Creative Cloud Week – Day 3
Adobe has been hard at work, speeding up our favorite application with a little help from the Mercury Graphics Engine including: a completely overhauled 3D workflow, a vastly improved Lighting Effects workflow, and a new photographic filter called the Blur Gallery. The Blur Gallery is a collection of three integrated photographic blur effects (Field, Iris, and Tilt-Shift). Like the new 3D and Lighting Effects workflows, the Blur Gallery leverages the new Properties panel (described in the above-linked 3D story) and a live, full-sized preview. This Photoshop tutorial focuses on the process of localized blurring with the Photoshop CS6 Tilt-shift effect.
To use the Photoshop CS6 tilt-shift effect, you need the right kind of photograph. Traditionally it’s easiest to accomplish this effect (which can lend a “miniaturizing look” to the image) when you have a photograph that looks over your subject and out into the distance (often a busy street or construction area shot from a nearby building, or a scene in nature shot from a high vantage point). For this example I chose a scene from Acadia National Park. It provides the right kind of vantage point, and details in the central portion of the photo.
Note: the Blur Gallery does not support Smart Object / Smart Filter workflows at this time, so make sure you work on a duplicate layer rather than modifying the original background layer.
Creating Photoshop CS6 Tilt-Shift Effects
With your target layer highlighted, choose Filter > Blur > Tilt-Shift to open the image inside the Blur Gallery and view the new Properties panel. This is still a modal workflow in the sense that you can only make changes to the blur settings (you can’t use other tools unrelated to the blur workflow until you apply the filter), but all three types of blur are available and can be combined in the scene at any time.
Define the tilt-shift effect by first setting the boundaries between the blurred and un-blurred pixels. This is done right on the document, with a widget that is very similar to the Graduated Filter control in Lightroom and ACR. Seen below, the area between the solid lines remains completely in focus (by default), while the boundary between the solid and dashed lines defines the feathering zone where the image becomes progressively more blurry. Everything outside the dashed lines is completely blurred, based on the settings in the Properties panel.
To apply the blur at an angle, move the cursor over the white dots attached to the solid line. Your cursor should change to a double-sided, semi-circular arrow. When you see that, you can click and drag; the lines will rotate around a central axis. To change the distance between the solid or dashed lines, move the cursor over the line itself until the straight double-arrow appears, then click and drag as needed. To drag the entire widget up or down, click the “dot” in the center of the widget and drag. The final blur zones are shown below.
Once your blur zone is set, use the Blur slider in the Properties panel to increase or decrease the strength of the blur. Use the Distortion control to define the shape of the blur distortions. For example, a value of +100 will great a “linear motion” style distortion that gives the appearance you get when actively zooming into a subject while shooting the picture. A value of -100 will create a radial motion blur. If you turn on Symmetric Distortion, the distortion will appear on both sides of the blur zone, not just the foreground. Here I used a positive Distortion value to draw the eye forward into the frame.
If you would like to blur the region inside the protected area slightly to reduce any harsh focus transitions, reduce the Focus value (found in the Options Bar, Center). You can also turn on the High Quality option to get a better finished result before you finish. When you’re ready, just click OK and watch Photoshop CS6 crunch the numbers in just a few seconds!
Afterward I went back with the History Brush, selected the original document state, set the opacity of the brush to 50% and worked along the edge of the blurred area in the foreground (just to the left and right of the boulder) to make it look more natural.