How to Blur a Gradient in Photoshop

Adobe's flagship editing software, Photoshop, offers impressive tools for blurring and fading images. In some cases, you may want to apply a natural blur effect to a certain section of your photo, with the blur growing in intensity as it gets closer to the subject. 

Below, we've shared how to create a blur gradient, Photoshop style. In this example, we'll be editing a hypothetical photo of a sunset on the distant horizon. 

  1. First, launch a new Photoshop project and load the sunset photo as your main layer. To apply a blur gradient, Photoshop requires you to duplicate an image and then create a layer mask. Go to the Layers panel, select the top "Layers" tab, and then right-click on the empty space in the panel to show a few options. Then, click "Duplicate Layer".  
  2. In the Layers panel, click on the eye-shaped icon next to your original layer to hide it in the main editing window. Next, you can create a layer mask by selecting the duplicate layer, and then clicking on the rectangular grey icon with a circle inside it, which is located at the bottom of the Layers panel. You'll know the mask has been applied when you see a white rectangle on your duplicate layer.  
  3. Now that you have a layer mask, it's time to create a transparent gradient. First, select the Gradient tool from the main toolbar, and then look at the gradient settings near the top of the screen. You should select a black to white gradient, make sure it's a "linear" style, and enable "Transparency".     
  4. With the Gradient tool still selected, click and drag from the top left corner of your image to the bottom left corner, while holding the Shift key. This will apply a transparent gradient to your entire layer, using the settings we just selected. 
  5. In our sunset photo, the sun is on the right side of the frame, so now we're going to apply a gradient that gets blurrier from left to right. First, go back to the Layers panel and click on the eye-shaped icon on your original layer to unhide it. With the duplicate layer still highlighted, find the Filter tab on the top menu and select "Blur" > "Gaussian Blur". 
  6. A new dialog box will appear with a "Radius" setting, which determines the strength of your gaussian blur effect. Feel free to experiment with a few different Radius levels, see how they look in the Preview window, and choose the one you like best. Now, the distant sunset in your photo will be blurred, and the blur gradient will become less intense as you scan to the foreground. 
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