Photoshop How To: Using Spin Blur

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Photoshop Spin Blur Overview

The original image- a blue sports car - is shown.
Spin Blur was added to Photoshop CC 2014.

One of the really neat features of the Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 release was the inclusion of a Spin Blur. Prior to this release creating spinning wheels in Photoshop was, to say the least, a time-consuming process. You would have to create a copy of the wheel in a new layer, distort it to make it circular, somehow find the magic setting for the Radial Blur filter and then distort the wheel back into its original position and perspective. 

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Create A Smart Object in Photoshop

Convert to Smart Object menu item is shown.
Convert to layer to a Smart Object.

The first thing you need to do is convert the image layer to a Smart Object. The advantage here is the ability to reopen the Blur and “tweak” it at any time. To do this, right-click on the Layer and select  Convert To Smart Object from the Context menu. 

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Use The Magnifying Glass To Zoom In On Subject

The image is zoomed into one of the car's tires.
Zoom in on the subject.

You want to get this right. Select the Magnifying Glass or Zoom tool or press the Z key and click and drag to zoom in on the tire. You should note the tire is not exactly perfectly round and zooming in will let you be a lot more precise when fitting the Spin Blur to the tire.

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How To Locate The Photoshop Spin Blur

The Spin Blur from the Blur gallery menu item is shown.
Spin Blur is found in the Blur Gallery.

The Spin Blur is not l an individual Blur effect. It is found with the other new Blur Effects in the Blur Gallery. You can find it at Filter > Blur Gallery> Spin Blur. This will add the blur to the image. Drag it over the tire. 

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How To Adjust The Spin Blur Shape

The path used to adjust the shape and spread of the Spin Blur is shown.
Adjust the shape and spread of the Spin Blur.

There are four handles that appear. The outer handles (Top,Bottom,Left,Right) are used to change the shape of the ellipse and to rotate it. The inner handles – the white dots – determine the fade off of the blur. The Blur Center is the handle in the middle. If you want to move it, press the Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) key and drag the centre handle to the middle of the wheel rim or object being spun. 

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How To Adjust the Photoshop Spin Blur Properties

The Blur Tools and Motion Blur Effects panels are shown.
The Spin Blur properties are adjusted using two panels.

There are two places where you can “tweak” the Blur properties. In the Blur Tools panel you can change the angle of the blur. In the Motion Blur Effects panel you adjust the strobe strength. Here’s what they do:

  • Strobe Flashes:  Strobe lights flash. This virtual strobe light letts you determine how many flashes.
  • Strobe Strength: This setting determines how much blurring is displayed between strobe flash exposures.
  • Strobe Flash Duration:  Lets you specify, in degrees, the length of a strobe flash exposure. 
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How To Apply The Photoshop Spin Blur

The blur is applied to the front tire.
The blur is applied to the front wheel.

Click OK to accept the changes.At this point you have created the spin but the devil is in the details and we need to apply the same spin to the rear wheel. 

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How To Duplicate A Photoshop Spin Blur

The blur is copied and added to the rear tire.
The blur is duplicated and applied to the rear wheel.

This is not hard to accomplish. Double-click the Blur Gallery layer to open the effect. With the Option/Alt-Command/Ctrl keys held down drag a copy of the effect to the rear wheel. Use the handles and the properties panels to get the shape and effect correct. This would also be a good time to “tweak” the Spin Blur on the front wheel. When finished, click OK. 

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More Uses For Photoshop's Spin Blur

Spin Blur applied to a clock face.
Your only limit to its application is your own limit put on your creativity.

The great thing about graphic software is, once you figure out what it can do, the only limits to your creativity are those you set on yourself. In this example I used the same spin blur on both faces of the clock to give the feeling of accelerated time or a clock out of control. This effect can be used on anything. Need a stagecoach’s wheels to look fast? Spin them. Need a flower or other stationary object to move? Spin it. Just remember, if your reason for applying this effect is “Hey, it’s cool.” then you might want to rethink why you are using it. If there is no reason for an effect then there is a reason as to why it shouldn’t be applied.