Super Simple Bokeh Ball Effect

The glowing balls we’ll add to the picture are called bokeh balls. If you want to learn how to create bokeh balls in camera, check out this snazzy video. Buuuut if you’re like me, and would prefer an easier way to replicate this effect in Affinity Photo, read on! 🙂

model without bokehmodel with bokeh



Step 0: Downloading the Images

For this tutorial, we’ll be using this lovely portrait. You’ll also need an image of bokeh balls. Here are four bokeh ball images that you can download for free. I’m going to use the first bokeh ball image for this tutorial.

In addition to this written tutorial, you can also watch our video tutorial on creating a bokeh ball effect. 🙂



Step 1: Setting Everything Up

First, open the portrait photo and the bokeh ball image inside Affinity Photo.

Come to the bokeh ball image, and copy it by pressing Command C (Mac), or Control C (PC).

Then come to the portrait image, and paste the bokeh balls by pressing Command V (Mac) or Control C (PC).

Now both images should be inside the same document.

place both images inside of the same document



Step 2: Changing the Blend Mode

Right now, our bokeh balls are completely covering the portrait photo. To fix this, select the bokeh ball layer, and change its Blend Mode to Screen.

change the blend mode to screen

Now the dark parts of the bokeh layer have disappeared, with only the bright parts remaining.

If you want to learn more about blend modes, you can watch this incredible tutorial from the Photoshop Training Channel. Don’t worry, even though the video was made for Photoshop, everything he talks about still applies to Affinity Photo. Both apps use the exact same blend modes.



Step 3: Resizing, Rotating, Flipping

Select the Move Tool from the Tool Panel, or activate it by pressing V on your keyboard.

Select the Move Tool. The keyboard shortcut is V.


Unlike people, not all keyboard shortcuts are created equal. Some shortcuts are much more important to memorize than other ones. If I were you, I would definitely memorize the keyboard shortcut for the Move Tool (V), since you’ll use this tool a lot in Affinity Photo.

Unlike people, not all keyboard shortcuts are created equal.

Using the Move Tool, go ahead and resize and position the bokeh balls however you want.

You may also want to flip the bokeh ball image, which you can do by right clicking anywhere in the document, and then going to Transform, Flip Horizontal or Flip Vertical.

You can flip the image.



Step 4: Color Correction

By this point, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the color of our bokeh balls doesn’t match the rest of our image. At all.

Luckily, this is very easy to fix.

Just come to the Adjustment icon, and apply a Recolor Adjustment Layer.

Apply a recolor adjustment layer.


We want the Recolor Adjustment to only affect the bokeh ball layer. To do this, we need to make it a child layer.

We can make it a child layer by dragging the adjustment layer down and to the right of the bokeh ball layer. We learn more about child layers in our complete beginner’s guide to Affinity Photo.

Make the adjustment layer a child layer.


Now that our adjustment is only affecting the bokeh ball layer, you can set its hue and saturation to whatever you like. For this photo, I’ll make the Hue 35°, and the Saturation 60%.

Change the hue and saturation.


And just like that, the bokeh balls have been color corrected.



Step 5: Finishing Touches

At this point, our effect is “done”, but I have a few more tips for you.

First, apply a Levels Adjustment Layer, and make it a child layer to the bokeh.

Quick tip: You can apply a Levels Adjustment by pressing Command L (Mac) or Control L (PC).

With a Levels Adjustment, we can remove some of the haziness that the bokeh balls are producing. All you need to do is increase the Black Level. I’ll set mine to 10%.

Change the black level inside the Levels Adjustment.


Finally, we can remove the bokeh ball effect from any part of the photo. To do this, select the bokeh ball layer, and then apply a mask to it.

Apply a mask to the bokeh ball layer.


Now select the mask, by pressing on its layer icon.

Select the mask.


Then press B to activate the Paint Brush Tool.

Select the paint brush tool.


Now we can paint anywhere on the photo to remove the bokeh ball effect.  

Just make sure your color is set to black, and your Hardness is 0%. You’ll also want the Flow around 10%, so that you can slowly and subtly remove the bokeh ball effect.

Change the hardness and flow.


I’ll paint on the woman’s face, to remove some of the bokeh ball’s haziness from there.

Completed bokeh ball effect.


You’re now a bokeh ball master!