Bokeh Effect

A colorful Bokeh effect is, in fact, one of the most impressive special effects out there that at the same time is extremely easy to create, especially with Pixelmator.

Layers, the Gradient Tool and the Defocus effect are used in this tutorial.

Step 1

Create a new image in Pixelmator. To achieve a result similar to the one shown in the tutorial, use a size of 1920×1200 pixels; however, feel free to use any other size as well.

Step 2

Fill the background layer with a black color. Choose Edit > Fill, set Color to black and click OK.

Step 3

In the Layers palette (View > Show Layers), click the Add button (+) to create a new layer. To create a blurry defocus for the image composition base, first double-click the Defocus effect in the Effects Browser (View > Show Effects Browser) and drag the sliders to set values approximately as follows: Size = 0.50, Blur = 0.30, Density = 0.59. Then set the Primary Color to white and the Secondary Color to black and click OK.

Please note that since the Defocus effect generates the effect randomly, your results may look different from the example in the image below.

Step 4

Duplicate the recently created layer by choosing Layer > Duplicate. Set the duplicated layerโ€™s Blending to Color Dodge, as the Color Dodge blending mode gives some depth to the circles.

Step 5

In the Layers palette click the Add button (+) to create another new layer. Change its Blending to Screen.

Step 6

To add small defocus circles to the recently created layer, select it and double-click the Defocus thumbnail again, then adjust the values to approximately: Time = 24, Size = 0.15, Blur = 0.03, Density = 0.75. Click OK.

Step 7

Click the Add button (+) to create another new layer above the others. Set the Blending to Screen. To add medium-sized defocus circles to the layer, double-click the Defocus effect, and adjust the values to approximately: Time = 0.00, Size = 0.30, Blur = 0.1, Density = 0.55. Click OK.

Step 8

In order to create a light blend between the circles, duplicate the recently created layer with the medium circles by choosing Layer > Duplicate, then change the duplicated layerโ€™s Blending to Color Dodge.

Step 9

In order to color the image, first click to add a new layer above the rest. Then click to select the Gradient Tool in the Tools palette; and, in the Gradients palette (View > Show Gradients), create your own gradient. You can also download the gradient thatโ€™s used in this tutorial here. Once the file is downloaded, double-click it and the gradient will appear in the Gradients palette.

Step 10

Apply the gradient to the recently created layer and change its Blending to Overlay, since the Overlay blending mode combines layers equally. And the Bokeh effect is done!

Tutorial Credits

Tutorial Comments

  1. soaringcheetah

    Great tut! Fast and easy. Some people just don’t know that there’s a “help” menu…

  2. Bee Apples

    I don’t understand how this is difficult, honestly! I got through it in 10 minutes max, and the results were flawless, thanks to the instructions. ๐Ÿ™‚ Great tutorial.

  3. DMar

    This tutorial was super simple and I love the result! It would take me a ton more time to do this in PS. Love the gradient application in real time… I just played with it for a while to see what I could do with it. Pixelmator gets huge ups from me and my MacBook Air 2nd Gen!

  4. wu jing

    This is really great! And easy to learn, I just suggest if in the coming tutorial, we can learn most of the important function will be more help, such as how to use ” magic wanted tool” etc.
    Thank you very much!

  5. ana luisa

    esta muy bonito

  6. Pete

    Ok, I dont know why people are complaining, this is top notch software (up there with photoshop) for absolutely nothing (compared to photoshop) the tut was really awesome, thanks ive been trying to work out how to do this since o git pixelmator. thx for the awesome tut.

  7. desert skys

    Was led to pixelmator from mac app store, DL the software to an imac with snowlepoard OS installed.

    Me thinks that users who have troubles are not creating or (adding) the layer(s) needed.

    Me found the software worked as the tutorial described,not so much the same as me fuss with the adjustments so nearly the same.

    I must say as a PHOTOSHOP CS4 user this is really cool stuff, NO BS. Quartz Composer is there and seems to work ok! Will follow up if it don’t


  8. Whitney Wooten

    Followed with no Problems great Results..

  9. Martin

    Good tutorial, as always. Yet, also as always, you might want to add some explanation every now and then. Here it would be helpful if you gave quick explanations on what the blending types do (I know you do for one of them) … just constructive criticism ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Luke

    Great tutorial, it would be nice to see more tutorials in the future.


  11. Jennifer M.

    Wow this one is really cool! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Arwym

    Both the tutorial and the effect are fantastic! Thank you very much!

  13. Anna

    I love the Bokeh effect. I am 11 and I found this tutorial pretty easy, and I didn’t have any help at all from my dad. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. PeterM11

    I too had no real problem following this tutorial. Really awesome how it turned out.
    Now I just need to learn how to remember how to do these things on my own.

  15. Connie

    I plan to try this tutorial soon but was wondering if anyone has done this with a photo instead of a black background? Thanks.

  16. Miku

    Um… It completely made sense to me… And I’m only 9…

  17. Maxie Alexei Toulouse

    It makes sense, what I think is that people do not read well and not pay attention to instructions. I did it and worked it nice!

  18. Cindy

    LOVE IT!!!

  19. Cindy

    @Anna Good Work Girl! ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. deiden

    For step six, blur should be 0.03

  21. LilleG

    Great tutorial! I had no trouble at all following it.

  22. LilleG

    For those who don’t know what the various Blend modes do, and want to, there is a fairly comprehensive article that explains most of them here:

  23. yandere

    worked like a charm, and I learned a bit about the gradients + layering too! Thanks !

  24. Rae

    Wow thanks for the tutorial!! This is my first time using Pixelmator (and I’m not familiar with Photoshop) so this really helped. The learn section is a great idea! Thanks for the great tutorial!

  25. Wolfos

    Only works on black background, so it’s completely useless.

  26. jennifer

    I’m trying to apply the bokeh effect to a night photo?? I’ve been trying but so far I can’t figure it out. Any ideas?

  27. Royallena

    This really work it’s so amazing ^^

  28. Nowe testy na prawo jazdy

    Very nice tutorial

  29. Krystal

    Great tutorial. Easy to follow for beginners that want to learn how to use Pixelmator. Thank you for publishing this tutorial and sharing your knowledge with everyone. ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. Pedro Domingues

    The mine is even more brutal!!!!!

  31. David Foley

    Really liking the tutorials, but curiosity gets me here! With the disclaimer that (a) I’m not a photographer, (b) I’m not a graphic artist of any kind and (c) just got this great app called Pixelmator…. this isn’t really bokeh, is it? Rather than rant, I’ll just put a link in to the Wikipedia definition for convenience sake. Im probably missing something, but are there any tutorials on the photographic effect?

  32. Ausra

    Hi David, in a way you are right. This is not a real bokeh created with camera lens. We haven’t created a tutorial for the effect you are looking for, but you can try playing with the Blur effect.

  33. Gioele

    The tutorial is so easy but I have a terrible bug that makes each bokeh circle cut-off by invisible squares! HELP ME!

  34. Ausra

    @Gioele, sorry about this. We are aware of this bug and looking for ways to solve it.

  35. Adrian

    I’m getting the circles cut off with squares too …. will there be a fix any time soon?

  36. Ausra

    @ Adrian, it fixed with OS X Yosemite.

  37. Adam

    Just wanted to drop in and say I loved the tutorial.

    Very concise, and easy to follow.

    Would love to see more!


    If you’re reading this, you’re all set, pardner!

  39. bilete avion ieftine

    I blog quite often and I really appreciate your information. The
    article has truly peaked my interest. I will take a note of your blog and keep checking for new information about once a
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  40. Philip

    Where is the effects browser (you sent indicate this…. thx

  41. Philip

    Where is the effects browser – it doesn’t say… thx


    This was a great tut! Pixelmator is awesome! Love it!

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