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How to create a realistic motion blur effect

Motion blur appears naturally when taking photos of moving objects or using longer exposure times, creating the impression of speed and movement. However, even if you snapped a photo without any motion blur, you can easily create the effect using Pixelmator Pro.

Feel free to follow along with the photo we’re using by downloading it below.

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Step 1

Separate the main subject from the background

The key to achieving this effect is applying different amounts of blur to the main subject and the background. This simulates the effect of taking a photo while moving the camera in line with the subject.

First select your subject and copy it onto a new layer. Use the usual tricks to make a perfect selection — start the selection with the Quick Selection tool and feel free to use other tools to make sure everything is selected accurately. Finally, refine the selection a little to add some softness. Name the layer Subject.


For more info on selecting and copying objects, see Copy an object from one image to another.

Step 2

Remove the main subject from the background

Now that you’ve put the subject on a separate layer, remove it from the background. First, hide the newly created layer by clicking its visibility icon in the Layers sidebar.

Choose the Repair tool and use its magic to remove the object from the background layer.

Step 3

Add some motion blur to the background

With the background layer still selected, choose Format > Effects > Blur > Motion. Customize the direction and strength of the blur — because our subject is moving horizontally, we can leave the Angle at 0º. For the Radius, we’ll choose 35 px.

As we’re blurring a background layer, we don’t want to create any transparency around its edges. Click the Motion effect’s pop-up menu and choose Preserve Transparency.

Step 4

Add some motion blur to the subject

To add some movement to the subject, we’ll also blur it a little. First, duplicate the Subject layer and select the lower one of the two. Apply the Motion effect to it, with the same angle and a Radius of 45 px.

Move this blurred version of the subject a little behind the in-focus version in terms of its direction of movement. Our subject is moving left to right, so we’ll move the blurred subject to the left by about 30 px. The amount might differ depending on the size of your image and the strength of the effect that you’re going for.

Finally, here’s the finished version alongside the original. Simple but effective!