Realistic Motion Blur to Create a Speeding Car Effect in Photoshop

One of the more difficult tasks in Photoshop has long been to make a car look like it is moving at a significant rate of speed. There are some third party applications that are typically used to get a really great look (and they do a pretty awesome job,) but with the addition of the Path and Spin blurs to Photoshop back in Photoshop CC 2014 we can now fairly effectively create a great speeding car effect in Photoshop. In this tutorial I’m going to cover how to work with the Path Blur and masking to create a blur that follows the road and is super intense very close to the camera position, but virtually nonexistent for the clouds in the sky and other far-away objects. There is so much to check out in this tutorial, you’re going to love it!

1. Resizing the Car

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I have an entire tutorial on resizing in perspective and how to determine perspective for your images in Photoshop, you can check that out here. Sometimes I want to knock the car a little out of perspective for the purposes of infusing drama into a fast moving car image. Simply hit Cmd/Ctrl + T and resize the car if you wish to make it a little bigger or smaller.

2. Stretching the Background

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In addition to tweaking the car, I want to add length to the photo and I’m going to do that by stretching it side-to-side. Go Image>Canvas Size and bump out 1000px to the right and then hit Cmd/Ctrl + T and stretch the actual image to fill that 1000px void. Check out the video to see exactly how this works (around the 4:14min mark.)

3. Blurring the Background pt. 1

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Convert your background to a Smart Object by right-clicking it in the Layers panel and choose to convert it to a Smart Object. Then duplicate that layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + J. On this new layer add a layer mask by going Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All. Grab your Brush tool (B) and paint over the sky area with the color black (make sure you’re painting on the mask.) NOTE: You won’t see any difference. This is just to ensure no blurred sky pixels show up when we blur this background. See the screenshots for a visual or check out the video around the 5:00min mark.

4. Blurring the Background pt. 2

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Next go Filter>Blur Gallery>Path Blur and drag out some paths as you see I have done. We want our blur to roughly follow the “swing” of the car through our image. I’m following the lines in the road to establish a blur in the direction of the car traveling on the road. Use the blur settings in the filter gallery to get a blur that looks right to you in terms of the “speed” of the blur/car. Keep playing with it until it looks right.

5. Blurring the Background pt. 3

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Commit the Path Blur and then continue painting with black in the mask for that blur layer to make sure the sky isn’t getting blurry. NOTE: You may also need to paint away a little of the blur over other parts of the background as well to really make the blur look real.

6. Spinning the Wheels

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Select the car layer and go Filter>Blur Gallery>Spin blur. Click right in the middle of the front wheel to drop a blur. Grab the anchor handles and drag the spin blur over the front wheel. Increase or decrease the “speed” of the wheel by dragging the “Angle of Blur” slider in the blur filter panel until you get good wheel speed. Do the same for the rear wheel.

7. Details and Finishing the Job!

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Like I do in most of these tutorials, I highly recommend that you check out the video at the top of this post and see exactly how I went about doing all of this as well as adding some blur to the clouds in the car windows, a streaking car effect to the rear of the car, and some additional info on why Smart Objects are particularly useful for a project like this. Thanks for checking out this tutorial!