Buttery Bokeh Made Easy in Photoshop

Everyone loves a soft, buttery bokeh to make their subject stand out against a busy background, but it's not always possible to make it in camera. Maybe the lighting conditions or physical environment don't cooperate, or perhaps you just haven't shelled out for that superfast f/1.4 prime yet. But all is not lost thanks to the magic of Photoshop.

Creating a soft bokeh is actually a fairly simple process, as Unmesh Dinda at PiXimperfect shows us in this tutorial. The power of Photoshop is really on display in this video as we see the program's A.I. create a reasonably accurate selection that is easily cleaned up with some masking and clone stamping. The tilt-shift blur effects give users plenty of options to achieve the desired look, and Dinda finishes off the image with some curve layers and color work. 

The difference between the original image and the finished work is subtle until you look at them side by side and see what a tremendous difference the bokeh makes. The subtlety, though, is what makes the finished image convincing. It's always easy to over-process an image, but Dinda shows how to get the right effect without overdoing it and blowing out highlights, for instance. 

If you've ever made an image that could be enhanced with some bokeh, give this tutorial a shot and post your image or comments below. 

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26 Comments

Brian Pernicone's picture

If you smeared butter (or a similar substance) on glass, it would create a smooth, soft blur, hence “buttery.” Kind of like how they used to put Vaseline on lenses when filming soap operas back in the day. “Vaseliney” just didn’t have the same ring to it.

Mark Stutzel's picture

Great tutorial, thank you!

Excellent, Ive been looking for something like this. Thank You

bokeh doesnt look aesthetic. bokeh of OOF lights shot with a lens at open apertures arent blurry. they are quite sharpish edges of the lights. heres its like they took a background of decent bokeh and blurred it. theres no definition of the lines between the bokeh. its just a blurry mess of circles

No man, buttery not blurry. 🤣

Leigh Miller's picture

Sheesh...less time intensive to just buy a fast lens.

Spy Black's picture

That presumes you can afford to buy said lens.

Despite what some egocentric moron thinks or thinks they know, you dont need an f1.4 for nice bokeh. A nice f1.8 would do the trick or you can flatout and i mean all out cheat and shop it.

an 85 and 50 1.8 wont break the bank. you can get used afd versions for very little.

Spy Black's picture

Yes but Leigh said a FAST lens. What cracks me up more is people's aversion to this Photoshop technique.

Motti Bembaron's picture

85mm and 50m 1.8 ARE fast lenses :-)

Motti Bembaron's picture

I have a second hand Nikon 50mm f1.8, I paid less than $100 for it.

Spy Black's picture

Yes, but that's not an 85mm f/1.4. :-)

Motti Bembaron's picture

If one cannot achieve this look with 50mm f/1.8 they will not achieve it with any lens.

Spy Black's picture

Hence this neat Photoshop option. :-)

John Cliff's picture

fake it 'til you break it

Buttery? Seriously? Thanks Bobby Flay for that wonderful choice of a word in a failed attempt to impress. Your overall scope of the Bokeh Process was covered and for a mindless amatuer such as myself, easily understood. Why must poeple use dumb, corny ass words to help convey to someone that they know what theyre talking about? Hmm, why's that? Buttery? Really laughing out loud here. Note NOT lol. What would you call perfectly executed astrophotography? Careful now, ma y of us have cholesteral problems. Ok. Ok. Enough. Playtime is over. Back to work. Buttery? Thanks🤣

Spy Black's picture

"Buttery smooth" is an age old term used to describe desirable bokeh, since the whole fad of bokeh entered the western market decades ago. Where have you been?

Brian, not by any chance do you have a method of adding that extra layer of buttery goodness to fresh baked buttery bread. Maybe Ansel Adams had that recipe. Ill check his biography.

user-223296's picture

screw bokeh! take a good photograph and forget any 'tricks' required.

Chris Silvis's picture

The butthurt is buttery thick with this crowd.