How to Add Bokeh Using Photoshop

By |2018-08-04T12:33:06+00:00February 12th, 2017|Categories: Nicolesy Store, Tutorials, Videos|Tags: , , , |6 Comments

Beautiful, soft, and layered bokeh makes for a magical backdrop. The problem is, unless you are photographing a person in front of a Christmas tree, you may not get the look you want. However you can still create this effect in post-processing, and all it takes is a few bokeh photographs and a good starting image. With the proper setup you can take a simple photograph (left) and transform it into a gorgeous sparkling scene (right):

Tips for a good image (main subject) for applying bokeh:

  • Use a long telephoto lens and a wide aperture (such as ƒ/4, ƒ/2.8, or wider)
  • Blur the background with a simple, plain backdrop (a one-color backdrop is ideal; you also don’t want to be able to make out much detail in the background)
  • Make sure that the main subject is far enough from the backdrop to compress the background and make it blurry

Tips for creating a bokeh background image:

  • Use holiday lights and string them up against a simple backdrop
  • Use a long telephoto lens and a wide aperture (such as ƒ/2.8 or wider)
  • Or, download my Nicolesy Bokeh Overlay pack with 200 photographic bokeh images to use in your own photos

Tutorial — Adding Bokeh using Photoshop:

Download a FREE Bokeh Overlay:

Please use the form below to download a sample bokeh image. This download is FREE to all subscribers of my newsletter:

This download is available free to all subscribers of my newsletter. If you are already subscribed, enter your subscriber information below and the download will appear automatically. If you are a new subscriber, please enter your info and look for a confirmation email in your inbox. Then, return to this page to access your download.

Click Here to Download the Sample Bokeh Overlay

Bokeh Overlays

Set of 200 High-Resolution Photographic Overlays

Add a magical, realistic, and soft background effect to your images with this set of 200 bokeh images. These are real photographs of bokeh (not created digitally), and work well with portraits, still-life, and any image with a soft and out-of-focus background.

Click here to learn more about this overlay pack.

About the Author:

Nicole S. Young is a professional photographer and published author whose love of photography and teaching has grown into an online business where she creates training materials and resources for other photographers. Nicole is best known for her books on food photography, but is widely versed in a variety of photographic genres, including landscape, travel, lifestyle, and even underwater photography. You can learn more about Nicole's work on her website,


  1. Al Gordon February 15, 2017 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Excellent tutorial, I will play around with the sample image and maybe purchase the full set…
    I like the idea of using a B&W Bokeh and using a color blend to fine tune it…Thanks Nicole!

  2. Les Cornwell February 16, 2017 at 1:41 am - Reply

    Clear and instructive tutorial, Nicole. I wonder, as I’m trying to phase out Photoshop entirely, whether this could be done in ON1 Photo RAW 2017.

    • Nicole S. Young February 16, 2017 at 9:09 am - Reply

      Yes, it definitely can. Some of the technique would be different, such as ON1 does not have the ability to create layer styles or clip one layer to another. However you can achieve a very similar effect using either ON1 Photo in Layers or Effects. (BTW my Bokeh overlays come with ON1 Presets and installs to get you started.) :)

  3. Troy March 18, 2017 at 10:07 am - Reply

    I am enjoying my Bokeh set.

  4. Debbie Gilman December 5, 2018 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    I can’t tell you how easy you make Photoshop. THANK YOU!

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