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Add motion to an image for added impact

Added on Monday 2nd of May 2011 04:15 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


There are times when you find what would be the perfect image for an application, but it’s missing one thing: a sense of motion. The good news is that you can use Photoshop, more specifically the Motion Blur filter, to add motion to your image.


To add motion to an image in Photoshop, we’ll:

•     Talk about what image to use for the technique.

•     Walk through making a selection using channels and perfecting that selection.

•     Create an alpha channel in order to apply the Motion Blur filter.

•     Apply this technique on both an object and a background to show the difference



Adding motion is useful, not only when you want to add a sense of motion, but also when you want to focus on a specific part of an image, such as an item in the foreground or even the entire background of an image. For example, imagine an image in which a car is driving slowly down a street. You want to focus on the car so you apply a motion blur on the background, which makes the car look as though it’s zooming past the viewer. The car can remain quite sharp while the background is almost unrecognizable. Next, imagine you have an image of a beautiful scene but there’s a car spoiling the shot. You can apply some motion blur to the car, drawing focus to the scene and away from the car.


Step 1: Choose an image

The image you choose is a very important decision. Choosing a photograph of a tortoise and adding motion blur will seem strange unless you’re being humorous. You’ll want to choose an image where the end effect is believable, such as an athlete running or a group of cyclists whizzing by. In this article we’ll use a photo of a man riding a windboard (basically a windsurfing board on wheels, or a skateboard with a sail). The image, shown in Figure A, works well because these boards can travel quite quickly, and the result of blurring either the foreground or the background of the image is quite believable.



Step 2: Select elements within an image

It’s necessary to separate foreground and background elements to create a convincing motion effect. Using a variety of selection tools, it’s easy and relatively quick to select the areas you want.

Start with the Channels panel (Window > Channels). By clicking on the Red, Green, or Blue channel names, you’ll see solid areas of color that you can select easily. In the case of this image, the sky becomes a solid grey area when the Blue channel is selected, as shown in Figure B.



Once you’ve made your selection, switch back to the RGB color view by clicking on the RGB channel. Now is a good time to invert your selection by choosing Select > Inverse from the menu bar. At this point, the sailboard, man, parking lot, fence, and ocean are selected. Since we only want the sailboard and the man in our selection, we can use the Lasso tool to deselect large areas of the background, and then we can refine the selection further after that.


Finalize the selection

Make sure the Subtract From Selection option is selected from the tool options bar. Next, use the Zoom tool to zoom in on the area containing the remaining areas to be deselected—in our example it’s the parking lot. Using a combination of the Magic Wand tool and the Lasso tool, and ensuring that Subtract From Selection is active, we deselected the area surrounding the windboarder.

Now you can zoom out before moving on to the next step. The easiest way to do this is to either doubl...


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