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  Tutorials Photoshop Photo Editing How to Simulate Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop (Exclusive Tutorial)

How to Simulate Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop (Exclusive Tutorial)

Abhishekk Photo Editing Jun 11, 2012

If you are unaware of the tilt shift effect, then let me throw some light on the basic concepts before starting out with this tutorial. Well, “tilt shift” as the name sounds, is an optical illusion in which the photographer tries to bring a selective area of interest into focus while defocussing the remaining area, using specially designed DSLR lenses that often cost hundreds of dollars.

The same effect can be exactly recreated in Adobe Photoshop and this is what my tutorial is all about. Tilt shifts are of two major types - horizontal tilt shifts and vertical tilt shifts. In horizontal tilt shifts - the area under focus is covered horizontally while in vertical tilt shifts - the area under focus is covered vertically. My tutorial explains how to get any type of tilt shifts successfully. So without wasting any more time here we go...

Photos used:

Times Square Billboards (for horizontal tilt shift)

Statue of Liberty (for vertical tilt shift)

Simulating Horizontal Tilt Shifts

Step 1

Open up the photo in Photoshop and press “ctrl+Q“ OR select “Edit in Quick Mask Mode” from the select drop down option.

Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop

Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop

Step 2

Select the “Gradient Tool” from the left toolbar and make sure that the settings on the top bar match to that of the screenshot below. You will be required to select normal mode, second last rectangular box (reflected gradient) and the black/white gradient editor. Please refer the screenshot below...

Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop

Step 3

This is the trickiest part of the tutorial. You have to properly plan where to have the maximum focus and where to have the minimum focus. Once planned, keep the shift key pressed (for straight lines) and start by click-drag the pointer from the intended area of maximum focus (traversed vertically NOT horizontally) till the point where you would like your focus to end. Then release the shift key and mouse click. You will see that the area intended for the desired focus is painted in red reflected gradient. Refer the screenshot below. However if you are not satisfied with the results, you can always restart the process by pressing ctrl+z.

Thus for horizontal tilt shifts, you will have to select the focus (of the horizontal component) from the vertical axis and NOT from the horizontal axis. Keep this is mind. In my example, I have intended to keep the maximum focus on the horizontal barricades, so I started by placing the pointer from the middle of the barricades till the lower ground (traversed vertically)

Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop

Step 4

Now de-select the quick mask mode (either by pressing ctrl+Q or from the top navigation select bar)

You will notice dotted lines shieling the barricades from the blurring effect which we will be applying in the next step.

Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop

Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop

Step 5

From the top navigation bar, under the filters - choose blur - then Gaussian blur. Select an optimum value (somewhere around 4.5 is good) and you are done!!

Remove the dotted lines by pressing ctrl+D. Congrats! You just completed your horizontal tilt shift.

Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop

Simulating Vertical Tilt Shifts

The process of applying tilt shift vertically is pretty much the same as above, except that you will have to select the focus by traversing the pointer horizontally. For an example, I have taken this photo of statue of liberty. My intended area of focus is the statue itself which stands vertically.

Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop

I start by placing the pointer on the middle of the statue and then extending the drag of the click a little bit more right-side (all this horizontally traversed while the shift key was being pressed). This way, the whole statue comes in vertical focus as depicted by the reddish reflected gradient.

Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop

Now repeat the steps 4 to 5 to get the final vertical tilt shift photo.

Tilt Shift Effect in Photoshop

Thanks for reading the tutorial


Abhishek is a part time blogger based in New Delhi, whose area of interests include photography, digital photo editing and tech related news. To know more about him and his work, do pay a visit to his photography blog, where he shares many photography tips, basics and photo editing tutorials for beginners.

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