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Quick Tip: Using the Path Blur and Spin Blur in Photoshop CC 2014


One of the more powerful features that came with the new Photoshop CC is the addition of the Path and Spin Blur filters. This quick tip will explain how to use those filters in order to achieve interesting effects quickly and easily.

Let's get started.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:

The Path Blur

The Path Blur is used to add blur along a path. Let's take a look at how to use it.

1. Adjusting the Path

Step 1

Open the Golden Dawn Bridge - Exclusive HDR Stock image. When working with Filters in Photoshop, it is always a good idea to convert the image's layer into a Smart Object. This way, you'll be able to add a non-destructive filter that can be re-edited any time later on, as well as have a smart filter mask, which can help control the area that the filter affects.

To do so, select the layer, then right click it and choose Convert to Smart Object.

convert to smart layer

Step 2

Go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Path Blur. This will open the Blur Gallery window, and a path with two end points will be automatically created. The path determines the direction of the blur, which is left to right by default.

There are also a couple of settings under the Blur Tool and Motion Blur Effects panels to the right side, which you can use to tweak the effect

blur arrow

Step 3

Press and hold the Command key, then click and drag the path to place it on the bridge, and release all.

place motion arrow

Step 4

Click each end point to select it, then drag it to place it along one end of the bridge. This will change the direction of the blur.

move arrow

Step 5

The point in the middle can be also clicked and dragged to adjust the shape of the path, which will adjust the shape of the motion as well.

adjust path shape

2. Adjusting the Blur Shape

Step 1

Check the Edit Blur Shapes box. You will notice that a red arrow will appear at each end point of the path. The Speed value is a global one that affects all the paths you have. The End Point Speed values, however, can be adjusted independently, giving you more control over the final result.

tweak blur

Step 2

Click the left end point, and change its End Point Speed to 0.

change blur speed

Step 3

Click the right end point, and change its End Point Speed to 100. You can then click and drag the red arrow's mid point to change the blur shape, or click and drag the arrow's head point to change the End Point Speed until you like the result you get.

end point speed

3. Adding Another Path

Step 1

The blur in the image is now controlled by one path only. But you can add some more paths to get a more interesting result. In this case, we want to add a path to decrease the blurring over the front part of the bridge.

To add a new path, click where you want the path to start. Drag and click to add more points, until you reach the end of the path you want to create.

add more blurs

Step 2

As long as you're still clicking and dragging, the path will be continuously modified. To end the path, place the mouse cursor inside the end point until you get the cursor's shape below, then click once. Alternatively, you can press the Esc key.

end the path

Step 3

Shape the path as you like, then change the End Point Speed values accordingly. In this tutorial, the Speed is set to 38, the bottom End Point Speed is set to 16, and the top End Point Speed is set to 4.

shape path and customize

Step 4

You should end up with a nice final result.

final result

The Spin Blur

The Spin Blur is used to create circular or elliptical blurs.

4. Adjusting the Ellipse

Step 1

Open the Gillian's Wonderland Pier Ferris Wheel image, and convert its layer into a Smart Object.

ferris wheel smart object

Step 2

Go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Spin Blur. This will open the Blur Gallery window, and a default ellipse will be automatically created.

spin blur gallery

Step 3

You can click and drag the ellipse's borders to resize it, as well as click and drag its handles to reshape and rotate it.

change blur

Step 4

If you click inside the ellipse, you can drag it to move it around. The blur ring in the center can be used to adjust the blur amount, or the Blur Angle, which can be adjusted using the slider under the Blur Tool panel as well.

move ellipse blur

Step 5

Move and reshape the ellipse until it covers the ferris wheel in the image. We will make some modifications later on, but try to make it as close to the wheel's shape as possible.

Use the fade handles to change the fade range, or the distance between the blurred and un-blurred areas. This results in a smoother transition.

change fade

Step 6

The feather handles can not be moved independently, but their center can. So if the ellipse's mid point is off-center, you can press and hold the Option key, then click and drag the pin in the middle to move the rotation point. Do so to place the middle pin over the wheel's center.

position blur

Step 7

Choose a Blur Angle you like, Here, the value used is 6.

blur angle

Step 8

You can also play around with the Motion Blur Effects' values to get more realistic results. The Strobe Strength here is set to 0, but if you start increasing its value, you can get different results. It's always great to try different combinations of values to see how they work, so feel free to play around with them until you get a result you like. Click OK when done.

strobe settings

5. Using the Smart Filter Mask to Remove Unwanted Areas

Step 1

As you can see, especially if you zoom in, there are areas around the wheel that are affected by the blur, when in fact they shouldn't be. Here's where the Smart Object comes in handy, as we'll be using the Smart Filter to remove the blur from those areas.

Click the Smart Filter, pick the Brush Tool, and set the Foreground color to Black. Use a soft round brush tip, with the Size you need depending on the area you want to hide, and start painting over that area. If you set the Foreground color to White, you can paint back in any area you removed by mistake.

smart filter

Step 2

Take your time to erase all the unwanted areas. This should leave only the ferris wheel affected by the blur.

errase unwanted edges

Using Both Filters

Both the Path and Spin Blur filters can be used together. In this example, we will apply the Spin Blur to the car wheel, and the Path Blur to the surrounding parts. That will emphasize the motion effect and make it more believable.

6. Creating Copies and Isolating the Wheel

Step 1

Open the SLR wheel image, convert to Smart Object, and duplicate the resulting layer so that you have a copy.


Step 2

Use the Elliptical Marquee Tool to create a selection around the wheel. If needed, you can adjust the selection by going to Select > Transform Selection.

elliptical selection

Step 3

Go to Select > Modify > Feather, and type in 15. This will help blend in both layers seamlessly instead of creating harsh lines.

feather selection

Step 4

Make sure that the copy layer is selected, then click the Add layer mask icon down the Layers panel. This way, only the wheel will be affected by any filters applied to the layer.

layer mask

7. Applying the Spin Blur to the Wheel

Step 1

Click the copy layer's thumbnail, then go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Spin Blur. Reposition the ellipse on top of the wheel (and its center over the wheel's center as well), then change the settings as you like, The Blur Angle is set to 15, the Strobe Strength to 15, the Strobe Flashes to 2, and the Strobe Flash Duration to 3.

tweak blur

Step 2

The Spin Blur won't cause any problems, since it only affects the wheel. But the mask comes to use next, as it will prevent the Path Blur from affecting the wheel.

spin blur

8. Applying the Path Blur

Step 1

Select the original (bottom) layer, then go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Path Blur. Reposition the path so that it is parallel to the ground in the original image. Also, un-check the Center Blur box. This will result in a more fluid and directional blur.

Change the left End Point Speed to 146.

change end point speed

Step 2

Change the right End Point Speed to 74, play around with the rest of the settings if you like, then click OK.

finish blur tweeks

Step 3

There you have it! Super simple and quick. The feathering of the selection blends both layers nicely, and the Path Blur has absolutely no effect over the Spin Blur. So it's just a matter of playing around with the settings, and making use of the different types of masks and Smart Filters.


Congratulations! You're done.

This tutorial discussed the two new Photoshop's Blur Gallery filters, which are the Path Blur and the Spin Blur. Each filter was demonstrated in an example, along with some tips and tricks on how to use it in order to achieve nice effects easily and quickly.

The tutorial also explained the use of Smart Filters and masks to further enhance the outcome, and control the areas that the filters affect. Finally, both filters were used together for the same image, in order to achieve a more realistic and smooth result.

Hope you found the tutorial helpful, Please feel free to tell us what you think about the new filters, and share with us what you create using them.

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