photoshop creative

Get the soft focus effect

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
February 18, 2015

Transform your portrait shots with a glamorous touch of blur

1. Duplicate layer

Open your image and duplicate the Background layer to begin by dragging it onto the Create a New Layer button. Making a duplicate of the layer enables us to make edits that can undo if we need to.

2. Convert for Smart filters

Go to Filter>Convert for Smart Filters to turn the duplicated layer into a Smart Object. This is indicated by a small icon on the layer’s thumbnail once applied and means that filters can be re-edited. Skip this step if you’re using Photoshop Elements

3. New blend mode

The blend mode of the converted layer is set to Normal. Change this to Screen to lighten the highlights on the skin. The colours in the image may become desaturated slightly but don’t worry, we’ll bring these back later on.

4. Gaussian Blur filter

With the layer now as a Smart Object, go to Filter>Blur and apply Gaussian Blur. Reduce the Radius setting to 0. By doing this, you can see the image in its original state and work up from there.

5. Soft focus

Gradually increase the Radius slider to see how the Blur filter affects the image. Avoid going too high, as this will make the image appear doggy. You want it to be just enough so that the skin looks soft. For this image a setting of 12px works well.

6. Edit the eyes

Because the layer is a Smart Object, the filter comes with a mask. Click on this mask and then pick the Brush tool (B). Set the Foreground swatch to black, the Opacity to 50% and then paint over the eyes to remove a thin layer of blurring.

7. Boost colours

To retrieve some of the lost saturation as a result of the blend mode, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment from Layer>New Adjustment Layer. Boost the Saturation up to 20 for this image.

8. Brightness/Contrast

To boost image contrast, add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer (again via Layer>New Adjustment Layer). Untick Use Legacy un the adjustment and set Brightness to 10 and Contrast to 15. The skin should look brighter and areas such as hair should become more defined.

9. Luminosity blending

Set to Normal, the Brightness/Contrast adjustment affects both colour and lighting. To affect just the lighting, change the blend mode to Luminosity. Experiment with the two different blend modes until you’ve achieved the look you’re going for.

  • Lorenz Onyekachi

    Great Tutorial!