Blur, Layers and Blending Modes, a Magic Mix in Photoshop, Part 5

In this last, extra part, I cover how to determine just how much blur is enough?
One thing I haven’t covered in this series was how to determine just how much to blur the image. So let’s cover that now.

This is the way I work:
1.    Open the Camera RAW (I always work in this) and adjust as necessary
2.    Resize the base image in Photoshop for my intended use
3.    Do anything else to the image I might otherwise do, such as stitching a panorama, removing dust spots, etc
4.    This should give you a perfect image ready to work with
5.    Sharpen the base image so it looks right at 100%
6.    Duplicate the layer
7.    Set Blend Mode to Multiply or whatever you are using on this image (so you can see the exact effect)
8.    Now with the image filling as much of the screen as you can (ie get rid of the palette’s, etc or put them on a second screen), zoom into 100% and find a representative part of the image
9.    Do Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur
10.    Adjust the radius, watching the 100% image onscreen
11.    Remember that even while the Gaussian Blur dialog is open you can press the Space bar and pan around the image
12.    Keep adjusting the radius and moving around until you have found the maximum amount of blur that works as you want.
There will be an amount of blur that looks right. This can be large or small, it depends on the image and on what you are looking for. Small blurs give a halo around objects. Larger blurs move the tonal values around and can create interesting pseudo-lighting effects
13.    If you are organized, as you pan around and adjust the blur level, create a drawing of any areas that need less blur
14.    Apply the blur
15.    Now apply a Layer Mask to that layer, select a large, soft brush, black and set the opacity of the brush to something low, like 5 or 10%
16.    Now following any notes you have made, reduce the amount of blur (and also the amount of the Blending Mode effect. If you don’t want this, see the note below) by painting into the mask

The start:
Wayne J. Cosshall's Blur Tutorial

Too much:
Wayne J. Cosshall's Blur Tutorial

Just right:
Wayne J. Cosshall's Blur Tutorial

The amount of blur will vary from image to image, even within a very close series of images. Indeed you can have different levels of blurring in different parts of the image by using multiple blur layers and using the masks to control what parts they impact on.

When you paint into a mask to reduce the blurring you will also reduce the Blending Mode effect, such as the darkening in Multiply. If you don’t want this to happen then what you do is after doing all of the above, go back and duplicate again the base, sharp layer and set the Blending Mode. How add a Layer Mask as hide all, so the mask is filled with black. Now switch to your paintbrush, select white and 5 or 10% opacity on the brush and paint back in the amount of the Blending Mode effect you want. This is much easier to do than it sounds.

That’s it folks. Try it on a range of images and see if you like it for some types of image or not. Above all, enjoy.

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