Meet PicMonkey’s Photo Blur Effects

Meet PicMonkey’s Photo Blur Effects

Blurry photos? Aren’t those supposed to be a bad thing? Okay but hear us out though, an artistic blur effect can be gorgeous in the extreme. Gently blurred landscapes, softened photo backgrounds to make your subjects stand out, bokeh bokeh bokeh—we’re into it. And PicMonkey has tons of specialized tools that will help you achieve the perfect blur: just soft enough, but not too fuzzy to tell what’s going on.

Today, we’ll walk you through our cast of blur-ful characters, give some brief how-to’s, and offer our humble opinions on what types of images benefit from which blur image effect.

Soften Image Blur: The Classic


Our Soften tool gives an all-over blur to any image in a single click. Sweet, you’re done! See you next time.

… Okay, if you want to be a leeeeettle bit choosier, you can also use Soften like a micro-targeted laser beam of downy photo blur. Here’s how:

  1. Open your image in the Editor.
  2. Select Soften in the Effects tab.
  3. When the Paint palette appears, click the checkbox labeled Reverse effect. This lets you paint effects onto select areas of your image.
  4. Paint Soften over the areas you want to blur.

This pick-and-choose ability to paint on Soften comes in useful when you want to keep part of your image sharp and clear, but blur some areas. It’s sort of like a good baguette: crisp on the outside, chewy within.


Pro tip: Try painting Soften onto the background area of a photo featuring a person. Look at them pop! (If you accidentally soften too much, click Original to switch your paintbrush to an eraser, and de-blur the desired area.)

Bokeh Image Blur: The Beauty Queen

Here’s what you probably know about Bokeh: it’s a magical mystical photo filter that brings fairy-light wonder to any pic it touches. Now here’s what you may not know: PicMonkey’s Bokeh effect gives you tons of ways to customize.

Maybe you’ve pleasantly debated whether you want to deck out your images in hearts or stars, but it goes so much further than that, dear readers. For a real treat, check out the drop down menu within Bokeh, which offers a choice between Glowy and Soften.

There’s no way to go wrong with these two, but if you’re struck with indecision, consider that Glowy will preserve more of your photo’s detail, while Soften blurs the whole shebang.

Orton Image Blur: The Artsy One

Orton is kind of a big deal. It’s so famous, in fact, that we’ve given it a whole write-up of its own, but here’s the quick version: Orton is a famous photography technique that achieves saturated color and dreamy softness by layering two exposures of the same photo, a sharp original and a slightly out-of-focus copy. Our digital version does the same in one click.

Since photo effects are better with a little of your own inimitable touch, you’ll wanna get to know Orton’s sliders for fiddling and other joyful experiments:

  • Bloom. Effectively: how out of focus that blurry copy is, a.k.a your level of blur.
  • Brightness. Light it up, baby!
  • Fade. The overall strength of the effect.

And of course, don’t forget the Paint palette. It gives you that sweet, sweet ability to paint Orton onto or off of specific parts of your image.

Focal Zoom and Focal Soften: The Sporty Ones

If you ever find yourself thinking, “This photo is all right, but what it really needs is an EPIC ACTION SEQUENCE,” then we’ve got the blur tool for you: Focal Zoom. This one-click filter works whooshy wonders on shots of cars, bikes, and other objects in motion. However, it can also be used to up the intensity of pretty much any image. For example, are you seeing how the focal zoom makes this statue come alive?! RUN HE’S GOT A STICK.

Blur backgrounds (but leave subjects in crystalline focus) with our Focal Soften effect. Focal Soften is your cheat-sheet-study-guide version of selective softening: instead of painting on and off, you pick one spotlight and everything else blurs. Adjust the size of your spotlight and amount of blur with the effect’s sliders.

Miniature Image Blur: The Mysterious Warlock

PicMonkey's Miniature image blur effect

Photo by Ar.Abdull88 on Flickr // CC 2.0

Like Albus Dumbledore, the Miniature effect is magical, whimsical, and shouldn’t necessarily impart life lessons to children. Modeled after tilt-shift photography’s use of selective focus, PicMonkey’s Miniature effect uses targeted photo blurring to make objects in your pic appear toy-sized.

Mobile’s Blur and Soften: The Busy Bees

The PicMonkey mobile app's Blur tool in Adjustments.

The PicMonkey mobile app’s Blur tool in Adjustments.

Last but not least, get a blur effect in your mobile snaps with our dynamic snugglesome duo, Blur and Soften.

Blur, located in Adjustments, adds a Focal-Soften-esque halo of fuzz to your image. Soften, meanwhile, is basically the Soften you know and love from our online editor; find it under Effects. Both are fantastic options for on-the-go editing, whether you want an all-over blur or to draw attention to one object in a shot.

P.S. Learn how to make your photos awesomer while you’re out and about using our mobile adjustments.

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Elisa Chavez
Elisa Chavez is a content writer here at PicMonkey, where she hopes to change the world one dinosaur selfie at a time. She is also a nationally ranked slam poet, champion shopper, and doting dog mama.