I Chronicles 29:11 "Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty:for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all."

Monday, July 06, 2009

Paint.Net Tutorial: Blurry Background

Welcome to the second installment of the Paint.NET tutorials. Today I'll be sharing how to make a blurry background. Why would you want to do that? Well, because it looks cool. Sometimes there's something in a photo you want to stand out, but you don't want to go the whole color pop route. Here's a great alternative.

Let's get started. Now, if you're new to Paint.NET, don't worry. I always make the tutorials as newbie-friendly as possible. If you're not new, then let's all be patient together and start at the beginning.

When you open Paint.NET (which you can download here) this is the screen you'll see.
The only boxes we'll be using today are the 'To...' (skinny one at the top left of the screen) and the 'Layers' box. You can close out the 'Colors' box, as it won't be used. Then it will be out of your way.

The first thing you'll want to do is open up the file where you've stored your picture. You do this by going to the manila folder under the word 'Edit' at the top of the screen. Once you have your photo open, we'll need to make an exact copy in a new layer.

We do this by holding down CTRL and pressing 'A'. This selects the whole photo (or ALL). Next we need to copy it, so we hold CTRL and press 'C'. This copies what we've just selected. Now, to paste it into a new layer, we hold down CTRL with Shift, and press 'V'. This makes an exact copy right on top of the other one we've already opened.

Why do we want to do this? Because we can manipulate the top layer, and do cool stuff to it while preserving the original underneath. Let's just get into the doing of it, and then you'll see what I mean.

Now, if you look to the left of your screen, you will see the 'Layers' box now has two layers. Background- (which we'll call L1) and Layer 2 (which we'll call L2). We will click on L2 to make sure it's highlighted. It's the layer we want to work on. Then un-check the box next to L1 so it disappears. We're going to be erasing here, and since L1 and L2 are identical, we won't be able to tell where we've erased if L1 is still visible. Make sense?

Choose the subject you want to focus on in your photo. Here, it is obviously the pink flower with the bee on it. So I'll click in my 'To...' box on the eraser tool. Then I'll adjust the size so I can erase around most of the edges without having to change it again. You set the eraser size here. (This window only shows up after you have clicked on the eraser tool.)
You may also need to zoom in to see the edges of what you want to emphasize a little better. No problem. Just look at the top toolbar, (above and a little to the right of where you set the eraser size) where it says 'window' and has the plus and minus signs on either side. If you click the plus, it will zoom in. If you click the minus it will zoom out. Ok?

If you do zoom in, make sure you adjust your eraser size to fit your needs. Let's move on.

Now you can start erasing! You may want to do a bunch of little clicks rather than one or two large swooping ones. That way if you mess up and have to click undo (the little blue arrow at the top below 'Layers' that curves to the left), you won't lose too much work.

Don't freak out when you erase and see a white and gray checkerboard pattern underneath. That's good. It means you've closed L1 and are seeing nothing left underneath. Just keep erasing until you have erased every part you want to emphasize in your photo. Like this.
Now you'll want to go up to the top to 'Effects'. Then scroll down to Blur, and choose Gaussian Blur. Adjust the slide bar to the right to determine the amount of blur.
This will blur your L2 while preserving the L1 underneath, so essentially the background looks blurry, and your emphasized (erased) part will pop in crystal clear focus. How can you see this for yourself? Go back to your 'Layers' box on the right side of the screen, and re-check the box on L1. Your erased parts will pop up and look great! See?
This works especially well when you have people you're focusing on and want to blur the background. Experiment, and if you blog, post your results. I'd love to see them!


  • MoziEsm√©

    I am so excited to find this blog! I've always been paranoid of Photoshop - something about the "layers" scares me. And at this point I can't afford it, either. But paint.net is "affordable" - and you've explained things so simply here that I think I can figure it out!

  • Hans

    You're the best teacher ever! I learned how to blur the background (and later, how to make colors pop) following your clear and simple instructions. I'll definitely look forward to more of your Paint.Net tutorials. More power to you!

  • debske

    Thank you so much! You saved me from buying a new (dslr) camera, cause I thought only those kinds make your photo blurry LOL!

  • Vivien Chen

    In my blog post I used this technique to blur out my background. Thanks a ton! =D http://viviverse.blogspot.com/2012/03/diy-braid-with-lace.html

  • adarsh

    thanks. Very helpfull

  • Bambi

    Awesome instructions - thanks. Very easy to follow and solved this very long personal mystery.

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