Lens Blur: 2D & 3D art hint


I have learned this trick from my friend and collegue 3D artist Pavel Kondrarenko.
We made a bunch of high detailed promo artworks for the World of Speed game together.

Let's see how to create high quality Lens Blur effect. The work with a girl will be my example.

After rendering something in 3D package you can get some passes for further applying to the main image usually.
For instance, here is Clown Pass, it contents useful colored masks for the parts of your model.
Material Pass contents masks by materials, Highlights Pass contents highlights masks etc.

Let's focus on Depth Pass. In fact, it represents as a map of heights.

So how can you use it?
At first, you must correct and overpaint the rendered image to the near-final condition in Photoshop.

Put the Depth Map in Alpha Channel: select all on the unlocked Layer with Alpha Channel Ctrl+A,
copy it Ctrl+C, create a new Channel in the Channels Tab and paste the map in it Ctrl+V.

Main menu, choose Filter - Blur - Lens Blur...
In Depth Map select the Sourse - its must be your Alpha.
Now you can play with the sliders and the settings and choose the effect that you will like the most.

For example, Shape - Hexagon will give you bright Hexagons on the highlights like it is some kind of real camera lens effect.
All of these types of Lens Blur effects are better than standard Photoshop filter Gaussian Blur or Blur Tool (the drop in Tool Panel).

Though you can level up Blur Tool tool by changing the brush shape and its settings. But this tool is better for color blending and motion blur effects.

At last, you can enjoy the show: just click on any point on the image and you will get the focal point of your virtual camera on it automatically.
You can get focused on any of the visual plane – the foreground, the middle or the background.
If you don't like the result just correct the source Depth Map image with Levels/Curves/Brightness/Contrast/Brushes/Masks/Gradients - any of your favorite Photoshop instruments for the tone correction.

And then just use the Filter again.

HINT However After Effects has the best Lens Blur filters and if you are kind of the guy that seeks perfection - use this program.

So how can you use this trick if you don't have Depth Map or 3D model?
You can draw it by yourself. We are the artists at least, lets use the imagination power!

Here is an example – my Gothic Future artwork.
I changed the rendered image too much to apply Depth Map from the 3D package.
But I have Layers according to the air perspective so I can use them for my own handmaded Depth Map.

Here we go, now I can choose the focal point again.

With this technique you can add 3D effect to your absolutely flat 2D artwork without using any of the real 3D packages.
What kind of profit do we have now? We have more realism and showiness in our works! That’s what I am always seeking for.
My last advice is just don't go too far with all of these tricks and hints because they don't suit well for any kind of purposes.

In Gothic Future I just added a little blur on the background, Focal Point will be more useful rather for the animation in this case.
I always tell my students to pay attention to our three best friends (Mrs. Composition, Mr. Contrast and Mr. Light) instead of using these little tricks.


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