In this tutorial, I will show you a quick and easy way to create a Photoshop brush that recreates the "bokeh" lighting effect. You normally see this effect in the out of focus areas behind, and sometimes even in front of your subject when shooting wide open with a nice lens.

Bokeh, is basically Japanese for blur. Simply using the gaussian blur filter doesn't give you this effect. Fortunately, it's not too hard to coax Photoshop into doing it for you... and here's how I do it.

 

There are 8 steps to this Photoshop effect:

Step One

Step One

Firstly, you will want to pull up the photo you plan to work on. I am adding the bokeh effect to this photo of Jamai one of our high school senior model reps. We shot this in studio on a pink background, at around f/9 so as you can imagine there was nothing too special going on in the background.

Step Two

Step Two

Next, create a new layer. Select the brush tool (B) from the toolbox. Then, click on the brush panel icon in the options bar. Locate the Brush Tip Shape button at the top left and click on it to access the basic brush features. For this, you want to select a basic round brush around 125-pixels in size. Set the hardness to 65% and increase the spacing to 250%. This hardness will create the lights in your middle ground. For lights that you want in the foreground set the hardness closer to 90% and for lights you want in the background set the hardness closer to 40%.

Step Three

Step Three

Next, go to Shape Dynamics. In this section you want to increase the Size Jitter to around 20%. This gives you a slight variation and can be adjusted by increasing or lowering the percentage. The higher the percentage, the more the sizes vary. Make sure your Control is set to off unless you’re using a pressure-sensitive tablet. In that case you want to change it to Pen Pressure so the size varies based on how hard you press down.

Step Four

Step Four

Now, go to the Scattering button on the left. Select the Both Axes checkbox at the top and then set the Scatter setting to 1000%. You can adjust this setting to vary how close/far apart the lights will be. Also, set the count to 3 and leave the Count Jitter at 0%.

Step Five

Step Five

Next, select the Texture button on the left. Select the texture thumbnail and then click on the arrow in the right corner. From that menu, choose Texture Fill from the presets. Select Canvas. Select the Invert checkbox and leave the scale at 100%. Set the mode to multiply and set the depth to 20%. Once you are more comfortable playing with these settings try selecting a different texture to find the right look for what you want.

Step Six

Step Six

Click on Transfer now to see its panel. Set the Opacity Jitter to around 80% to vary the density of each bokeh light. Set the flow to 10%. This is another place you might want to set the control to Pen Pressure if you’re using a tablet.

Step Seven

Step Seven

This step is optional. I added a gradient in the background of my image. To do this, create a new layer and select the gradient tool (G). Select the colors you want and draw your gradient on your blank layer. After you have your gradient where you want it, place the layer under your main image.

Step Eight

Step Eight

Next, select your image layer and add a vector mask. Select the background and mask it out so you can see the gradient behind the image. I made my gradient close to the same color as the image’s background so it would blend better.

Step Nine

Step Nine

The final step is to create the bokeh light effect. Make sure that your foreground color is set to white. Create a new layer above all your other layers and start painting. I vary my brush size on each layer based on what I think looks best. For this first layer I used a brush size of about 200-pixels. I also changed the opacity of this layer to 55%.

Step Ten

Step Ten

Create a new layer and select a brush size of about 70-pixels. Because the brush size is smaller than the previous layer I painted more “lights.” I also changed the opacity of this layer to 70%.

Step Eleven

Step Eleven

Create a new layer and select a brush size of about 400-pixels. Leave opacity at 100%.For this much larger brush size I only used 2-3 “lights.”

Step Twelve

Step Twelve

Create new layer and select a brush size of about 35-pixels. Leave at opacity at 100%. Repeat these steps until you get your desired effect.

Viola!

Viola!

The final product. I love the look here, and I hope the client does as well. Have a look at the comments below, and lets see what she says. Jamai, do you like it?

Which one is your favorite?