I'm assuming that this sort of thing should be done in photoshop and not illustrator, so please correct me if you feel otherwise. I'm trying to create circles with blurred stroke in photoshop like the example shown below:

blurry rings

Ignoring the gradient behind the rings, what is the best way to accomplish this? Currently, I'm using the Ellipse Tool with a Fill Opacity of 0% and Stroke (size: 10, opacity: 30%, blend mode: Soft Light). This does not produce the desired results:


Any ideas what I'm doing wrong? Is there a different way to feathering the stroke instead of blurring it?

4 Answers 4


If you'd like everything to remain editable and scalable at a later date, your best option is to use a shape layer with some mask feathering applied.

enter image description here

That way, you can change the colour, add a gradient or do whatever you like to the circle layer(s), even scale them up or down with no negative side effects.

Note that there's a few ways you can make the circles: You could draw a single circle and use a vector stroke (CS6 only and required to get a blurry edge), or you could draw two shapes and use Subtract Front Shape on the smaller/frontmost one. The later option lets you apply another stroke to the edge (or you could use layer styles).

  • +1. I really like the idea of keeping the circles as vector objects because I'm doing this for an app logo. With the bigger screens comes the need to scale images up. Unfortunately I don't have CS6 so I can't try out this method. Feb 2, 2013 at 13:21

Let me propose an additional method that may interest you.

First create your arcs as a vector path (in the Paths panel):


Then create a new raster layer and use Stroke Path...:


The current Brush settings will be used (assuming you select Brush) so make sure it has low Hardness and moderate Flow to get a nice soft edge.

If you keep the vector path you can always easily regenerate your blurred strokes.


Create all your circles, then merge the layers and apply a blur.

Alternatively you can create a smart object out of the Circle layers and then apply a blur as a smart filter.


  • @MuhammadUmer Please read more closely.
    – Scott
    Jan 31, 2013 at 1:57
  • +1. This worked perfectly for me since I only have CS3. Since I can't try out Marc's solution, I'll give it a few days and let the voters decide this one. Feb 2, 2013 at 13:28

If you have Illustrator CS6 or above, you can change the stroke to a gradient and keep it linear. Underneath is a stroke option which you set to across stroke. Now make you gradient your desired color 0% opacity at locations 0 % and 100%. Depending on the size of the stroke add pairs of more opacity colors in the middle. For a small 10 pt stroke at locations 45% and 55% add sliders with an opacity between 50-75%

Now If you have Photoshop CS6 as well you can copy & paste this as a smart object into your image.

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