Photoshop Tutorial: Easily Create a Bokeh Background

Looking for a subtle but pretty background for your next project? Learn how to easily create a bokeh style background. Bokeh is a photographic term that refers to the way a camera renders out-of-focus lights. Here’s an example of bokeh in a photograph:

As you can see the child in the foreground is the dominant object in the photo and she is fully in focus. The background has the “bokeh” effect, where you can see that it is blurred and more out of focus than a regular photo. What we’re going to make is an abstract background that replicates the feel of bokeh in a photograph. So let’s get started!

 

Step One:

Open a new document. I’m choosing the Web Large preset from the Web section because it will fit most designs I need it for.

Bokeh Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative
 

Step Two:

Pick your base background color. It can' be anything you like. I’m going to with black.

Bokeh Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative
 

Step Three:

Click on the brush tool and scale your brush so it’s pretty large and turn down the hardness to 0. I chose a brush that’s 495 px.

Pick a color from the color selector. I’m going to go with a sunset themed bokeh so my main colors are going to be red, yellow and orange with hints of purple. Once you’ve selected your color. Start randomly brushing over sections of the canvas like so:

Bokeh Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative

Repeat the process with additional colors (I’m going to do two more, but you can do more if you want). I’m also going to leave a little of of the black background showing.

Bokeh Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative

When you’re happy with how you color looks you can move on to the next step.

 

Step Four:

In the menu, click on “Filter” -> “Blur” -> “Gaussian Blur.”

Bokeh Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative

In the menu that pops up, slide the focus scale up until the colors are sufficiently blurred together without being indiscernible. I put my value at about 81. It may vary depending on how many colors you chose and how many brush strokes you made.

Bokeh Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative
 

Step Five:

Create a new layer above your current one. Color select your lightest color (the yellow in my case) and click on the brush tool. Then click on the brush panel icons to open the brush presets/panel window.

Bokeh Photoshop Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative

In the brush panel make your brush size between 100-150 px with a hardness of 100. Make sure the spacing button is checked and toggle the spacing bar to about 150.

Bokeh Photoshop Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative

While still in the brush settings panel, click on the “Shape Dynamics” option on the left hand side. Where it says “Size Jitter” slide the arrow to a number between 40-50%. Underneath where it says “Control” click the drop down menu and select “Fade,” and change the value to one.

Bokeh Photoshop Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative

Next, click on the “Scattering” menu option on the left side of the panel. Where is says “Scatter” slide the arrow (or type in the number) till it says 400%. Make sure the “Both Axes” box is checked. Next, make sure the “Smoothing” and “Wet Edges” option on the left hand side are checked as well. Once you’ve done that, you can close the brush settings panel.

Bokeh Photoshop Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative
 

Step Six:

With the blank layer selected, start making circles by brushing or clicking over the canvas. Make as many circles as you want. It’s okay if they overlap some.

Bokeh Photoshop Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative

Once you’re satisfied with your circles, in the bottom right menu, change the layer blend mode to “Overlay” and the layer opacity to around 40%. Your image should like something like this:

Bokeh Photoshop Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative

Under the “Filter” menu option, we’re going to apply another Gaussian blur. With the Gaussian Blur panel open, move the slider (or type in) to five.

Bokeh Photoshop Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative
 

Step Seven:

Create a new layer and in the color panel, select white #000000 instead of the lightest color you used before. Then follow the same exact steps you did for step six up until you get to changing the layer blend mode and opacity. Your image should look something like this:

Bokeh Photoshop Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative

Similar to the step 6, we are now going to change this layer’s blending mode to overlay and change the opacity to 50%. Now we’re going to add another Gaussian blur, this time set to three.

Bokeh Photoshop Tutorial | Mill Creek Creative
 

And then you’re done! You now have a finished abstract bokeh background! Feel free to play around with different colors, brush sizes, etc.., and make it completely your own! If you’d like to use the background I created you can do so for free by saving the image below. Thank you so much reading! If you have thoughts on this tutorial or suggestions for other tutorials please leave me a comment.

Abstract Bokeh Background by Mill Creek Creative.jpg