The Digital Darkroom; Path Blur Photoshop

The Digital Darkroom is a series of posts aimed at beginners and those interested in Digital Photography and Editing. In previous weeks we have looked at basic adjustments, curves, editing colour with the HSL/Color panels, black and white toning, split toning, local adjustments, sharpening, noise reduction and Lens Correction and Camera Calibration in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. Moving into Photoshop we have looked at the program’s layout,basic adjustments to light, basic adjustments to colour, basic black and white adjustments, Basic Sharpening, Basic Noise Reduction, Creating Presets and Actions, Basic Masks, Making Selections, Refining Selections, Using the Pen Tool, Clone Stamp, Heal Tool, Patch Tool, Content Aware, Smart Objects, Basic Blur Filters, Field Blur, Iris Blur Tilt Shift Blur and this week Path Blur.
If you wish to check out previous posts in the series you can do here.

Within The blur gallery there are two motion blur options; this week we will be looking at path blur. Path blur allows you to choose a point in the image and create a path for the blur to follow. The path can be a straight line of a curve. This is a useful blur filter as it can add motion to an image that can feel natural and not forced, like when using motion blur. Also you are able to have multiple paths in an image allowing you to create more complicated blurs for a subject which is moving in more than one direction at a time.



A path blur will first appear as a straight line with an arrow head showing the direction of the blur. By clicking on the ends you can move them where you want. In the middle of this line is an anchor that allows you to curve the blur. Additional anchors can be added to the path, allowing you to create a curvier path for the blur. To move an anchor simply click and drag.

basics2Within the blur options you have the choice of a basic blur and rear flash sync. Basic is a simple motion blur that follows the path. Rear sync flash however reveals some detail under the blur replicating a motion blur that has a flash going of as the exposure is coming to an end. Personally I like rear sync flash as it leaves some details.

For the options of how much blur you can apply, speed and taper. Speed is how strong the blur is and Taper the amount of added to the ends of the path; the lower the taper the more blur is seen on the edge.

End Point Speed, lets you set how much or how much less of a blur is applied to the ends of the path. This means you can set the back or the blur to 0 and blur increases from here, or increase the front of the path making the blur more intense here. Edit Blur Shape goes one step further, giving you control over the direction of the end point blur.


In the above the picture the blur is one path and it is affecting the whole scene, this is nothing to be worried about. I set the back end of the path to 0 so there is no extra blurring here and increased the end point blur at the front end of the blur. I also used Edit Blur Shape to make the blur more of a curve.

Multiple blurs

As with previous blur gallery filters you can add multiple pins to an image, with path blur you can add multiple paths. This is especially good if there are areas of the image moving in opposite directions or an area needs some more blurring as there are multiple objects going at different speeds.

Making the blur realistic

Sail Boat Path Blur

The Path Blur Preview shows the blur effect as a global effect. Most of the time this is undesirable and as with the most filters refining the effect is accomplished with a mask. Using the mask lets you create contrast and separation between what is moving and what you want to be static. It also allows you to make quite drastic blurs that can be tamed. The contrast between the static and the blur also gives the impression of greater movement. The separation masking brings, helps to emphasise what is important in the frame. A few elements blurred the blurred area is the focus, a large area blurred then the un-blurred area is the focus.

Examples Of The Use Of Path Blur

Adding More Motion

With any action shot you wish to freeze the moment yet have it as kinetic as possible. This picture had the ball frozen in the air and a great pose from the through but felt too static. Adding a few paths where different movement would have taken place I was able to add more motion to the shot and give it a more kinetic feel. I used a mask to tame the blur effect and make sure the face of the subject was not blurred.

Faux Long Exposure

This picture was much more of an experiment, using path blur to simulate a long exposure. I applied the path blur on two differnt layers and the merged them together. I applied on path blur to the sky and masked away the foreground. On a second layer I applied multiple paths on the blur to give a feeling of randomness to simulate the wind blowing the wild grass. On the second layer i used the filter mask to preserve the ridge in the background.

Path Blur is a great filter when needing to add motion with a natural feel not just in a straight line and therefore can trump motion blur. However the motion blur filter has its own place for special effects.

If you have any questions or comments please use the comment box below, all are welcome as this series is designed to help people learn how to use Photoshop and Lightroom.

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