography. If you find you need to adjust the tilt-shift effect just remember that this is Photoshop after all and you, the intrepid post-processor, wield great power!

Remember how you imported your image as a Smart Object earlier? Well, this is where having your image available as a Smart object really comes in handy.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

You’ll notice the tilt-shift has already been scooped into its very own layer mask. So now, you are free to paint the blur effect in or out until it is just right. This allows you to go beyond the constraints of filters in the tilt-shift module. With this image, I used a little judicious painting on the Smart Filter layer mask to make the effect look a little more natural.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

Finish in Lightroom

After I’m completely finished with the tilt-shift I kick the image back over to Lightroom. I add in one last edit to help harmonize the tilt-shift and that is a graduated filter at the bottom of the frame to darken it ever so slightly.

How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop

And that’s it! You should now have a genuine imitation tilt-shift image. Have a look at the before and after.



Final Thoughts on the Tilt-Shift Filter…

Tilt-shift photography in Photoshop is easy and can add some amazing effects to your photos. As with most post-processing effects, it’s important to keep things within the realm of reality unless your goal is to deliberately skew things.

The effects achieved in Photoshop aren’t perfect, of course, but you can get very close to the look and feel of real tilt-shift photography. All this without needing to use a real tilt-shift lens or moving into large format photography. Experiment with the tilt-shift blur in Photoshop and keep these important tips in mind:

  • Remember tilt-shift is just a manipulation of depth of focus.
  • Try not to break the rules…I mean, the guidelines of optics.
  • Pick images that have larger areas of foreground and backgrounds with isolated subjects.
  • Don’t forget to tweak the tilt-shift effect or even add additional edits.

Try out the lessons in this article and stretch your creative legs with tilt-shift blur in Photoshop. And as always remember to have fun with your editing and please share your results and any questions you have in the comments area below.

The post How to Easily Simulate a Tilt-Shift Effect Using Photoshop by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Use Layers and Masks in Photoshop to Add Text to Your Photos

02 Feb

Do you want to make a photo-card for your loved one? Or maybe a flyer for your business? Or add some personalized notes to your photos that turn your album into a scrapbook? If you ever tried to add text on your photos and ended up just covering up the image, this article is for you.

How to Use Layers and Masks to Add Text to Your Photos

Although Photoshop is not a software specially-made for design, it does have some design functions, one of which is the text tool. You don’t need to learn any extra software to integrate text into your photos, you’ll learn how to use layers and masks in Photoshop to overlap the text and the image so that they interact which results in integrated and elegant images.

Since Valentine’s Day is so close, I’ll give you some easy-to-do examples to make a card for your loved one. However, you can apply the same steps to any image to add text for any other purpose.


In this first technique, you won’t apply any effects to the text itself, therefore the result is a clean and simple design.

First open an image of your choosing in Photoshop, one that goes well with the message you want to convey. You can later move the text to make some final arrangements, however, you do need to start with an idea for the text placement. This is because you need to select the part of the subject that you want to overlap with the text. I used the Quick Selection tool, but you can use whichever is best for you.

Selection - How to Use Layers and Masks to Add Text to Your Photos

Then duplicate the layer by dragging it to the new layer icon at the bottom, or by going to Menu > Layer > Duplicate Layer (you can also use the keyboard shortcut Cmd/Ctrl+J). Then you will need to add a mask to the new layer by clicking on the layer mask button from the bottom of the Layers palette.

Whatever was selected is now the only thing visible from that layer. You can also refine the edges of this selection if you right-click the layer and select Refine Edge.

Layer mask - How to Use Layers and Masks to Add Text to Your Photos

Add your text

Then, select the Text Tool and write your message. You can choose the font, size and color from the menu as you would in any word processor like Microsoft Word. Now your text is blocking your image but all you need to do to create the overlapping is to drag the text layer in between the background and the selected layers.

Text tool - How to Use Layers and Masks to Add Text to Your Photos

You can move or transform the text to make it fit better as well. Finally, if you want to have a part of the text appear to be behind the image and part in front, to make it more integrated, you can paint on the layer mask with a black brush (black conceals – white reveals) to hide the parts “behind”.

I love you - How to Use Layers and Masks to Add Text to Your Photos

Picture in Picture

Another way to integrate text and image is to use the same background photo as a pattern for the letters and just change the blend to give it a personalized effect.

Open an image of your choosing in Photoshop. Then using the Text tool, write your message in a font that is wide enough to show the image inside, in this case, I used Braggadocio.

Text Love - How to Use Layers and Masks in Photoshop to Add Text to Your Photos

Add the photo

Now go to Menu > File > Place and choose the same photo that you are using in the background. Adjust its size to fit the text.

Place - How to Use Layers and Masks in Photoshop to Add Text to Your Photos

Go back to the Layers palette and right-click the text layer. In the drop-down menu choose “Make a work path”. Then from the Path palette, right-click the work path and click on “make selection”. This will create a selection around the letters, but it will keep the path to make the selection later in other layers where you are going to need it.

Path Selection - How to Use Layers and Masks in Photoshop to Add Text to Your Photos

Then go back to the Layers palette and select the layer with the second image (the one you placed and added a layer mask to); this will have the shape of the letters.

If you want to rearrange the image inside the letters you can make the original text invisible by clicking on the eye icon on the left side of the layer name, and then unlink the mask by clicking the chain in between the thumbnails. That way you can just drag the photo until you are satisfied with how it looks (see below).

Unlink - How to Use Layers and Masks in Photoshop to Add Text to Your Photos

Once the image is placed the way you want it, you can apply any effect that you like. In this case, I added an adjustment layer with a Gradient map, this can be done by going to Menu > Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map; or by clicking the shortcut button at the bottom of the palette. From there I chose a greyscale gradient.

Finishing up

Finally, I changed the blending mode of the layer to Multiply. You can do this or choose any other blending mode from the drop-down menu on the top part of the layer palette. Then I activated the original text layer (which was white if you remember) and I moved it a little bit so that it would show underneath and it gave it a border to separate it.

Love - How to Use Layers and Masks in Photoshop to Add Text to Your Photos

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Tutorial: Master the Photoshop Pen Tool in under 8 minutes

02 Feb

Ahh, the Pen Tool! When it comes to making complex selections and cutting objects out of an image, there is no better tool for the job. And while the Lasso Tool or Magic Wand Tool might make selections faster and easier (and are still quite useful depending on the situation), the Pen Tool reigns supreme when it comes to accuracy and precision.

So, what’s the drawback? Well, it’s pretty tricky to get the hang of it. Even with all of the helpful videos and guides out there (including a handful of our own), we still get questions all the time on how to master this extremely versatile tool within Photoshop. In our most recent tutorial on the Pen tool, we focused on the absolute need-to-know fundamentals so that you can follow along and start practicing immediately.

Not only does the Pen Tool provide unparalleled accuracy and control, but it’s extremely flexible as well. Photoshop will store any Paths you create under the Paths tab. If you ever need to adjust a selection as you work, you can simply select the Path you wish to edit, make the changes that you need, and then convert that Path into a new selection.

Before editing a Path, be sure to check Auto Add/Delete in the Pen Tool options bar. This will tell Photoshop to automatically swap to the Add Anchor Point Tool (when you’re hovering over a line segment) or the Delete Anchor Point Tool (when you’re hovering over an Anchor Point). This setting makes the process of making changes to a Path much easier.

Avoid using the Delete or Backspace keys to remove Anchor Points! These shortcuts will delete the selected point as well as the line segments that connect to it!

Another key to mastering the Pen Tool is making sure that your precision selections look realistic within the context of an image. I know that we use the Pen Tool for its clean lines and curves, but rarely in the real world will you find a completely hard edge. To maintain realism in your selections, be sure to add a bit of feathering to account for the naturally occurring softness in photographs. It’s a subtle change that will help avoid that “Photoshopped” look.

And if you ever feel lost, just remember your “home base” keyboard shortcuts:

  • Use CTRL or CMD to toggle the Direct Selection Tool which will allow to move a Point or a Curve at any time.
  • Use ALT or OPTN to convert a Point into a Curve or vice versa.

For an even smoother workflow, toggle the Hand Tool by using the Spacebar. The Hand Tool allows you to navigate around your image by clicking and dragging, eliminating any need for you to have to zoom out, scroll, and zoom back in to continue a Path.

And most the most important tip of all: practice, practice, practice! The Pen Tool completely changed how I work within Photoshop and if you put in the time, I’m confident that you’ll see a considerable improvement in your own work as well.

About the Author: For over seven years, Aaron Nace has been teaching photography and photo manipulation on to millions of users across the world at every skill level. You can subscribe for his professional videos or view the free tutorials as well.

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Preset Brewery drag-and-drop tool converts Lightroom presets for Photoshop

27 Jan

An application for macOS 10.10+ called Preset Brewery makes it possible to convert Lightroom presets into Camera Raw presets for use in Photoshop by simply dragging and dropping them—it really doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Preset Brewery was recently updated to version 1.1, which adds support for exporting the presets directly into Camera Raw so that they’re immediately available; however, the option remains to save the converted presets into the folder where the Lightroom presets are located.

Preset Brewery was created by developer Adam Bardon, who tells Fstoppers that a future update will add support for batch processing presets. Unfortunately, the application is not available for Windows, but Mac users can purchase Preset Brewery through the company’s website for $ 7.90 USD.

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Tips for Doing Digital Painting with the Mixer Brush in Photoshop

26 Jan

If you have ever felt the need to be a bit more creative with your photos, then Photoshop contains a multitude of ways to make that happen. In fact, it offers such a variety of options it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out which one might be the right one for you in a given situation. In this article, I will go over a method of digital painting using Photoshop to give you one technique you can add to your toolbox.

Mostly you can get some great effects without having to purchase any other software or features, but those options are available and can extend your portfolio of choices.

Perhaps you might want to create a birthday card or give someone an extra special present. This digital painting technique is ideal for use on an image which is not 100% in focus. Everything else might be perfect but if it’s a tiny bit blurry, apply a painting technique and no one will notice.

Tips for Doing Digital Painting Techniques with Photoshop

NOTE: Please be advised I am using CS6 so things may be in different places if you are using the CC subscription model.

Mixer Brush

The Mixer Brush is a very effective way of getting a painted look for your image because you actually paint over your image in Photoshop. It can be quite fiddly and time-consuming but the end result can look really good. My recommendation would be to do this with a graphics tablet and a pen, otherwise, you will get a cramp in your hand from the mouse. Plus you have more control in areas of fine detail with a tablet.

Any image can be used, but because the mixer brush picks up colors from your image and adds paint texture, you need to keep that in mind. All the brush strokes will be visible so the direction in which you paint may affect the final visual outcome. It took me 2-3 goes before I finally got the hang of this, so stick with it.


Step #1. Open your image, add a new layer and select that one as your active layer. You can delete this later if you need to without affecting the original image.

Step #2. The Mixer Brush is found on the toolbar, left mouse click on the Brush icon, it should be in the drop-down box.

Mixer Brush open, showing settings on Adjustment Tool Bar

Step #3. On the top toolbar, you can make adjustments to the settings. Set them up as follows (as a starting point):

  • The drop-down box set to Custom.
  • Wet: 100%.
  • Load: 1% (this sets the paint color load on the brush to a minimal setting).
  • Mix: 100% (this uses the color from the original file – Load and Mix work opposite each other that way).
  • Flow: 50% (medium pressure on the brush).
  • Airbrush set to OFF.
  • Sample All Layers must be ticked – this is important as it allows us to pick up the color from the original image.

NOTE – all these settings are adjustable depending on what works for you, so feel free to experiment.

Choose your brush, make sure you are working on the new layer, and begin to paint.


  • Start with the dark areas of the image first.
  • Use the textures in the image to help direct the flow of the brush strokes.
  • The paint is very wet and colors will mix and blend readily which can be used to your advantage where colors change in the image. It can be a bit tricky to get the hang of at first.
  • Adjust your Flow value to get harder or softer strokes.
  • You may want to use a layer mask to show fine details like eyes or whiskers after painting to bring back a bit of sharpness in those areas.
  • Adjust the brush size to suit the areas you are working in, fine detail needs a smaller brush, and larger areas may support bigger brush strokes (a bigger brush covers more area quicker which is an added bonus).
  • If the background is not ideal, you can also replace it with a painterly texture instead. This is a great treatment for when you have a really good shot but not the cleanest background. So do a background replacement, add the painting and it becomes artistic instead.

Image results using the Mixer Brush

Tips for Doing Digital Painting Techniques with Photoshop

Photo of a Jabiru bird, with digital painting done over the feathers.

This image of a Jabiru I quickly painted for this article. The lovely colors in the feathers, plus all the different directions they lay in made it a good choice for digital painting.

Tips for Doing Digital Painting Techniques with Photoshop - Jabiru bird

Original Jabiru image

This is the original photo for comparison. You can see how the feathers around the eyes are much smaller and finer and you can see the different directions in which the feathers lie. In the painted image where the rainbow colors are on the top of the head, it’s visible how they have blended in softly, even picking up the hints of gold in the purple feathers at the top.

Tips for Doing Digital Painting Techniques with Photoshop

When you view the digitally painted layer by itself, you can see all the brush strokes, plus the areas that might have been missed. This is a useful step to check and make sure you have enough coverage. Additionally, this layer can have its opacity adjusted down if you wanted to bring back some of the original feather detail.

I tend to adjust the flow down to around 30% and fill in the gaps. It can also help to soften the transitions in direction as well. Also useful for extra blending across areas where colors change.

My first experiment with using the Mixer Brush was this portrait of my cat Cognac. You will notice I have left the whiskers, eyelashes and fine hairs around his ears unpainted as I felt it looked better that way. I was careful to follow the flow of the fur so it looked natural and picked up the subtle color differences.

This was probably my third go at this technique – so be patient with yourself if you aren’t happy with the first one you try. Keep at it.


This technique isn’t complicated, is fully contained within Photoshop and requires only one extra layer. A graphics tablet will make it much more comfortable to do as it is a lot easier to use than a mouse. The thing you need most is time and a careful steady hand. With those things you can elevate your photo to a new creative level, perhaps print it out on canvas as a gift.

Have you tried this method of digital painting before? Please share your results in the comments below.

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Photoshop CC update adds AI-powered subject selection tool and more

24 Jan

The AI-powered Select Subject feature that Adobe demoed back in November has finally arrived in Photoshop CC! The feature was officially released just minutes ago in Photoshop CC version 19.1, which also includes the addition of a Decontamination slider to the Select and Mask workspace and some significant compatibility updates for Windows users.

The major update is, obviously, the arrival of Select Subject to Photoshop CC. When it was first demoed in November, the Photoshop team touted the tool—which is powered by Adobe Sensei AI technology—as a way to “select prominent subjects in an image with one click.” That’s what they hope to deliver today.

A single click of the Select Subject button in the Quick Select tool should easily isolate your subject in images like the one below:

Of course, more difficult scenarios where the subject isn’t so obviously delineated against the background will give Select Subject more trouble—the original demo video, embedded below, showed that—but it promises to “let you get started with your selections faster than ever before.”

In addition to Select Subject, Adobe also added a Decontamination slider to the Select and Mask workspace that allows you to select the amount of color decontamination applied to an image:

For Windows users, version 19.1 brings much-requested support for Windows High Density Monitors—allowing you to switch between displays of varying resolutions and sizes seamlessly. Jerry Harris, principal scientist on the Photoshop team and himself a Windows user, explains what this means in the Adobe blog post:

With this release, Photoshop on Windows 10 Creator’s Edition now offers a full range of choices for UI scale factors from 100% through 400%, in 25% increments. This means that the Photoshop user interface will look crisp, beautiful, and the right size no matter the density of your monitor. Photoshop will now automatically adjust itself based on your Windows settings, making it simple to set up.


In addition, we worked very closely with Microsoft to provide per-monitor scaling across monitors with different scale factors. This means that a high resolution (HiDPI) laptop now works seamlessly alongside a lower resolution desktop monitor (or vice versa). One monitor can have a scale factor of 175% and another a scale factor of 400%.

And finally, Windows users also get advanced support for the Windows dial, which can now adjust brush settings while you paint. Before this, you could only adjust settings between brush strokes, but you can now adjust brush size, opacity, and other settings as you draw:

As of publication, this update should be live and ready to download if you’re already a Creative Cloud subscriber. If you want to learn more about any of the features above, or dive into bug fixes and other minutia, head over to the Adobe blog. Otherwise, just update your copy through the Creative Cloud app and you’re ready to go.

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Learn about Photoshop blending modes in just 8 minutes

21 Jan

Confused about what all those layer blending modes do in Photoshop? Well, you don’t need to be any more. Jesus Ramirez of the Photoshop Training Channel has made an excellent short video tutorial that explains each mode in simple and easily-understood terms, so even beginners will get the picture.

His 8-minute Crash Course uses a gray tone chart over a normal photograph to show how each blending mode alters the way the chart appears. Jesus also demonstrates how different brightness values blend together, and how to use layer blending to control color density and saturation. Finally, he also explains why the modes are grouped into six sections on the drop-down menu, so you can quickly find the mode you need depending on the situation.

Check out the full video above. It’ll only cost you eight minutes of your life, and you’ll almost certainly learn something new unless you’re already a Photoshop expert.

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4 Incredible Photoshop Shortcuts in Six Minutes

18 Jan

I’m a bit of a post-processing shortcut addict. I’m always looking for more efficient ways of getting through my workflow in programs like Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, ON1 Photo RAW, etc. When I find a new shortcut, even if requires a bit of practice, I feel like I just leveled up. It’s weird, I know, but it’s true.

Four Photoshop Shortcuts in Six Minutes

I’ve been using Photoshop on a near daily basis for the better part of a decade now. Over the years, I’ve picked up a ton of shortcuts but I wanted to share some of my all-time favorites with you. These are the ones that rocked my world when I learned them, and if they’re new to you, I’m confident they’ll have the same effect!


  1. Make a stamp layer
  2. Brush opacity
  3. Brush resize trick
  4. Zoom trick

Correction from the video: For the brush resizing trick, the PC instructions I gave didn’t seem to be working for most users. The correct translation (this is for PC users only) is to hold down the ALT key, then click and drag using the right mouse key. If you’re on a pen tablet, use whatever button you have set for right click.


Well? Is your mind blown!? The brush resize and zoom shortcuts seriously changed my life when I learned them! I can’t tell you how many years I spent right clicking to change brush hardness and fumbling with bracket keys to resize the brush. Let me know what you think in the comments and if you have any incredible shortcuts to share, I’m all ears!

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How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

07 Jan

Perhaps you want to creatively improve your image, already taken with a depth of field and bokeh or create this effect from scratch for a specific composition. In this article, you will learn how to work with new and old filters and their features, creatively apply textures, even create a bokeh texture from scratch.

Also, you’ll learn some small secrets and useful features of digital artists. Described techniques and features will be available depending on Photoshop versions, which I will mention in the process. You can use these techniques on any image and get surprising results, I just want to show you the principles and workflow.

Everything is about the creative approach, so do not hesitate and experiment!

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Shallow Depth of Field and Bokeh

A shallow depth of field (DOF) is when the desired object (focus point) appears sharp and everything else is blurred. Under certain shooting conditions on a blurry background, there may appear some beautiful circles or blurred highlights – that is called bokeh.

This effect can be done during the shooting process or synthetically added in post-processing. You can use this as an artistic style, to pay attention to a certain object or interesting composition. It’s very handy to use such effects if you want to hide some flaws or unsuccessful or empty parts of the composition.

Also, it is often used to create lighting and foreground effects, additional details that help to immerse the viewer in the atmosphere of the scene much more. Areas for using this technique and the creative possibilities are huge, so I suggest that you start with a practice.

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Blur Gallery – Field Blur

So, let’s start with the most interesting and powerful features of Photoshop CC – the Blur Gallery and Field Blur filter. Blur Gallery is available in the filter menu, starting with Photoshop CC 2014, and has five blur effects with additional features, such as Motion Effects, Noise, and Bokeh. Note that this does not work in older versions of Photoshop!

Open the image, to which you want to apply the effect in Photoshop via File > Open or use Cmd/Ctrl+O shortcut or just drag and drop the image from your file explorer into Photoshop.

Next, on the Layers panel, right-click on a layer and choose “Convert to Smart Object” (Layer > Smart Object > Convert to Smart Object). Go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur. Your workspace has been changed to the Blur Gallery dialog box and you are shown a control pin in the center of the image (if there are no pins visible, try Cmd/Ctrl+H or go to View > Extras, to hides/shows guides, controls, etc.).

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Setting Your Blur Effects

So, for a pin in the center, set the Blur value to 0px and move it to the place in your image that should stay in sharp focus. Begin to apply a blur from the edges of the image and in problem areas that you want to hide by clicking on the place where you want to add pins or drag and drop existing pins to the desired place.

Adjust the blur intensity or remove it on the Blur Tools panel or use the blur handle around the pin itself. For the edges of the image, start with larger Blur values, and then reduce it, if necessary. Also, I used several pins with a smaller Blur values near the area in focus in order to create a softer transition from blurred to sharp areas. If you want to remove any of the pins, select it and press Delete on the keyboard.

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Creating Bokeh

Now let’s set the settings for the bokeh. Start adding a bokeh by setting Light Bokeh to 100. Next work with the Light Range sliders and start moving white, then black, until finding the optimal ratio of values.

You can slightly reduce Light Bokeh values so you do not get large overexposed areas. At this stage, you need to be careful and change the blur settings along with others to get the best possible, most realistic result.

Adjust Color Bokeh values to vary the texture with a color and add unexpected shades. Just do not make this value too big, otherwise, it will increase saturation or a lot of additional shades will reveal themselves.

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Iris Blur and Tilt-Shift

The following filter, which we will consider is Iris Blur. The principle of this filter is the same, but now you are working with the focus field. You see the white circle frame, that you can deform and rotate, four small points around it to control blur distribution (shape), pulling by a square you can specify the focus area. You can still use several pins but blur values are the same for all of them.

This filter is very convenient if you want to highlight a specific area. In the previous example, you could specify exactly which areas of the image stayed in sharp focus and had more flexibility to work with the form, here you have less control over the details.

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Top image – Iris Blur. Bottom image – Tilt-Shift.

Tilt-Shift is very popular for the fact that it creates the impression of a miniature scene. It is especially good for photos of architecture and everything that is at a distance.

As an artist, I use it when I want to emphasize dynamism and distortion (especially, in abstract artworks) or to create a background when I work with portraits.

Path and Spin Blur

Path Blur is very useful if you decide to add motion to your composition or emphasize it. Unlike the Motion Blur filter, you can control the effect and set the most unusual directions for blur. Unfortunately, this filter does not have the ability to add a bokeh to the blur, but Motion Effects are available.

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Top image – Path Blur. Bottom image – Spin Blur.

Spin Blur, also a motion blur, but in a radial form. With it, you can turn your photos into a painterly image and if you add color effects, it will turn out very well. I use this filter for various artistic techniques, mostly when I work with very abstract creations. With this filter, you can create a very simple simulation of long exposure photography.

The Blur Gallery

You can apply several filters from the Blur Gallery at once. Just checkmark desired filters, adjust their settings and click Ok to apply. Depending on the image size and performance of your computer, it may take time to render a preview of the effect and after once you apply the desired settings, so be patient.

Also, you can edit the settings of the applied filter if you convert the layer into a Smart Object and add the filter on it. It’s automatically a Smart Filter, so just double-click on the name of the filter and edit the settings. This is a non-destructive way of editing photos and creating artworks.

The advantage of a Smart Object is that you can go back and make changes to the filter or adjustment, apply it several times, even delete it if something went wrong and keep the original image intact.

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Lens Blur Filter

Now let’s look at another powerful and fast solution for adding blur effects. The Lens Blur filter first appeared in Photoshop CS. So whatever version you use, CS or CC, this filter will be available for you. Take into account that this filter will not work on Smart Objects, so you can’t edit and apply this filter as a Smart Filter.

Again, open the desired image. Duplicate the original image layer (Layer > Duplicate layer or use the shortcut Cmd/Ctrl+J) to work non-destructively. In order to only apply an effect to a specific object or area, I made a selection with Quick Selection Tool (W) and added a layer mask to it (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection or use “Add layer mask” icon at the bottom of Layers panel).

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

To achieve a more realistic effect, blur the layer mask or its edge a bit because the hard edges of the mask can spoil everything. You can use Gaussian Blur filter (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) or Feather option on Properties panel (Window > Properties) with the settings to your taste.

Lens Blur Settings

Highlight the layer thumbnail and go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur… In the window that appears, first set Preview to Faster because this filter sometimes takes a long time to process changes. Next, in the Depth Map section, you can set Source to a Layer Mask to not apply a blur to a masked area, or leave this parameter at None to blur an entire image.

Checkmark Invert if only the selection from a layer mask is blurred and adjust Blur Focal Distance for more accurate blur distribution. If Lens Blur effect does not appear on a layer, just delete a layer mask (right click on a layer mask > Delete Layer Mask).

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

In the Shape drop-down menu, you can choose a form of bokeh. In this example, I will use a triangle because this is a rather unusual form, but shapes like Octagon produce more normal blurred results. Radius value controls the size of that shape and the amount of blur that is applied. Blade Curvature quite creatively changes the form and makes the shape more circular. Rotation sets the angle (direction) of the bokeh shape.

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

To control where the bokeh will appear, change the settings in the Specular Highlights section. Brightness increases the strength of the highlights within the blurred area.

Threshold controls which tonal range (pixels) need to be affected to create bokeh. This means that pixels brighter than a Threshold value can be used for creating a bokeh effect. Do not overdo with these two values, otherwise, bokeh shapes can merge into a single mass or even fill a part with white.

Adding Texture or Bokeh Overlays

You can always use additional textures in your artwork, created digitally or by using a camera. Open your image in Photoshop and go to File > Place Embedded (File > Place in older versions), then choose the desired texture. In my case, I made some photos with bokeh on a black background (to separate the bokeh).

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Next start to experiment with the different layer Blending Modes, such as Screen, Linear Dodge (Add), Color Dodge, etc. You can always reduce the effect of the texture by reducing the layer Fill or adding a contrast to the texture with a Levels adjustment or adjustment layer to add more Blacks and greys, to make it more like “transparent”.

Or if you like texture but don’t like a color in it, then use a Hue/Saturation or Color Balance adjustment to change the hue or remove the color completely. Sometimes in different artworks, I use a bokeh layer with some blurred objects (mostly invisible).

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Create Your Own Bokeh

This makes artwork more interesting and adds texture and details. There are a lot of opportunities for creativity with layers, and it’s simply impossible to describe them all in this article. But now I will show you one more interesting trick for creating bokeh texture from scratch using only Photoshop filters. If you like to experiment with filters and settings, then this is a very interesting direction, with a lot of options and discoveries in the process.

Create a new layer at the top of all layers by using the shortcut Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N or going to Layer > New > Layer. In the dialog box that appears set Mode to Screen and checkmark “Fill with Screen-neutral color (black)”. Next, go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and set following settings – Amount: 15%, Distribution: Gaussian and click Ok. If you want black and white texture, checkmark the Monochromatic option.

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Next apply Mezzotint filter from Filter > Pixelate > Mezzotint with Type: Coarse Dots. This filter is needed to make noise texture sharper and add highlights to it. Now you need to soften the texture and blend colors. Apply Gaussian Blur filter (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) with a radius 2.0 pixels.

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Go to Filter > Other > Maximum and set Radius: 20pixels, Preserve: Roundness. Depending on Radius value and size of your working document, the texture becomes larger or smaller. Apply a Levels adjustment (Image > Adjustments > Levels or use Cmd/Ctrl+L) and move the Blacks until you are satisfied with the result.

Play around and experiment with values of each of these filters and you can find a lot of interesting options.

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

You can add more details to bokeh texture if you want, by using the Unsharp Mask or Find Edge filters. And if you repeat this technique again, but instead of using Mezzotint and Gaussian Blur, apply a Pointillize filter (Filter > Pixelate > Pointillize) with Cell Size: 35 you will get a completely different kind of bokeh texture. So do not hesitate to experiment!

On the internet, there are a lot of paid and free plugins available for Photoshop to create similar effects, for example, the Nik Collection. It’s a free and powerful addition to Photoshop CS4 through CC 2015 with a lot of interesting tools for photographers and artists. There also is the blur, depth of field and bokeh effects produced by Analog Efex Pro 2. In the image below you can see the work of this filter.

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop


And at the end some pieces of advice for you.

More is not always better! Sometimes too many effects (unfortunately any) can give the opposite effect and hide the beauty of the original image or idea. Therefore, try to achieve harmony in color, composition and use these techniques with an intention. If you decided to experiment, then embody the idea entirely, do not hesitate! Do so as you like it.

Bokeh is a lighting effect, use it carefully, so as not to overexpose the overall image. This effect can add excessive brightness to highlights (the right part of the histogram), unwanted light peaks, or increase the overall brightness of the image. It’s important, for example, if you decide to share the picture on the internet or print your image.

The more contrast that is applied with a clear, not overexposed bokeh, the better it looks. So keep your eye on the histogram (you can find it in Window > Histogram).

How to Create Realistic Bokeh and Blur Effects using Photoshop

Also, your bokeh should not be underexposed as well. This is important, by the fact that very often people try to remove unnecessary brightness incorrectly, so get a pale, not realistic bokeh. In exceptional artistic cases, this is permissible, but it is better not to do this.

Pay attention to where you have located or placed bokeh textures and where are the focus and blurred areas in your image, in order to express it more realistically and logically, through a visual image (in photo or artwork).

I will be glad to see your creative inventions, discoveries, and final results. If you have questions, please use the comments section below.

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