Awesome digital bokeh effect in Photoshop

Our last Wallpaper of the Week was an image I had created using Pixelmator, and I really liked the outcome. The best part about it was that it was pretty easy to accomplish in Pixelmator, but I decided for perspective's sake to create the same effect in Photoshop. The process is easy as well, but with a few extra steps.

As in the previous tutorial, I will show you how to create a digital bokeh effect, but this time in Photoshop. The process is very easy and we will be using the super powerful Brush Engine, one of the coolest things in Photoshop.

Step 1

Create a new document in Photoshop. As usual I will use a nice scree resolution, 1920x1200 pixels. Fill the background layer with a very dark grey, not black. If you fill it with black the effect won't work. The color I used was #262626.

Digital Bokeh in Photoshop

Step 2

Select the Ellipse Tool (U), and create a circle. Use black for the color, and go to Layer>Layer Style>Blending Options. Change the Fill Opacity to 50%. After that select Stroke. Use 10 pixels for the size, Inside for the Position and Black for the color.

Digital Bokeh in Photoshop

Step 3

Select the ellipse and go to Edit>Define Brush. Name your brush and that's done. Now we have a new brush ;)

Digital Bokeh in Photoshop

Step 4

Go to Window>Brushes (F5). The first thing to do in the Brush Engine is to select our new Brush. The size won't matter because you will change that when you use it. The Spacing, however, is very important. Chage the value to 100%. After that, select the Shape Dynamics, then Scattering and Other dynamics. For the values use the image below.

Digital Bokeh in Photoshop

Step 5

Before we start painting our bokehs let's create a new layer and fill it with a colorful gradient. I created a new layer and used the layer styles to do that but feel free to do the way you are used to. My gradient settings are as follows: Blend Mode is Overlay, Opacity is 100%, Style is Linear, and the Angle is 45º. The colors I used are: Yellow (#00085), Cyan (#1bdaeb), Purple (#9b3b81), Orange (#d27e34).

Digital Bokeh in Photoshop

Step 6

Let's create a new Folder in our Layer Palette. Rename the folder to Bokehs and change the Blend Mode to Color Dodge. Then create a new layer, choose white for the color and select the Brush Tool (B). Now just paint some ellipses with our custom brush. For this first layer use a big size, like 500-600px.

Digital Bokeh in Photoshop

Step 7

Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. For this first layer use 20 pixels for the Radius.

Digital Bokeh in Photoshop

Step 8

Create another layer and paint more brushes. This time however use a smaller size for the brush. After that go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Use 4 pixels for the Radius.

Digital Bokeh in Photoshop

Step 9

Create another layer and repeat the previous step, this time however use a much smaller brush. Apply the Gaussian Blur to this layer as well, but use only 1 pixel for the Radius.

Digital Bokeh in Photoshop


Now just add your logo and that's it. We have a nice wallpaper. The idea of this tutorial was once again to show the power of the Brush Engine. You can try different shapes for this same effect, like hexagons for example. Also you can play a bit with the blurs to add more depth to the final design. Now it's up to you.

Digital Bokeh in Photoshop
Click on the image for a full preview

Video Tutorial

Below there is a quick video version illustrating the whole tutorial.

Digital Bokeh in Photoshop from fabio sasso on Vimeo.

Download the Photoshop File

Click here to download the PSD file used for this tutorial

Editor: David Parrott

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