How to Blur Backgrounds

Blurred Background GIF

Have you ever noticed what a difference a beautiful blurred background can make to a photo? If you get the background blurred just right, it can really make your subject POP from the background. Gorgeous!




Step 0: Downloading the Image

For this tutorial, we’ll be using this lovely portrait.

In addition to this written tutorial, you can also watch our video tutorial on blurring the background of your images.



Step 1: Select That Subject

With the image opened in Affinity Photo, we need to start by selecting the subject of our photo. In this case, we’ll select the woman.

Open the Photo


First, get out the Selection Brush Tool.

Then paint a selection across the woman.

If you accidentally select too much (no worries, happens all the time), you can hold down Alt (Mac) or Option (PC) on your keyboard while painting to remove from your selection.

You can also adjust your brush size by using the bracket keys beneath the equal sign on your keyboard ( [ and ] ).

With a rough selection made, it’s time to refine the selection.

In the Context Toolbar, press Refine.

Selection Brush Tool, then Refine


This button automatically refines your selection (like magic!)

Refines Selection


To make the selection even better, paint around the edges of her hair. This will tell Affinity to have a second look at refining the edges of her hair.

Paint Edges of Hair


After your selection is looking good, press Apply.

Press Apply



Step 2: Blur the Background

It’s the moment that we’ve all been waiting for. The blurring effect!

We need to select the background in order to blur it. Right now, we have everything except the background selected, so we’ll need to invert our selection.

Press Command Shift I (Mac) or Control Shift I (PC) to invert the selection.

Invert Selection


With the background selected, we can apply a Gaussian Blur Filter.

Press on the Filters icon.

Filter icon


Apply a Gaussian Blur Filter.

Gaussian Blur Filter


Increase the Radius in the Dialog Box to blur the background. The higher the Radius, the bigger the blur.

Don’t increase the Radius too much, or it won’t look quite right.

This blurring is giving our picture opaque edges. To fix this, check on Preserve Alpha in the Dialog Box.

Increase Radius, Preserve Alpha


Press Command D (Mac) or Control D (PC) to deselect.




Step 3: Enhancing the Lighting 

Now we’ll enhance the lighting in our image.

First, select the Background layer in the Layers Panel.

Then press on the Filters icon.

Background layer, Filters icon


Apply a Lighting Filter.

Lighting Filter


Zoom out by pressing Command – (Mac) or Control – (PC).

Zoom Out


Using the top handle, click and drag to move the light source up and to the left.

Top handle, Move source


Using the bottom middle handle, reposition the light source.

Bottom Middle Handle, Reposition


Our picture looks a bit too dark now, but we can fix that by increasing the Ambient slider in the Dialog Box.

Increase Ambient Light


Press on the Ambient light color, and change it to a light orange to warm up the image.

This is looking good, so exit from the Dialog Box.

Ambient Color to Orange


Press Command 0 (Mac) or Control 0 (PC) to zoom back into the picture.

Zoom Out


To make the lighting softer, select the image layer in the Layers Panel, then press Command J (Mac) or Control J (PC) to duplicate it.

Group, then Duplicate


Change the top layer’s Blend Mode from Normal to Soft Light.

Blend Mode to Soft Light


This has added a beautiful soft light effect to the picture, but it might be a little too strong. To fix this, lower the Opacity by clicking and dragging to the left on the word Opacity in the Layers Panel.

Alter Opacity


With the Soft Light effect applied, this blurred background is looking great! 



Nice work, friends!

Dog High Five GIF