Learn how to create motion blur in Photoshop. We’ve all seen those glossy adverts with an expensive new car zooming along a country road, the city at night or some industrial complex. The background is a blur of motion but the car is pin sharp, helping the car stand out and giving a powerful sense of speed. This effect is usually done in high end shoots like that with special camera rigs attached to the car. Other times, it is shot from another chase vehicle which keeps pace with the hero car. In both cases, shutter speeds are low enough to reduce the moving background to a blur. Most of us don’t have access to this kind of equipment.
What happens if we fancy photographing our car and achieving a similar result? Well, luckily, Photoshop has the answer. We can show you some of the newer blur features in Photoshop CC which can turn your static car photo into a magazine hero shot.
Create Motion Blur
Let’s begin by opening the image you need to work on. Go to File > Open and navigate to the image called ‘motion blur.jpg’. Click Open to create a new Photoshop document with the image in it. In this case, its a photo of a truck parked in an alley. (You can download the tutorial files from www.ultimatephotoshop.com).
The photo is 3000 pixels wide by 4500 pixels high. The settings applied to the image in this tutorial are used on those pixel dimensions. Bear in mind if you are working on a different sized image, you’ll need to adapt your settings accordingly.
First of all, press Cmd + J to create a duplicate layer of the vehicle. Call this new layer ‘cut out’ for the time being. You can use this duplicate layer to make the elements needed to create the illusion.
The vehicle needs to be removed from its background. You can use your favourite selection method to do this, we went to the toolbar and chose Pen Tool (P) as our preferred method. With it you can draw a path around the edge of the vehicle.
You simply click a start point and then move along the edge of the vehicle and place another anchor point and proceed in this fashion around the outer edge of the vehicle. You can also drag your cursor and turn a straight line into a curve as needed.
Using the Pen Tool, proceed along the edge using a combination of point to point straight lines and curves on areas like the wheels. If you place an anchor point in the wrong place, right-click it and choose Delete Anchor Point and place a new one.
Take your time and work all the way long the outside of the vehicle. When you join back up to your start point, it will create a path. Right-click inside the path and choose Make Selection from the menu. It will call up the Make Selection dialogue box.
Make sure the Feather Radius is set to 0 pixels and that Anti-aliased is checked and then click OK. The path will be converted to a selection denoted by ‘marching ants’. Choose the Lasso Tool from the toolbar and then right-click the selection.
Right-click the selection and choose Layer Via Copy from the menu. A new layer with just the contents of the selection will appear. The original image will be left unaffected by the procedure. Name the new layer ‘truck’ and make it invisible for a moment.
Right-click on the ‘truck’ layer thumbnail and choose Select Pixels. A selection of the truck appears. Rename the ‘cut out’ layer as ‘alley’. Click on the ‘alley’ layer to make it active. You need to remove some evidence of the truck from this layer.
Go to Select > Modify > Expand. From the Expand Selection dialog box, make Expand By: 5 pixels. When you click OK, the selection will enlarge by 5 pixels. Go to Edit > Fill (Shift + F5) and choose Content-Aware as the fill mode. Check the Color Adaption button and click OK.
Photoshop will then try to fill the area inside the selection with textures from outside the selection. The result may well look a bit of a mishmash but its function will become more evident as we proceed. Press Cmd + D to cancel active selections.
Press Cmd + J to create a duplicate of the ‘alley’ layer. Call the new layer ‘alley blur’ and make sure it is above the ‘alley’ layer but below the cut out ‘truck’ layer. With ‘alley blur’ active, you’re going to begin to create the sensation of speed.
Photoshop CC has provided new blur tools to play with. Go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Path Blur. This calls up the Blur Tools window. A default path blur is in place in the shape of a blue line, so drag the end with the blue arrow to the far left of the image.
Drag the opposite anchor point to the far right of the image and you will see the default blur applied horizontally along the direction of the blue line. Click the right side of the image above the existing blue line and place the start of a new path.
You can then drag another blue line across the image to the far left roughly matching the perspective of the building behind it. Click once to place the end point of the path and again to commit the path. A small blue arrow will appear to confirm this.
Imagining a distant vanishing point far off to the right of the shot, keep adding new paths to control the direction and angle of the blur. The more paths you add, the more you can accurately dictate the direction of blur to match the scene’s perspective.
Once you have the blur working to your taste, you can alter the Speed value to increase or decrease the amount of blur applied. For a scene this size, a Speed value of at least 80-90% should produce enough blur for a good sense of motion.
In the top options panel, make sure the High Quality option is checked and then click OK to commit the blur you have created to the image. The process is quite resource heavy on your computer and it might take a while depending on the size of your image.
The ‘alley blur’ layer is now blurred and you’ll begin to get a sense of speed. Because you removed the truck and filled the gap with content-aware texture, you don’t have a ghost image of the truck appearing where its edges have been blurred.
Go to the layer options panel and choose Add Layer Mask. A mask will be added to ‘alley blur’. With the layer mask selected, choose a large soft black brush and set its Opacity to about 25%.
If you brush black onto the mask, you’ll begin to reveal parts of the un-blurred ‘alley’ layer below. This is optional but you can do this to suggest that areas further away are blurred less because of their distance from the action.
Due to the blurring of the ground, the truck looks like it is floating slightly. If you add a new layer called ‘shadow’ and place it below the ‘truck’ layer, you can paint some additional shadows under each wheel to anchor it to the ground more.
Click the ‘truck’ layer to make it active, then press Cmd + J to make a duplicate of it. Call the new layer ‘wheelspin’. You can now address the issue of the fact that the wheels themselves aren’t actually rotating.
Go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Spin Blur to open the Blur Tools again. Spin Blur is a more advanced version of Radial Blur. A default Spin Blur is added to the image. You can click and drag its centre point over the centre of the front wheel.
You can then use the outer control points………
You can find the full version of this tutorial, and many more like it, in Photoshop – The Beginners’ Guide Vol 24.