Make beau­ti­ful bokeh por­traits

Spice up your por­traits by adding out-of-fo­cus ef­fects and learn amaz­ing brush tech­niques while you’re at it. James Pater­son is your guide...

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Add out-of-fo­cus ef­fects and Pho­to­shop brush tricks to spice up your por­traits

The term ‘bokeh’ refers to the cir­cu­lar spots that ap­pear in out-of-fo­cus ar­eas of an im­age. Usu­ally cre­at­ing bokeh in-cam­era means in­vest­ing in a fast lens, shoot­ing at a wide aper­ture and catch­ing out-of-fo­cus high­lights in the back­ground. But with a few sim­ple skills we can repli­cate the ef­fect in Pho­to­shop.

The key to suc­cess here is the amaz­ing Pho­to­shop brush en­gine. Not only can you cre­ate your own brush tips from any shape you like, you can also change the way the brush ap­plies colour by ran­domis­ing it. If this all sounds like it could get a lit­tle bit too com­pli­cated, then don’t worry – it’s sim­ply a case of open­ing up the Brush panel and ex­per­i­ment­ing with the set­tings. The key slid­ers for our bokeh ef­fect here are Scat­ter­ing and Jit­ters. Com­bine them with the right Spac­ing set­ting, and you can cre­ate beau­ti­ful ran­dom pat­terns with just a cou­ple of brush strokes.

We’ll show you how to de­fine a bub­ble-like brush tip for our bokeh ef­fect, with a trans­par­ent cen­tre and opaque edge. Once done, we’ll ap­ply a few sim­ple set­tings to cre­ate our ran­domised bokeh brush. All we have to do then is paint with the brush on a few sep­a­rate lay­ers and ap­ply some dif­fer­ent strengths of blur to each layer to add depth to the ef­fect, then drop in our cut-out por­trait. It’s great fun, and eas­ier than you might think…

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