Create a Bokeh Brush Effect in Photoshop

A Bokeh Effect in photos is something that can be easily created with an experienced photographer. Bokeh is a method that causes the background to be blurry while keeping the focal point the center of attention. This helps the viewer identify what they are supposed to be looking at. You can see this method be used in a lot of photos such as engagement, wedding, senior portraits, and so on! In this tutorial I will show you how you can create a digital bokeh effect in Adobe Photoshop to create a soft subtle background.

Let’s Get Started!

new file and dark background
First you are going to need to Create a New File in Adobe Photoshop (Cmd/Ctrl + N). Make sure your background is super dark and Click OK.

select your ellipse tool for your bokeh brush

Go into your layers panel and unlock your background and then click on the Eye Ball icon to the left to hide it. Go into your Shapes (U) and select your Ellipse tool. This will be the start of your bokeh brush.

adjust your colors

Make sure your fill and stroke is black. To make the adjustments just go into your Properties Panel. Make your stroke 15px. You can certainly thin it up a bit if you want more of a delicate and subtle look.

layer blending

Go into the layers panel and make sure your Ellipse layer is selected. Go to the bottom of the panel and select Add a Layer Style (the fx icon) and select Blending Options. Bring down your Fill Opacity down between 40-60% and click OK.

brush tip

Select your Ellipse and go into Edit-> Define Brush Preset. Name your brush preset to Bokeh. Click OK. Go into your Brush Tool (B). Go to the top left of your screen and select your new Bokeh brush. Go to the folder with the brushes on it to toggle the Brush Panel. This is where we will make a few effects to get the brush to be less uniform and more of a smattering of circles. With the Brush Tip Shape highlighted adjust your sizing to 275-500 px. With Spacing selected bring it up to about 100%. Being loose with the numbers are ok.

shape dynamics

Check the Shape Dynamics and bring the Size Jitter to 75%, Minimum Diameter to about 30%.


Check Scattering and Make your Scatter 1000%, Count to about 6, and your Count Jitter to 12%.


Check the Transfer and bring the Opacity Jitter to 50% and the Flow Jitter to 75%. Now that you’ve made those checks click on the New icon on the bottom right of the panel. This will bring a pop up to name your new brush! Name this one Bokeh final.

gradient layer

Go into your Layers Panel and click on the bottom to create a New Folder. Name that folder Bokeh. Now with the folder selected go to the bottom of the Layers panel and click on the Add Layer Style -> Gradient Overlay. For this I will be doing the Full Color Spectrum Rainbow Gradient. Make your blending set to Screen. Bring down your Opacity to 40-60%. Make your angle to about 30 degrees and the Scale maxed out at 150%. Everything in this Folder will have this same effect.

Background layer

Create a new layer in the Bokeh folder and name it background. Take your new brush make the dots to a larger size (about 300) and move it across the canvas. You’ll notice the colors spray out in random places. Now go into Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur. Make your blur 19. Click OK. Bring the opacity down on the background layer to 50% in the Layers Panel.

middle layer

Create a new layer on top of the Background layer in the Bokeh folder and name it middle layer. With your Bokeh Final brush make the brush size about 200. Swipe the brush across the canvas. Now go into Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur. Make your blur 6. Click OK. Now adjust your Opacity to the middle layer to 80%.

top layer

Lastly create one more layer in the Bokeh Folder and name it top layer. With your Bokeh Final brush make the brush size about 150. Swipe the brush across the canvas. Now go into Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur. Make your blur 2. Click OK.


There you have it a Bokeh brush that gives the blurred effect that is sought after. Try this technique with other gradient styles to see what you get! If you like this tutorial, be sure to check my others and share it to people you know.




Share Button

About Lindsay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *