Add A Faux Bokeh To Your Image

Sometimes it’s just fun to open up an image and play around to see what you can create. This flamingo image was one of those times. I opened it up and thought it seemed kind of blah, not to mention I cut the poor guys feet off! I decided to add something awesome to the image and found a fun and easy way to add a faux bokeh behind the main subject. [I was using Adobe Photoshop CS2 for this one.]

Grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable folks; this one is going to get long.


How I added bokeh behind the main subject:

1. Open your image. 😀

2. Carefully cut out your main subject(s). I’m not going to tell youCapture1 how to do this I’ll let you select your favorite method; however I will say that in CS2 it is usually a very slow tedious process that involves the Polygonal Lasso Tool and a steady hand. [I am so looking forward to getting a new Photoshop soon.]Capture2

Capture33. Add an empty layer between the original [background] layer and the new cut out layer. Fill this layer with several random dots of various sizes and opacity settings. For this image I used a nice bright yellow here but you will want to choose the color that belongs in your image. [I noticed that using brighter lighter colors seem to work best for me but you will want to play around a bit and see what works best for you and your particular image.] You can add these dots one at a time with a regular soft brush or you can create a brush that will do it for you like I did. [See below for how to create the brush I used.] Use a fairly good size brush for the dots on this layer; something around 630 pixs should do the trick.

4. Apply a Gaussian blur to the dot layer with a setting of somewhere around 20 pixs and change the blending mode to either soft light or overlay. You will be adding more layers filled with dots; a good idea is to alternated between the two blending modes using one on the first dot layer, the other on the second dot layer, back to the first one on the third dot layer, and so on.

To create a brush similar to the one I used open the Brushes Tool and adjust the following settings: Shape Dynamics; Size Jitter 100%, Minimum Diameter 67%, Angle Jitter 62%, Roundness Jitter 17%, Minimum Roundness 25% – Scattering: check Both Axes, Scatter 100%, Count 1, Count Jitter 100% – Other Dynamics: Opacity Jitter and Flow Jitter both 100% – Smoothing Opacity: Opacity Jitter and Flow Jitter both 100% – You’ll want to play around a bit and adjust this to your liking this is just what worked for this image.


5. Add another blank layer and repeat steps 3 and 4 with the same color but a slightly smaller brush size. Something around 450 pixs. We are going to build up our bokeh a layer at a time. Add each new dot layer between the previous dot layer and the cut out layer.

6. Add yet another blank layer and once again repeat steps 3 and 4. This time using a second color [I picked green], a smaller brush size of somewhere around 340 pixs, and a little less blur somewhere around 10 would be good here.

7. You guessed; it another blank layer. Repeat steps 3 and 4; this time with the same second color, a slightly smaller brush lets say about 280 pixs or so, and about the same blur as step 6. At this point you have 4 layers filled with slightly blurred dots of varying opacity.Capture4

8. One more time add another blank layer.  Repeat steps 3 and 4 again with a third color [I used white] and, a small brush about 100 pixs, and a slight blur with a setting around 3 pixs. Don’t forget to change the blending mode on these dot layers to either soft light or overlay. If I count correctly you will have 5 layers filled with dots at this point. On this last dot layer with the smaller white dots I really went to town and added a lot of dots. You do what works for your image.

9. Go all the way back down to the bottom of your layers and, copy Capture5the original background layer to another layer just above the original and below all the others. Apply a fairly heavy Guassian blur to this copy layer; I had mine turned up to around 200 or so at this point. Use the amount of blur that you like for your image. Turn on all the layers and adjust the opacity of any of the layers if you feel its needed. You can also adjust the levels on your background copy layer that has been heavily blurred if you feel it needs to be darker or lighter. It’s your image do what works for you.


10. Once you are happy with your creation save the Photoshop/PSD file with all its layers. [This way if you want to make a change later you can.] Then save yourself a jpeg version to share with friends or to post on your Facebook page.

That’s it you’re done!


Don’t let my long windy description of how to do this prevent you from trying it out. I really think you can have an image done in less time than it took to read this. Well; that depends on how long it takes you to cut out your subject.

Give it a try!

Click on the final image above to see a larger view, order prints, or download photos.


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