Home GIMP Tutorials How to Create Colorful Bokeh Effect with GIMP

How to Create Colorful Bokeh Effect with GIMP

Ever spotted a photo with a colorful bokeh background? Technically, you need a decent background to create this sort of photo. Like a Christmas tree or city lights. While you can create a colorful bokeh with your lens, you can also create one using GIMP. Yeay! That is what we are going to discuss in this tutorial.

To create a colorful bokeh effect in GIMP we will need several layers. We are going to take advantage of Paintbrush Tool to create the dots (circle) of the bokeh. I am going to use the circle shape in this tutorial, but you can use your own preferred shape if you want.

So, let’s go.

Bonus: Most essential GIMP shortcuts

Step 1: create a new file and change the foreground color.

The very first step you need to do is to create a new file in GIMP. To do so, click File -> New.

You can use any image size. In this example I use a 3000×2000 image. Once you created the new image and got the canvas, change its foreground color to dark grey (I use dark grey with the hexacode of “1d1d1d”). To change the foreground itself, click the Foreground menu on the Toolbox panel.

Select your preferred color on the appearing popup of color selector. If you want to use the same color as me, you can paste the “1d1d1d” code to HTML notation field and click the OK button.

To apply the color, click the Bucket Fill Tool on the Toolbox panel and click anywhere within the canvas area.

Step 2: Create a new custom shape for Paintbrush Tool

As mentioned, I am going to use the circle shape as the bokeh effect. To create this shape, create a new file with the smaller size. I use 500×500 size on this example. Click the the Advanced Options button and select Transparency on the Fill with option. Then click the OK button.

Draw a circle shape using the Ellipse Select Tool.

Before starting to draw the circle on the canvas, you can set the aspect ratio of the circle to 1:1 (fixed) to get an completely circle shape.

Now, you can start drawing the circle.

Next, click the Pencil Tool on the Toolbox panel.

And select Hardness 100. Reduce the size to 5px.

Go to the Edit -> Stroke Selection menu and select the Stroke with a paint tool option and click the Stroke button.

Click the Bucket Fill Tool on the Toolbox panel.

Reduce its opacity to 50 and click inside the circle area to fill it.

Next, go to Select -> None.

Press the Ctrl+C on your keyboard to select this circle as brush.

Step 3: Create the first transparent layer for the bokeh effect

You will need several transparent layers to add the the dots for the bokeh effect. Return to the first canvas to start creating one. Go to Layer -> New Layer menu and select Transparency option on the Layer Fill Type section.

Once you got the new transparency layer, disable the background layer (the layer you created on the Step 1).

Click Paintbrush Tool option on the Toolbox panel.

Increase the size of the brush to about 500.

Still on the same panel, check the Apply Jitter option and set the amount to 10.

Next, — still on the same panel — create a new Dimanics. Set the Opacity and Size to Random (see the screencast below).

Increase the size of the brush to about 800.

With Paintbrush Tool selected, give left mouse clicks inside the canvas. Just don’t give too much clicks since you will repeat the step on the next layers.

Next, go to Colors -> Invert

Then, apply the Gaussian Blur filter by going to Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur.

Set the blur radius to about 80 before clicking the OK button.

Step 4: Create the second transparent layer for the bokeh effect.

To get a better result we are going to use several transparent layers with the vary circle sizes. Don’t worry, you don’t have to repeat all of the points from the step 3 above since you have created Dynamics, which is can be used for recurring use. For this step, you just need to reduce the brush size a bit smaller.

Go to Layer -> New Layer menu and select Transparency option on the Layer Fill Type section.

Reduce the brush size a bit smaller.

With Paintbrush Tool selected, give left mouse clicks inside the canvas. Just don’t give too much clicks since you will repeat the step on the next layers.

Go to Colors -> Invert

Apply the Gaussian Blur filter by going to Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur.

Set the blur radius lower than the layer above before clicking the OK button. I use 40×40 in this example.

Step 5: Create the third transparent layer for the bokeh effect.

To create the third transparent layer for the bokeh effect you can follow the instructions on the step 4 above. Just use the smaller brush size as we as the lower blur radius.

Now you have had three transparent layers for the bokeh effect. You can rename each layer if you want.

Step 6: create a new white layer (remember, white)

To create a white layer, go to Layer -> New layer just like usual. Before clicking the OK button, be sure to select White on the Layer Fill Type section.

Once you got a new white layer, go to Filters -> Render -> Clouds -> Difference Clouds.

On the appearing pop-up dialog, click the New Seed button and click the OK button.

Change the Mode to Overly.

Now, enable the Background layer (the layer you created on the Step 1).

Step 7: Add new a transparent layer for colorful background

As usual, go Layer -> New Layer. Select Transparency option on the Layer Fill Type section before clicking the OK button.

Click Blend Tool on the Toolbox panel.

Change the Gradient to Full Saturation.

Next, add the diagonal gradient by drawing a diagonal line from the top-left of the canvas to the bottom-right of the canvas.

Change the Mode to Overly.

Duplicate this layer and move it (the duplicated layer), right above the Background layer.

Reduce its opacity to about 20%.

Change the Mode of the top circle layer to Grain Merge.

Step 8: Add new a black layer on the top

This is the final step. Go to Layer -> New Layer menu select Foreground color option on the Layer Fill Type section.

Go to Filters -> Lights and Shadows -> Lens Flare.

Change the Mode to Screen.

Done!

Following is the end result of all steps above.

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