Use Bokeh Effects to Beautify Your Photos

Whether you’re on team BOH-kay or team BOH-kə, there’s one thing every photo enthusiast can agree on—bokeh effects are the bee’s knees. Pick your preferred pronunciation, and dive into the world of gorgeous blurry shapes. We’ll take a look at different ways to bokehfy your pics with PicMonkey’s tools, so you can reach a new level of photo editing wizardry.

What are bokeh effects?

Bokeh comes from the Japanese word “boke,” which means “blur” or “haze.” It’s defined as a characteristic of a photograph—basically, it’s the eye-poppingly gorgeous effect you get when the out-of-focus parts of your image create a pleasing blur. Bokeh usually looks like fuzzy shapes (circles are the most common) and it’s super popular thanks to the glowy vibe it creates.

You can create bokeh in-camera with some different lenses and a little know-how (check out our article about Christmas light photography for a quick rundown). You can also add it after the shutter snaps with PicMonkey, and because we want you to have as many creativity tools at your disposal as possible, we’ve loaded up our Editor with two bokeh effect options:

  1. Bokeh Shapes photo filter. You’ll find this geometric gem in the Effects tab. Choose from five different shapes, adjust their size, and choose your blur (Glowy or Soften). Go Glowy if you wanna keep more of your photo’s detail, and use Soften if you want more all-over blurriness.

  2. Bokeh textures. You can access a bounty of bokeh options in the Textures tab. Play with everything from sparkles to black background/multicolored circle combos, adjust the Saturation and Fade sliders to customize your look, and don’t forget about that blend mode drop-down menu.

Both options come equipped with the ability to paint on and erase your bokeh—meaning you can put it right where you want it! Just click the paintbrush button. Try out any and all of the bokeh options and give these different looks a try.

1. Emphasize your subject with a bokeh background

There are plenty of ways to blur your pics in an artistic fashion, but bokeh has a certain je ne sais quoi. Make your subject pop against a gorgeous out-of-focus backdrop by applying the bokeh filter or bokeh texture to just the background of your photo. You can create depth by layering bokeh onto your image and erasing it from the focus area.

2. Set the mood with bokeh shapes

Remember how we told ya that there are five different shapes to choose from in Bokeh Shapes? Think of them as the photo editing equivalents of lighting and music—each one can help create a different mood for your photo. Sweeten up your pic with hearts. Add a touch of whimsy with stars. Give your holiday photo card an extra dose of warm fuzzy feels with gleaming circles. Put them all together and create a mixed bag of emotions. You have the power, and the bokeh filters.

3. Amplify image elements with bokeh

A bit of bokeh can make your image elements more magical. Get artsy and sprinkle a little above the coffee cup in the foreground of your morning joe pic, or add some extra pizazz to that sparkler in your New Year’s Eve shot.

4. Spotlight on bokeh

Bokeh is great at taking a back seat, subtly blurring your photo’s background while letting your subject ride shotgun. But that doesn’t mean it can’t handle being the star. Change things up by making it the focal point of your rainy cityscape photo, or put it in your design repertoire and add a bokeh texture to a blank canvas.

Tips for using bokeh

Even something as beautiful as bokeh has the potential to go awry. Here are a couple guidelines to help you avoid frustration and create something stunning. Of course, rules are made to be broken, so go with whatever makes your eyeballs happy.

  • Erasing is your friend. Don’t want bokeh on certain parts of your image? You can remove it (either as a texture or effect) by clicking Original on the Paint palette. Adjust your brush, and make as much or as little of the bokeh disappear as you like. Generally speaking, you should avoid putting bokeh on faces, clothes, or bodies—although, we’ve been known to break this rule a time or two. Try different looks and see what works best with each photo.

  • Size it right. Use your best judgement when it comes to the size of your shapes. Try to make sure they aren’t too large and overwhelming, or too small and imperceptible. The Size slider in the Bokeh Shapes effect makes experimenting simple, and the variety of bokeh textures provide plenty of options.

Let your creativity run free with a PicMonkey membership.

This article was written by PicMonkey Staff, a multicellular organism of hive-minded sub-parts who just wanna get you the ideas and information you crave, so you can make powerful images that level up your business.