Possible Duplicate:
How to get this blur texture effect in photoshop?

I'm starting from a plain old screenshot, and I'd like it rotated in 3d, with more distant parts more blurry. Is there a simple way to achieve this effect? I'm mostly using GIMP but tricks with any other tools would also be appreciated!

The result of what I'm trying to achieve:

enter image description here

  • 2
    The possible duplicate specifies Photoshop and the answer given is a Photoshop filter that might not exist in gimp - there's room for a gimp and Photoshop version of this question. Retagging Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 17:54

8 Answers 8


Your example looks like a real photo (amongst other things, the moire is a give-away). Sometimes the best approach is the most obvious one.

1. Display the image on your screen.

2. Take a photo of it.

Honestly, that's a better way to go than spending hours using digital effects and creating something that's likely to look unrealistic.

  • This is probably the way to go 99% of the time, as it's not like it requires a lot of expensive props or specialized equipment. But if you happen to not have a camera with you or need to simulate a screen on a concept device, then the Photoshop/Gimp route is still viable. But yea, his example definitely seems like a real photo (though the moire pattern is from the rescaling of the image interacting with the pixel grid; it's not there if you look at the full-size version). Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 4:38
  • If you need a photo on a concept device, you could take a photo, then corner pin the result. I definitely see your point though — in a situation like that I'd probably just do it all digitally. Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 10:43
  • 2
    He's asking about how to reproduce this effect digitally. Sure, you can take a picture of the screen, that's the obvious answer. But what if you have 100 screens you want to do this too? Having a digital technique that you can batch is much faster and better.
    – Hanna
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 19:36
  • 100 screens? Set up a tripod and a way to easily flip through the images, and fly through the job. Just because the technique is analogue doesn't mean it's slow or can't be reproduced for many images. Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 22:48

enter image description here

  1. I used vanishing point to get the angle.
  2. Copied the layer.
  3. Applied lens blur to match the blur part to the most blurry part in your image.
  4. Applied mask, and oval gradient at right to mask blur, and also applied tilted reflected gradient.
  5. Then, applied black gradient left to right and somewhat titled and set mode to desaturate lowered opacity.
  6. Then, copied the layer and set the mode to multiply and adjusted the opacity of it as well.
  7. Crop out the empty parts.

I'm not a Gimp user, so I won't be able to help you much there, but I can give you some suggestions on how to create this effect in Photoshop. There are basically 2 components to this. First, you need to simulate an LCD display or some other physical surface the image is to be projected onto. Secondly, you need to create perspective cues via 3D perspective and a tilt-shift photography effect.

Part I: Faux LCD Projection

An LCD screen is typically comprised of an RGB pixel grid. There are varying subpixel geometries, but the most common has vertical bands of red, green, blue in that order. This means that when you zoom in on the interface between a light and dark region, there is a slight red tinge on the left border of the illuminated area, and a slight blue tinge on the right border. Additionally, you can usually see the vertical rows that make up the overall pixel grid (often referred to as "scan lines" even though that's a term from CRT displays).

So to simulate this part is quite simple:

  1. To simulate the RGB subpixels, just nudge the red channel over to the left (via the Channels pane), and nudge the blue channel to the right. Since the smallest amount you can alter a raster image is a full pixel, you generally want to start with a very high resolution image or this technique will up-play the subpixel offset too much (effectively representing a single subpixel in your virtual image with a full pixel in your actual image).
  2. The "scan lines" are also easy to reproduce. Start by create a 1x2 pixel transparent image; fill in one pixel; select the document and Define Pattern... (found in the edit menu).
  3. Next create a new layer over your source image and fill it with your new scan line pattern. Set the blending mode to Soft Light and opacity to ~20%.
  4. Duplicate that scan line layer, but this time set the blending mode to Normal and opacity to ~6%. Again, a high resolution source image helps here, as you don't want your scan lines to be disproportionately large, though that can be somewhat attenuated here by adjusting the opacity.

Part II: Perspective Cues

Current versions of Photoshop Extended really make this part so much easier than would otherwise be possible.

3D Perspective

  1. Group your source image and scan line overlay layers together so the whole thing is treated as a single virtual image.
  2. Now go to 3D->New 3D Postcard From Layer.
  3. Now just open up the 3D pane and use the 3D tools (mainly 3D Object Rotate Tool, 3D Object Roll Tool, 3D Object Pan Tool, 3D Object Slide Tool, and 3D Object Scale Tool) to adjust the perspective/orientation of the virtual image.
  4. When you're done, you can change the rendering quality from Interactive to Ray Traced Draft or Ray Traced Final.

Faux Tilt-Shift Effect

Finally, we put the finishing touches on the image by simulating the optical effects of a very shallow depth of field, which is often found in macro-photography or otherwise photographing a very close object. This part is quite easy with Photoshop also.

  1. Select your 3D layer and apply a layer mask to it (Layer->Layer Mask->Reveal All).
  2. Now take the gradient tool and create a black-white gradient across the layer mask to be used as the depth map. That means you want the darker portion to coincide with the more distant (along the Z-axis) part the virtual image, and whiter area to coincide with the closer parts. It's alright if you invert the depth mask, but just make sure the gradient angle matches the perspective of the virtual image. Once you've done this, disable the layer mask so it won't actually mask the layer.
  3. Lastly, use the Lens Blur effect to simulate that shallow depth of field. This particular tool is needed because, as cadmium stated, the optical distortions don't correspond with a simple Gaussian blur. Even as an approximation, simply varying the opacity of a fixed radius Gaussian blur does not come close to simulating a depth of field effect.

The end results after should look a little like this: A simulated tilt-shifted photo of an LCD screen displaying the Wikipedia page on "Focus (optics)"

This particular image is less than ideal because I started with a relatively low resolution source image. Also, I use the Ray Traced Draft quality setting for the 3D rendering to save on rendering time.


Here's a Flickr discussion that mentions alternate solutions and analogous plugins for Gimp for lens blur: http://www.flickr.com/groups/tilt-shift-fakes/discuss/72057594073514981/

The original post is likely incorrect, but the comments by other users that mention focus blur and depth maps will likely produce a comparable effect to lens blur.


To really achieve this affect digitally, you need to understand a little bit of what's going on optically. The source image has a limited depth of field. When part of an image taken by a camera is out of focus, it is distorted in a very particular way by the lens. The generic term for this effect is called bokeh.

From a visual standpoint the image is distorted by the shape of the aperture in the lens, and lighter portions of the image are emphasized, especially points of light. This effect cannot be achieved by a simple gaussian blur. Here is a great write up highlighting those differences https://photo.stackexchange.com/questions/21459/whats-the-difference-between-bokeh-and-gaussian-blur/21460#21460

The easiest way to achive this effect in an image processor is the Lens Blur filter in photoshop, which emulates bokeh pretty well. I would make a copy of the layer, apply the Lens Blur, and then use a gradient mask to control the effect. If you only need to do this once, you can get a trial of Photoshop free for 30 days.

Otherwise there may be some tutorials or plugins to give a similar effect in gimp, but if you want realism, make sure it goes beyond a simple blur.

  • I did always fell that there was difference in natural blurring and gaussian blur. Thanks for sharing this. I used lens blur in my answer too, cause from my experience this is what would come closer to the effect this question is looking for.
    – user8795
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 16:23

Something like this? The blur effect is overdoing it, and not mathematically correct - I just used the tools I currently have in Image View Plus More. The 3D rotation is in version 2.8 (available for download), but the gradual blend control is new in version 3 that I am not ready with. I can send you an exe to try if it is what you need. I can also make an actual gradual blur version that suits this task, instead of gradual blending a blurred version. I've had it in the to do list for a long time.


3D rotate gradual blur


First off, take your screenshot paste it into Photoshop.

Transform your screenshot (Edit >> Transform >> Perspective)

Then if you have Photoshop CS6 available I would recommend the Tilt-Shift blur functionality Filter >> Blur >> Tilt-Shift. If that's not an option you may have to do a little bit more work. If you go that route I would suggest duplicating your screenshot layer adding a Gaussian Blur (or a Lens Blur if you want to fine-tune it more) to one and then masking the blur out so that it's only visible on the sides. The purpose of this is to mimic depth-of-field.

Then add a slight overall Gaussian Blur (like 0.5 px) if you want it to look a little bit out of focus (as taking a picture of a screen typically does), and then add a little bit of noise if you you want to give it that sort of look. This may add a touch of "realism".

Here is my result: enter image description here

(click the image for a larger view)

  • Curious as to why the downvote was warranted?
    – Hanna
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 19:34
  • 1
    I wasn't the one that down voted, but as has been discussed, masking a blur does not emulate lens blur or tilt-shift blur. The depth of field effect varies the blur radius with depth. Changing the opacity on a blur with a uniform blur radius doesn't do that. Instead of slightly blurring the mid-depth, it just produces a translucent shadow/halo. Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 8:31

As a complement for the very good answers given before, there is a comprehensive tutorial about this technique on layersmagazine.com.

Okay, the screenshots are taken in photoshop but the technique is there, and it is the same whether you're working with gimp or any other software.


What you want to do is a gradient blur.

Don't know / didn't search for it using Gimp, but it's not that hard. Steps would be something like:

  1. duplicate the layer/image
  2. apply the blur that you want to the in the "worst" part, i.e., the one that will have the greater blur
  3. add a mask layer to this blured layer
  4. apply a 2-color gradient
  5. draw the gradient to that the edges get more blur, and the center of the image (or the point that you want to stay original) doesn't receive it.

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