Bokeh is a photographic effect produced when sources of light are out of focus. Many photographers employ bokeh in portraits to highlight the subject, creating a beautiful, ethereal quality in the process.
Bokeh is also easy to recreate in Photoshop with the help of bokeh overlays. This tutorial will show you how to use overlays to add a dreamlike finish to your photos (without needing any photography expertise).
Step One: Open Your Image in Photoshop
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Step Two: Paste the Bokeh Overlay
Not all bokeh overlays are created equal, so we recommend testing a few with this tutorial. Don’t sweat it if one overlay doesn’t look right with your photo; there are tons of stock bokeh overlays to choose from in the Storyblocks library. Try out different colors, shapes, and compositions until you think you’ve found the right match.
To begin testing, paste a bokeh overlay into Photoshop as a new layer. Resize the overlay until it completely covers the image underneath.
Step Three: Add a Layer Mask
Select the bokeh layer and click the “Add layer mask” button.
Step Four: Select the Blending Mode
With the layer mask selected, click on the blending mode button and select “Screen.”
Step Five: Edit the Bokeh Layer
Sometimes an overlay will obscure parts of your image, so a little editing might be necessary.
For example, in the photo below there’s a light bubble covering part of the girl’s face. This isn’t terrible, but there are several ways to alter the image so that the girl’s face becomes the clear focus of the picture.
Option One: Resize the Bokeh Layer
Sometimes all you need to do is a bit of resizing. With the bokeh layer selected, click Ctrl+T (Command+T on Macs) to resize the overlay. In this case, we were able to just stretch the overlay a bit until the light bubble was no longer covering the girl’s face.
Option Two: Paint Over the Layer Mask
Sometimes the problem is a little more complicated, and stretching the bokeh layer just isn’t enough. In these cases, you can paint over the layer mask.
Select the layer mask (the one you made in Step Three), click on the paintbrush tool, set the color to black, and begin painting over the area you want to fix. In addition to the light bubble, we also painted over the girl’s eyes to make them clearer.
The paintbrush works as an eraser on the bokeh overlay, and you can adjust the size and hardness of the brush to make the erased portion blend in with the rest of the overlay.
Step Six: The Finished Product
Your image is complete!
As we said before, sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right bokeh overlay to go with a photo. Luckily, adding bokeh overlays is pretty easy, so you can test out as many overlays and images as you’d like. Check out the gallery below for more bokeh options.
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