I will be teaching you a simple way to enhance your photos by creating and adding beautiful bokeh overlays in Photoshop!
Tutorial photo from Adobe Stock: https://stock.adobe.com/308849960
Creating the Bokeh Effect from Scratch
In this tutorial, I won’t be using bokeh stock photos to apply to your image. Instead, I will be teaching you how to do everything from scratch!
Start by clicking on the New Layer icon to create a new layer.
Then, press the D key on your keyboard to set the default foreground and background colors, black and white.
Next, fill the layer with black, which is the foreground color, by pressing Alt Backspace (Windows) or Option Delete (macOS).
Once you have filled your layer with black, go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. You are on the right track if your current layer is filled with the same pattern of white noise that you see on television.
The Amount value depends on the dimensions of your image, so adjust the value until the noise fill looks similar to the photo below. Then, press OK to exit the window and apply the filter.
Go back to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Same as what I did to the Bokeh, adjust the value of the blur until it looks like this:
Press OK again to exit the window and go to Image > Adjustment Threshold.
The Threshold adjustment makes pixels either black or white. Dragging the handle to the left and right will give me more or fewer specks.
For this tutorial, a couple of well-distributed specks is what I need, so I will set it at a Threshold Level of 126. But your image may require a different value. Press OK when you are done.
Turning Specks into Bokeh Overlays in Photoshop
Next, go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur.
In your workspace area, you will find the Light Bokeh under the Effects tab. From here, adjust the Light Bokeh slider to intensify the brightness of the specks.
On the Blur Tools, adjust the Blur slider to enlarge the specks and truly emulate the bokeh effect.
Back on the Effects tab, adjusting the Light Range slider will reveal more numbers of bokeh, so adjust accordingly. When you’re satisfied with the amount, size, and brightness of the bokeh, press OK to apply the changes and exit the window.
Applying the Bokeh Effect on Your Photo
Go back to the Layers panel, select the Background layer and press Ctrl J (Windows) or Command J (macOS) to duplicate the layer.
Then, I will drag and place the Background Copy above the Bokeh layer because I will be using it as the colors for the bokeh. To avoid confusion, I will rename this layer as Color.
Next, press Ctrl G (Windows) or Command G (macOS) to clip the Background Copy and only affect the layer below.
Go back to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Adjust the Radius slider until you can no longer see the silhouette of the subject and all that is left are the smooth gradations of the colors. Press OK again.
Then, change the Blending Mode of the layer to Color so the Bokeh layer will take in the colors of the Background Copy
Change the Blending Mode of the Bokeh layer to Screen to get rid of the black pixels and only retain the bright pixels.
You can also go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to adjust the hue, saturation, and lightness of the colors in the layer.
Adjusting the Intensity of the Bokeh
If you still find yourself unsatisfied with the result, you can always go back and tweak the bokeh overlays in Photoshop until it suits your taste. To do this, go to Image > Adjustment > Levels. Here, you can adjust the intensity of the bokeh by dragging the handles to either side.
Transforming the Bokeh Layer
If you want to adjust or move the placement of the bokeh around the image, hold the Shift key while dragging the corner handles to expand or contract the coverage of the layer over the image. This will give you full control to make sure your subject is not overwhelmed or covered by the bokeh effect.
And that’s how you create the bokeh effect from scratch! With this, you can enhance night photos and turn it more soft and glowy—the possibilities where you can apply this technique are just endless!