How to Add Bokeh Using Photoshop

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:

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Click Here to Download the Sample Bokeh Overlay

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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.

By | 2017-06-14T09:24:09+00:00 February 12th, 2017|4 Comments

About the Author:

My name is Nicole and I'm a photographer, author, & educator living in Portland, Oregon, USA. When I'm not making photos I'm writing books and tutorials for my online store, Learn more about me and my story here.

4 Comments

  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.

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