How to Blur the Background Using Photoshop CS3

Written by bridget conn
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How to Blur the Background Using Photoshop CS3
If you didn't capture this blurry background in camera, you can create the effect in Photoshop CS3. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Photoshop CS3 allows you to selectively blur parts of your image to simulate the effect of a shallow depth of field, or to create even more extreme blurring situations. Like most functions in Photoshop, there are many different methods of achieving the same result. Blurring the background involves learning different selection tools as much as it does learning the different blur tools.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Digital image file

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  1. 1

    Select the Blur tool from the Toolbox if you need to blur only a small portion of the background and you don't need to be too precise. This tool is located about halfway down the Toolbox and looks like a teardrop.

  2. 2

    Select the width and type of brush from the Blur menu bar at the top of the screen.

  3. 3

    Choose a mode from the drop-down menu in the menu bar to control what areas of the image you want to blur more than others, if desired. Choices include Lighten, Darken, Hue, Saturation, Color and Luminosity.

  4. 4

    Set the strength of the blur with the sliding scale. A lower number creates a more subtle effect, giving you more control over the amount of blur.

  5. 5

    Click the areas of the image you want to blur with the mouse. Using repeated strokes over the same area enhances the blur.

  1. 1

    Choose the Lasso tool if you want to make a precise selection of the background. It is the third tool from the top in the Toolbox. Draw an enclosed shape with the tool and marching ants appear around the selection.

  2. 2

    Use the Polygonal Lasso tool if the background follows straight lines. Press the mouse button and hold it over the regular Lasso tool to make this tool available. Use it in the same way as the Lasso tool but to create a polygonal shape.

  3. 3

    Select the Magnetic Lasso tool to have Photoshop help you predict the "edges" of where the foreground meets the background. This tool is also located under the regular Lasso tool. Click the image once with the mouse and then simply drag the line that forms around the edges of the background. Click again at your starting point once you see a small circle appear to enclose the selection. Use the menu tools such as Width, Contrast and Frequency to help better select what you need.

  4. 4

    Choose the Quick Mask tool for the most freehand way to select the background. This tool is a circle in a rectangle and is located at the bottom of the Toolbox. Click this tool and then click the Brush tool. Depending on your Photoshop settings, the Brush "paints" the masked areas or selected areas in red. Click the Quick Mask tool again when finished and the red-painted area, or its inverse, converts to marching ants, creating your selection.

  1. 1

    Click "Filter > Blur" to browse the different types of blur available once you have an area selected.

  2. 2

    Choose "Blur" if you want a one-click method of blurring the selected background. Gaussian Blur lets you select a pixel radius and creates a naturalistic blur effect. You can also choose from Motion Blur that sweeps horizontally, Radial blur that creates a spin effect or seven others.

  3. 3

    Press "OK" to apply the desired blur effect to the selected background of your image.

Tips and warnings

  • Double-click the Quick Mask tool to choose whether you want the masked or selected areas of your image to appear "painted" in red.

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