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How to Make a Bokeh Background in Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Today I'm going to show you how to make a bokeh background in Photoshop using a blurred photo and standard Photoshop brushes. We'll also add a soft grunge texture to our bokeh background, and finally, I will show you how you can quickly create more variations of this background or use it as a bokeh overlay.

What You'll Learn in This Bokeh Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to blur a photo to create the base of the bokeh background images
  • How to make a bokeh background in Photoshop using basic brushes
  • How to add a texture to a dark bokeh background
  • How to add a bokeh overlay in Photoshop
  • How to change the color to make a blue bokeh background (or any other color)

Tutorial Assets

You'll need the following resources in order to complete this tutorial:

1. How to Blur a Photo for Creating a Base of Bokeh Background Images  

Step 1

First of all, we need to create a new document with 3000x2000 px size and 300 DPI.

creating a new document

Step 2

Go to File > Place and then place and resize the photo to the borders of the document.

placing the photo

Step 3

Now let's add a blur to our future bokeh Photoshop image. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 100 px.

adding gaussian blur filter to the photo

This is what the base of the bokeh Photoshop image should look like now: 

how image should look like

2. How to Make a Bokeh Background in Photoshop Using Basic Brushes

Step 1

Now we can start to create our bokeh lights overlay with standard brushes. Select the Brush Tool (or press B to activate it) and use the following settings: Size: 250 px; Hardness: 25%.

selecting the brush

Step 2

Open the Brush Settings and activate the Scattering and Shape Dynamics. Set the Size Jitter to 100% and Scatter to 1000%.

changing the brush settings

Step 3

Create a new layer by pressing Shift-Control-N, and change the Blend Mode of this layer to Overlay. This will be our first bokeh lights overlay layer.

creating a new layer and changing the blending mode

Step 4

Draw the first layer of bokeh overlay using the brush we've created.

creating the first bokeh overlay layer

Step 5

Create another layer with Overlay Blend Mode and change the Size of the brush to 450 px and Hardness to 75%. Draw a new layer of gold bokeh background elements.

creating a second bokeh overlay layer

Step 6

For the last layer, let's use different brush settings: Size: 600 px; Hardness: 95%.

creating a third bokeh overlay layer

Step 7

And for the last step, let's add color correction to our dark bokeh background, to make it look more atmospheric. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and use the following settings:

creating color correction layer

This is how our Christmas bokeh background looks with the color correction layer applied to it:

bokeh background with color correction layer applied

3. How to Add Texture to a Dark Bokeh Background

Step 1

Now that you know how to do bokeh in Photoshop, maybe you want to make it look unique. We can easily do it by adding a grunge texture overlay! Let's go to File > Place and put the texture below the color correction layer.

adding an overlay texture

As you can see, our light bokeh background is heavily overlaid with the texture. If you don't like it, we'll fix this in the next step!

bokeh with a texture applied

Step 2

To make it look less "grungy", just change the Blending Mode of the layer to Soft Light (or just make the Opacity smaller.)

changing the blending mode of the layer

This is our Christmas bokeh background with a soft light blending mode:

bokeh background with soft texture applied

4. How to Add a Bokeh Overlay in Photoshop

Step 1

If you want to use your soft bokeh background as an overlay, you need to move the blurred background layer above one of the layers with bokeh elements and Right-Click > Create a Clipping Mask.

creating a clipping mask

Step 2

Change the Blending Mode of the bokeh elements to Normal and then Right-Click > Flatten Image.

flattening the image

Step 3

And now just place your light bokeh background above the image and change the Blending Mode to Screen.

applying the bokeh overlay to the photo

Here's the result:

photo with bokeh overlay preview

5. How to Change the Color of the Gold Bokeh Background to a Blue Bokeh Background (or Any Other Color)

Using this blurred-photo method of creating bokeh background images, we can easily change the photo to any other (I choose the "aerial views of Turkey" image from the assets section) and then just blur it as we did before. This will give us an absolutely new soft bokeh background!

bokeh background with another image used

Awesome Work, You're Now Done!

Here is our final result! Now you know how to do bokeh in Photoshop using almost any photo and standard Photoshop tools. Feel free to share your results in the comments below!

Bokeh background final preview

If you are looking for a high-quality and carefully hand-crafted bokeh background, check out the collection available on Envato Elements:

Bokeh Grunge Backgrounds (JPG)

Bokeh Grunge Backgrounds

This amazing bokeh package contains 15 different backgrounds covered with grunge textures. It's the perfect choice for creating a CD cover or web background.

Abstract Light Bokeh Backgrounds (JPG, PNG)

Abstract Light Bokeh Backgrounds

This pack of bokeh backgrounds contains an amazing collection of different bokeh images, from a pink bokeh background to a blue bokeh overlay. These images are perfect for creating flyers for your next gig.

Blur Bokeh Backgrounds V1 (JPG)

Blur Bokeh Backgrounds V1

Looking for atmospheric backgrounds? In this pack, you will find 12 different bokeh backgrounds with high-resolution (3500 × 2334 px) and beautiful color combinations. A great resource for any of your design needs.

Bokeh Noir (JPG)

Bokeh Noir

Another great white bokeh background pack with 14 high-res textures. Try this collection for creating packaging, invitation, or even wallpaper. The cinematic look of every white bokeh background will catch your clients' eyes.

Bokeh Overlays (JPG, PFG, ATN)

Bokeh Overlays

This product contains a pink bokeh background, a blue bokeh overlay, gold bokeh images, and much more. All the textures are hi-res JPEG files and come with a bokeh effect Photoshop action.

Want to learn how to create a bokeh effect Photoshop action or how to create shining glitter? Check out these awesome tutorials:

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