Photo retouching tutorial:

Adding a wheel spin rotation effect using Photoshop's Radial Blur filter.

Adding motion to a photo with Photoshop radial blur filter

Photo Retouching Tutorials

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Simulating Wheel Spin Blurring in Action Photos

Radial motion blurring is a result of a slow shutter speed, while photographing a fast-spinning object such as the wheel of a car or motorcycle. This Photoshop tutorial is designed to instruct on the use of Photoshop's Radial Blur filter to add the wheel-spin effect of the rapid spinning motion from a rotating object such as a wheel, fan, or propeller.

Now that we have added motion to the background, the fast-spinning wheels don't match the speed-blur of the background. We will use Photoshop's Radial Blur filter to add a spinning motion rotation-blur to the wheels, so that they simulate the same slow shutter-speed effect. There are three settings in the Radial Blur Filter dialog box: Amount (in pixels), Blur Method (Spin or Zoom), and Quality (Draft, Good, Best).

Photoshop Radial Blur Filter

Make a selection around each wheel using the Paths and Pen Tool (above, left) which is much easier to use on an oval object than the Polygonal Lasso tool. Make your selection in the darkest area of the tire so that the transition from blurred to static is not visible. You will also want to feather your selection by 2 pixels so that there is not an abrupt edge.

Motion Blur Photo Retouching

Copy and paste the wheel into a new layer (Command>C then Command>V), and Command>Shift click the new wheel layer in the Photoshop Layers palette to select it. You do not want to blur the wheel without first selecting each wheel individually. This will force the radial filter to only focus on the single wheel, making its central axil point the axis of rotation. Open the Radial Blur Filter (Filter>Blur>Radial Blur...) located in the upper menu-bar.

Set the amount of radial motion blurring to around 25 pixels, so that some detail remains in the blurred object. Set the blur 'Quality' to 'Best,' and set the Blur Method to 'Spin.' The Spin setting simulates rotation. Repeat the process for the far-side front wheel, and foreground rear wheel. Once completed, you will have an action photo that conveys the motion and drama of the moment. The amount of rotation applied should match the amount of blurring that was added in the first tutorial on adding motion blur.

Note: The following hardware and software was used in this tutorial: An Apple Mac Pro desktop computer, a Wacom Intuos 6x8 drawing tablet, Adobe Photoshop CS-CS5 photo editing software and a properly calibrated monitor.

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