In this tutorial you’ll learn how to create beautiful (and useful) custom blurs using a series of Smart Objects and Smart Filters. Along the way you’ll learn to use the Actions and History panels to automate and streamline the tedious parts of the process.

We’ll be using these blurs as image overlays (custom photo filters) as well as the foundation upon which we’ll build custom textures.

Here are a few other blurs from my growing collection.

Endless Possibilities

Every image leads to a different result.

This blur (at right) is what we’ll be creating in the following videos.

Project Preview

The Actions you’ll be creating will lead to the default results. Take your time, learn the process, and begin to grasp the virtually unlimited creative possibilities at your fingertips.

Here is the starter file.

Docking the Actions and History Panels

Learn more about customizing your workspace as we organize panels to optimize our workflow.

And pay attention to the details.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you know the steps by heart—by practicing again and again, it may be time to automate the process. Actions allow you to skip repetitive tasks and focus on creative decision making.

Recording the First Action

Let’s create an action set, our first action, and roll back time using History to verify our action works.

If you don’t already, you’ll soon see that Actions are a production artist’s best friend.

Practice Upsample and Blur

Yes, we’re breaking rules by upsampling and changing the aspect ratio, but we’re doing it with intent. Blurs are fairly forgiving so we’re not really torturing pixels.

Remember to work at 5000 x 5000 px @ 300 ppi.

The Upsample and Blur Action

Now that we understand the steps, let’s record our second Action.

The Light Grain Action

Now you’re beginning to understand just how useful these Actions will be. This one will be easy.

Don’t forget to change settings in the Effects Channel to -10, 10, 10, and 10 as shown in the video.

The Motion Blur Action

Use the default customization as shown but understand that you’ll be altering the angle more times than not.

Remember not to crank the Motion Blur Distance beyond 100.

Advice and Preview of Things to Come

Once you become adept at creating useful (and beautiful) blurs, the addition of the 3DLUT Action opens another creative world.

We’ll get to that in Part II.

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