Digital Toolbox: Sharp Blur

Here's how to easily turn a humdrum image into a dreamy, romantic photo.

Digital-Toolbox-Sharp-Blur

Digital-Toolbox-Sharp-Blur

Ever shoot a subject that's sweet, simple, or beautiful, only to find that the lighting was anything but? Or take a picture that should be romantic, but ends up kind of dull? Getting the look of your picture to match its content is one of the things that Adobe Photoshop is most accomplished at doing.

Here's a way to mix two layers together -- one sharp, one blurred -- to create a soft-focus photo that doesn't sacrifice sharpness in the details. Add a little saturation, and you'll get a picture that's much closer to the one you originally held in your mind's eye.

In the old days, the photographic technique I'm showing here was called the Orton Effect, and it took much more fancy footwork. But like many things, this one's a heck of a lot easier to do with software.

Although this example was done in Adobe Photoshop CS3, you can follow the same steps using older versions of Photoshop.

Click here or on the photo to launch Debbie's step-by-step slideshow.

To see more of Debbie's Photoshop tips, check out her Dear Debbie blog.

QUICK TIP: If you want to keep all your layers intact, save the file as a TIFF or PSD. If you want to let them go forever, choose JPEG.

How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Step-1-The

How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Step-1-The

The first thing to do is find a picture that could stand a little prettying up. When you've got one open, duplicate the background layer: Go to Layer > Duplicate Layer and click OK.
How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Step-2-Next

How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Step-2-Next

Next, change the Blend mode of your duplicate layer to Multiply. You can switch it by grabbing the pull-down menu in the upper-left corner of your Layers palette (initially, it's set to Normal).
How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Step-3-Don

How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Step-3-Don

Don't worry if your image looks much too dark -- we'll fix that later. Now, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Step-4-This

How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Step-4-This

This is a fairly big file, so go for a Radius of 16.4 pixels. Images that have lower resolutions require less blur; if you add too much, you'll lose the effect.
How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Step-8-The

How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Step-8-The

The key to adding saturation is subtlety, so don't go overboard! Gently drag the saturation slider to the right. In this case, 8 is enough.
How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Before

How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-Before

How-To Make Dreamy Images Using Blur*Before*Photo By Lisa F. Young/istockphoto
How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-After

How-To-Make-Dreamy-Images-Using-Blur-After

How-To Make Dreamy Images Using Blur*After*Photo By Lisa F. Young/istockphoto
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