Photoshop Quick Tip: Creating Depth of Field Using the Lens Blur Filter

Photoshop Quick Tip: Creating Depth of Field Using the Lens Blur Filter

Ever wondered what the Lens Blur Filter in Photoshop actually does? It’s pretty interesting, actually. Unlike the other blur filters you can actually control the amount of depth and where it’s applied in an image using alpha channels. Lets take a look at how this works.

First up, lets grab a good photo to experiment on. I found this awesome traffic shot by SmokingPermitted on Flickr.I like this photo because it has a very long focus. Basically items in the foreground and background are in focus.

Once the photo is open in Photoshop, switch over to Quick Mask Mode (Q) and use a large soft black brush to draw a line across the first row of cars.

Now exit Quick Mask Mode, and should should have a selection like the one below.

Now, over on the Channels Panel, click the new Create New Channel icon and fill the selection with white.

Now you can release the selection (Cmd+D) and switch back over to your layers. Lets open the Lens Blur Filter from (Filter | Blur | Lens Blur). In the Lens Blur window choose “Alpha 1″ (which is the new alpha channel you created) as the Depth Map.

Select Okay and your image should be blurred similar to the one below. I love this effect because it creates a tilt/shift style blur giving the scene a micro look.

To bump the contrast further the tilt/shift effect, lets duplicate the layer, and set the duplicate layer’s blending mode to Overlay.

I love it!

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Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown is a graphic designer who loves working with various media. He combines traditional art styles with a little experimentation and digital flare. Nathan's works have contained everything from ink and paint to leaves and a box of dirt. Everything is fare game when it comes to his approach to art. Nathan lives in Austin, Texas where he has been working as a designer for 10 years. More of his work can be viewed at GraphicMonkee.


(+add yours)
  1. Cody

    thank you for lesson very sweet

  2. Laura

    I tried to follow your steps exactly, but at the end when I hit okay on the lens blur, all I get is that black/white gradient. Any idea what I’m doing wrong?
    Thanks for the tutorials!

    • Hi Laura, Make sure your not still on the channels panel. Switch back over to the layers panel and click a layer.

      • Riley

        I did the same thing, and even went back to layers… but all it did was turn RGB and all other channels except Alpha 1 back on, no change to the photo

    • Simen

      Same happend to me. Did not work :(

  3. Edward Allen

    Awesome tut, this is so fun to do

  4. Oh., this post is similar to this post

    anyway., thanks again. :)

    looking forward for more tut, especially involving text layers ;)

  5. Wow very useful tutorial,thanks so much!

  6. thanks for nice effect. i will definitely use it for my mockup.

  7. Nice one …

  8. Daria

    Thanx for the lesson, it s very useful. But I have one problem: when I exit quick mask there is no selection like on your pic. It selects just full photo. Shuld I do it manual or I do smth wrong?

  9. Nicole

    Great – very easy and very effective. Thanks very much!

  10. Sigurd B

    Now, this all works fine till “Now exit Quick Mask Mode, and should should have a selection like the one below”

    Nothing is selected..

  11. Ariel

    I followed to a T but didn’t work :(

  12. Ariel

    Just kidding yes it did :)

  13. gem

    It doesn’t work. I follow all the steps. After clicking ok for lens blur, the result was just black and white.

  14. nice effect!

  15. Nice tutorial. If you are interested in fou can do fantastic bokeh effect, read my review

  16. I like doing my own graphics. (currently building a new site). Even when I see the steps involved it still looks very real. Like you could pick it up right out of the page. Unfortunately due to costs I am forced to use

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  19. usr128

    I’ve done using this tutorial for my photo and I got amazing result. Thanks!

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