Handy Guide to Figuring Out Photoshop Blurs Part 2

This is part two in a two part series about Photoshop blurs. We discussed 10 other blurs in the Handy Guide to Figuring Out Photoshop Blurs. We'll be learning about the three blurs that were added new to Adobe CS6. Adobe Photoshop CC includes two more blurs, but we'll address those at another time. Earlier versions of Photoshop won’t have these options available. All three of these blurs open up something new called the Blur Gallery. The Blur Gallery is a way for you to see a larger preview area of the blur. Screenshot of Photoshop's blur gallery Something to note about the Blur Gallery is that even though it looks very similar to your regular Photoshop interface, you need to remember that it’s essentially like a dialog box and you have to tell it “OK” before you can switch to a different tab or move anything. It’s a little confusing at first since your workspace looks so similar and there’s not a pop-up dialog box. You’ll also notice that in the Blur Gallery you’ll see two little windows on the right side. One for Blur Tools and one for Blur Effects. The options in the Blur Effects box control Bokeh, whereas the Blur Tools options refer to the actual blurs you’re applying. We'll use the same image of tulips from the last Handy Guide to Photoshop Blurs so that you can really study the blur as opposed to the image.

tulips in a field

Image by flickr user James Wheeler CC by SA 2.0

Field Blur

Once you select Field Blur you’ll see that the Blur Gallery will open. Your entire image will be blurred and you’ll see a little circle in the middle. The circle is called a “pin”. The reason it’s called a pin is because you’ll be able to stick on or “pin” more than one pin to your image if you choose to do so.

Field blur with one pin

The outer part of the circle on the pin will make it possible for you to control the amount of blur to your image. You can just drag it around the circle to see the blur change. If you’re not a fan of using this new circle way to control the blur, you can still drag a slider like you might have been used to with other blurs. The slider is in the top left corner of the Blur Gallery under Blur Tools. With either option you’ll be able to see Photoshop apply the blur in a live preview.

You’re also able to move the pins around the photo so that you can adjust the blur in different parts of the image. In the image below, I’ve only applied one Field Blur pin at 7px. To add another pin, just click anywhere on the image.

Field blur with 2 pins

You should see a little pushpin icon as you’re mousing over your image. I think that I want focus on the foreground and make the background blurry, so I added another pin to the foreground and changed the blur to 0px.

Field blur example with foreground in focus

Once you’ve decided where you want to apply the pin, just click. You can then adjust the blur with the dial or the slider.

It can get a little difficult to see your image with all those pins, so it’s helpful to hide them. You can temporarily hide the pins by simply holding H on the keyboard. While you have H pressed down your pins will be hidden. To see the pins again just release the H key.

To delete a pin, all you need to do is select that pin and then hit Delete (Mac) or Backspace (Windows) on your keyboard. You can also use the revert arrow at the top of the Blur Gallery to remove all the pins.

The Field Blur can help you in a lot of different ways. Say you want to blur part portrait, but you still need to be able to see the subjects eyes or maybe even their entire face. All you need to do is drop a couple pins and adjust the blurs on them.

Remember, unless you convert your image to a smart object, once the blur is applied you won’t be able to edit it.

Iris Blur

The Iris Blur uses a lot of the same technology and techniques that the Field Blur does, but it adds more control for you.

There are essentially four parts to the Iris Blur. You have pins just like in the Field Blur, but they have more controls available to them.
Iris Blur components pointed out in an image


The circle in the center (2 in the image above) is the same as the pins in the Field Blur. You can add more than one to your image to be able to control blurs in a circular manner.  This dial will control the intensity of the blur that’s outside of the 100% blur line.

The 100% blur line (3 in the image above) is a way for you to see where your blur will be at 100 percent. You can adjust this by dragging any of the four points around the ellipse. You can also change the shape of the ellipse to be more circular or more flat by manipulating this line. You can even drag the ellipse outside of the image to blur just the corners, if you’d like.

The transition area (1 in the image above) lets you control the transition or gradient of the blur. The space between the center of your Iris, where the pin is, to the edge of the four transition points will have no blur. A gradual blur will be applied from the transition point to the 100% blur line. If you want to have a very gradual blur then you’ll need to drag the transition point closer to the pin. If you want no transitional blur, then you just need to drag the transition points to be touching the 100% blur line.

It’s also possible for you to control the line curve by manipulating the little diamond that’s on the 100% blur line (4 in the image above). By dragging this diamond you can change the shape of the ellipse to be a rectangle with rounded corners. That could be useful if you need to add a blur by something with a straighter edge, like a building.

By default, if you move one of the transition points then they will all move. If you need to just change the transition of one part of the ellipse then you can hold Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) to move that one transition point.

It’s also possible for you to change the focus in the transition area. At the top of the Blur Gallery you’ll see an option for Focus. You can adjust the slider to change how much in focus the center of your image is.

Photoshop blur gallery focus screenshot

This can come in handy if you’re not wanting the center of your pin to be completely in focus. You can adjust this for every pin, if you’d like.



Tilt-Shift is a way to prevent perspective distortion by controlling the plane of focus. Another use for Tilt-Shift camera lenses is to make real life scenes look like little mini versions of themselves.  By creating a shallow depth of field, your photo of something real can look like something tiny that was shot up close with a macro lens.


An example of Tilt-Shift. Notice how the scene looks like its a miniature version, almost as if you’re looking at toys instead of real things.

When you choose “Tilt-Shift” from the Blurs menu, you’ll see something like this:

tilt-shift screenshot in photoshop


The different components that appear are similar to the Iris Blur. As always, you’ll have a pin in the middle that will let you control the intensity of the blur. Above and below the pin are two circles that will let you control the rotation of the line if you’d like. The solid lines create the protected area that will not have a blur applied to it unless you adjust the Focus. You can pull the solid lines up or down to change where the protected area will be. The dotted lines represent the 100% blur line. Between the solid line and dotted line is where your blur will transition or form a sort of gradient.

Example of tilt-shift

On the right side of the Blur Gallery, you’ll also notice that you can change both the Blur and the Distortion of the blur. The Distortion setting makes it possible to add a slight motion blur effect. By default, the Distortion will sit at 0 and any changes will only apply to the bottom portion of the image. To get the same effect on the top as well you’ll have to check the Symmetric Distortion box.