How can I make an ob­ject look like it’s mov­ing fast?

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An­swer Tony replies

There are all kinds of ways to make some­thing look fast­mov­ing. I’ll go over a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent ap­proaches, with the help of a time-trav­el­ling pi­lot.

The first thing to con­sider is whether the ‘cam­era’ is track­ing the ob­ject. If so, the fo­cus will have sharper edges and the back­ground will be al­most all soft edges. If the cam­era is sta­tion­ary, the back­ground will be clear and any­thing fast is go­ing to be a blur. I’ve done some­thing in be­tween the two, so you can see how both ap­proaches work.

For a back­ground in mo­tion, try us­ing Fil­ter>Blur>Ra­dial Blur, en­sur­ing it’s set to Zoom. Use the lit­tle grid to move the fo­cal point over your de­sired van­ish­ing point (re­mem­ber to keep all mo­tion vi­su­als in per­spec­tive), and you’ll get a kind of tun­nel blur ef­fect.

For a fast-mov­ing fo­cal point, I sug­gest paint­ing the sub­ject on its own layer. Then you can du­pli­cate it and use Fil­ter>Blur> Mo­tion Blur. You’ll end up with a ghostly streak ef­fect that sug­gests an ob­ject mov­ing a large dis­tance fast.

An­other way is to have the colours and val­ues from an ob­ject bleed­ing back in per­spec­tive, like comic-book speed lines. The red bombs bounc­ing around are ex­am­ples of this ef­fect. For ev­ery layer you want to treat this way, I sug­gest mak­ing a blurred and non-blurred ver­sion. Ad­just Opac­ity to re­fine later.

Mo­tion blur is a great start for im­ply­ing move­ment in an il­lus­tra­tion. Make sure to keep things in per­spec­tive, though, and don’t soften ev­ery­thing so much it be­comes un­in­ter­est­ing.

Com­po­si­tion is an­other big com­po­nent in ex­press­ing move­ment. Have fig­ures lean­ing into their step to give the im­pres­sion that they’re hurtling for­ward.

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