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How to Blur a Background in Photoshop

Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

A blurred background is a great way to bring attention to the objects in the foreground. If your photo has a large depth of field, you can still get the photo effect of a blurred background by using Photoshop. Today I'll show you how to create an action in Photoshop to blur the background with a single click. This Photoshop action will work like a filter that you can use on various photos to create special effects for pictures.

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube Channel:

How to Create a Photoshop Action to Blur the Background in a Photograph

Step 1

Open your photo (I used this one). Use any selection tool to select the part of the image that is supposed to stay sharp. Here I used the Magnetic Lasso Tool with Refine Edge option (Select > Refine Edge). It's really important to make a precise selection for this action.

If you want to learn how to create precise selections, even including hair, try this tutorial:

select object precise selectionselect object precise selectionselect object precise selection

Step 2

Create a New Layer and fill the selection with any color using the Paint Bucket Tool (G). Name the layer mask 1.

paint a mask for actionpaint a mask for actionpaint a mask for action

Step 3

Create a New Layer below and paint a black and white gradient on it using the Gradient Tool (G). The black part marks the area that will stay sharp. The white one will be blurred. The grey gradient between them will be a transition of these two. Adjust the angle and the position of the colors to the effect that you want to create. Name this layer mask 2.

create gradient maskcreate gradient maskcreate gradient mask

Step 4

Click somewhere outside of the layers. Open the Actions (Windows > Actions) panel and click the white card icon to create a new action. Give it a name. From now on, your actions will be recorded.

create new actioncreate new actioncreate new action

Step 5

Go to Image > Image Size and make the image 5000 px wide. This will allow us to achieve similar results in all photos.

change image sizechange image sizechange image size

Step 6

Select the whole canvas (Control-A), and then go to Edit > Copy Merged (Control-Shift-C). Go to the Channels tab, Create a New Channel, and paste the selection. Go back to the RGB channel and go to the Layers tab.

create alpha channelcreate alpha channelcreate alpha channel

Step 7

Hide both masks. Select the background layer and duplicate it (Control-J). Then go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. A new window will open. Set the Source to Alpha 1, which is the name of the new channel that we've just created. Then change the settings to achieve the result you want.

add lens bluradd lens bluradd lens blur

Step 8

The background is blurred, but our character in the foreground looks unnaturally sharp. Let's do something about it. Hold Control and click mask 1 to create a selection out of it. Then go to Select > Modify > Expand and Expand by 10 px.

expand selectionexpand selectionexpand selection

Step 9

Select the copied background and go to Layer > New > Layer via Copy to duplicate the selection. Then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. When adjusting the blur, pay attention to the edges of the character. We want to blend them softly with the background.

add gaussian bluradd gaussian bluradd gaussian blur

Step 10

Again, hold Control and create a selection of this layer. Then go to Select > Modify > Contract and Contract by 15 pixels. If you press Delete now, you'll remove most of the blur, leaving only a nicely blended edge.

contract selectioncontract selectioncontract selection

Step 11

But there's one more problem. The soft edge has been applied to the whole body, even to the part that is actually in focus. To fix it, show mask 2 for a moment and go to the Channels tab. Use the Control key to create a selection out of the RGB channel, and then go back to the layers, hide the mask, and add a New Layer Mask to Layer 1.

select rgb channelselect rgb channelselect rgb channel
add layer maskadd layer maskadd layer mask

Step 12

Finally, click Stop Recording to save the action.

stop recording the actionstop recording the actionstop recording the action

Step 13

If you want to use this action on any other photo, just create the two masks and click Play. Photoshop will repeat all your steps, blurring the background automatically in every photo. That's the magic of Photoshop actions!

blur background in photoblur background in photoblur background in photo
how to blur photohow to blur photohow to blur photo
how to add depth of fieldhow to add depth of fieldhow to add depth of field

Photoshop Actions With Special Photo Effects

Disperse Photo Effect

Photoshop actions are very powerful, but it's quite time-consuming to create one. If you want to save time, you can use actions created by professionals on Envato Elements. For example, this action creates a disperse photo effect. The selected part of the photo turns into a cloud of glitter, which looks very natural. You just need to paint the mask and click Play.

disperse photo effectdisperse photo effectdisperse photo effect
Disperse photo effect

Crystal Photo Effect

Here's another magical photo effect created with an action. Select an area and let Photoshop create a beautiful crystal background, reflecting the subject in a realistic way. This action creates unique results with every photo you use!

crystal photo effectcrystal photo effectcrystal photo effect
Crystal photo effect

Double Exposure Photo Effect

This Photoshop action creates a trendy double exposure effect. Open two photos and let the action combine them with a series of adjustments and filters. The photo is turned into an artwork, and all this with a single click!

double exposure photo effectdouble exposure photo effectdouble exposure photo effect
Double exposure photo effect

Glitch Photo Effect

This Photoshop action is very simple, too. You don't have to paint any mask, because the whole photo is used here. Through a series of complex adjustments, your image gets a neat glitch look.

glitch photo effectglitch photo effectglitch photo effect
Glitch photo effect

Good Job!

Now you know how to create and use a Photoshop action to blur a background in Photoshop. If you're interested in creating Photoshop actions, you may also like these tutorials:

how to blu background in photoshophow to blu background in photoshophow to blu background in photoshop
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