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Enhance Graphics with Easy Depth of Field
In this article, I’m going to show you some practical ways of adding depth, or a simulated “Depth of Field” effect to your graphics. These techniques will help you create images that appear to have three dimensions by emulating how your eyes focus in on certain objects while obscuring others.
Depth of Field in Photography
If you’re a photographer, you may be interested in seeing our article on Depth of Field in Photography. This tutorial is geared towards people who would like to imitate the DOF effect using software like Photoshop
Easy Depth of Field
What is “Depth of Field”? I’ll dodge the technical answer here and save you a lot of time. Basically, depth of field is what causes that blurry effect you see in photographs. It allows you to focus in on a part of scene, and keep other parts of the same seen unfocused.
It’s really easier to see than to explain:
In the photo above, you can see how the strawberry, the bottom of the spoon, and part of the edge of the bowl are all in focus, while parts of objects outside of this plane seem quite a bit more blurry. This is called depth of field… in a really simplified manner.
It’s pretty easy to simulate this effect in Photoshop. The two main factors that make Depth of Field effects possible in Photoshop are the emulation of Distance, and the perception of Focus.
Example #1 – Depth between Objects
In this example, we can see distance demonstrated by the layering and size of the cloud objects. Objects further back are smaller, and are behind the clouds which are closer up.
Focus is also emulated in this example by applying a small Gaussian Blur to clouds REALLY close up, or far away. This makes the clouds in the middle seem the most in focus.
Example #2 – Depth of Field on a Plane
Looking at the Top example in the image above, it would seem that both circular objects are the same distance away from the viewer on a make-believe plane. The Object on the left appears to be MUCH larger than the one on the right.
In order to add some depth, we must adjust the placement of the objects. As you can see in the lower example, the object on the right immediately appears further back when we move it just a small bit along our make-believe plane. Not only does it appear further back, but it also seems like both objects could both be the same size (things look smaller when they are further back).
To add a small focus effect, I’ve added a small Gaussian Blur to the right object. I’ve also enhanced the lighting of the Plane by adding a small gradient to it.
Trying out Easy Depth of Field
Let’s give easy depth of field a go. I’ve prepared an example document to work with that you can download here.
There are 4 layers in this document, respectively named Large, Medium, Small, and Background for the objects in the document. Using the Move Tool, drag each of the objects to a place in the document, so that the larger the object is, the closer it is to the viewer on the plane. Note: I’ve added some grid lines to help show our imaginary plane.
From this point, we just need to decide where on the plane we’d like to focus in on. See the darker horizontal lines in the image above? Try to choose two of those lines to focus in on (make sharper), and then proceed to blur the objects outside of those lines. The further from the area you’re focusing on, the stronger the blur should be.
I’ve highlighted my area of focus on the plane in green.
And there you have it! Simulated Depth of Field, in just a few easy steps that can be applied to nearly ANY situation!