How to Blur Part of a Picture

Professional photographers like to use a camera’s depth of field to emphasize their subject, while also blurring out the background. It’s an attractive effect that mimics the human eye, lending a cinematic quality to your images. If you don’t know how to maximize depth of field when shooting a photo, it’s also possible to add a blur effect after the picture is taken. In addition, you may want to blur out certain people, products, or text from a picture. Below, we’ve outlined a few methods for blurring part of an image.

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Using Photoshop

  1. After opening the image file, make sure to “Save As” so that any work you do will apply to a different version of that image. Next, consider which section of the image you’d like to blur; in most cases, it will be the background.
  2. Select “Duplicate Layer” from the Layer section. This will copy and stack the image as a second layer, but it should still look exactly the same.
  3. Now, you’re going to blur the top layer, while keeping the bottom unchanged. To do this, go to the Blur tab under the Filter section and select “Gaussian Blur”. For now, your entire top layer will be blurred. Before deciding which area of the photo to blur, you can tweak the blur radii. A high radius (around 10) will make your image extremely blurry, while a low radius (less than 1) will create an understated effect.
  4. Now, use the Eraser tool on the top layer to “de-blur” your subject. As you do this, the original (non-blurry) layer will come through. You can also reduce the eraser size for more accuracy, or change the eraser opacity to affect how much blur is eliminated. A high opacity is great for wide-open areas, but in most cases, you’ll want to use a low opacity for a subtler blend between background and foreground.
  5.  When you’re pleased with the blur effect, choose “Flatten Image” from the Layer section to combine the two layers into one image.

Using GIMP

  1. First, choose the Free Select tool (it looks like a cowboy lasso). This allows you to delineate between the blurred and non-blurred section of your image. It helps to zoom in so that you draw a more accurate line around the foreground.
  2. When you’re finished dragging around the perimeter of your subject, make sure that you’ve connected the line in a complete circle. You’ll know that you’ve done this properly when the solid line becomes dotted. If the line doesn’t change, try clicking the origin point.
  3. Of course, drawing a line by hand is not going to be perfect, so it’s smart to soften the line’s edges. To do this, choose “Feather” under the Select section. We recommend you start at 2 pixels, and then fine-tune the feather effect from there. Higher pixel counts will create an even softer line.  
  4. Now that the foreground and background are distinct, you can choose “Invert” from the Select section. Your background will now be selected, and you can apply blur effects to it without altering the subject.
  5. Under the Filters section, choose “Gaussian Blur” from the Blur subsection. The entire background will be blurred, but you have the ability to change the blur radii setting to your needs. A higher blur radius (i.e. 8) equals a blurrier image, whereas a low radius (i.e. .5) is barely perceptible.


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