Create Translucent Shapes in PhotoShop

24 May Create Translucent Shapes in PhotoShop

For this blog post, I’m going to tell you how to make those neat gaussian blurred boxes in PhotoShop. I used it for my blog post last week and I think I’ll use it on all of my posts from now on. The steps I provide in this post will be useful as you will be able to easily change the location of the blurred box by simply dragging or transforming. Let’s jump right in!

Here’s what we’ll be creating:


Step 1: Duplicate Your Image

For this effect to work, we need to have two version of the image. The sharp version of the image, and the blurred version of the image. You can duplicate your image 3 different ways:

  1. Select your layer and then go to Layer > Duplicate Layer…
  2. Right-click your layer and select Duplicate Layer…
  3. Use a keyboard shortcut. Control+J for Windows and Command+J for Mac


Step 2: Select The Area You Want To Blur

I just use the rectangle tool to select an area but you can use the pen tool and convert to shape. Make sure your shape has a fill, it doesn’t matter what colour, we’ll be changing that later.

Step 3: Arrange The Layers

The layers have to be in a specific order for this to work. From the top down, arrange your layers: Duplicated image, your shape, original image.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.08.31 AM

Step 4: Clip Your Image

Right-click your duplicated image and select “Create Clipping Mask”. This will clip your image to layer below it, meaning the only part of the image that will show will be in the same shape you created in step 2. Toggle your bottom layer visibility to see what’s going on.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 12.14.37 PM

Step 5: Select Your Blur

This step isn’t restricted to a blur, you can use whatever effect you want. I’m using a gaussian blur effect but see if there’s something else that works for you! Select your top layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur… and change the radius to select the level of blurriness you want.

Step 6: Colour Overlay

Give your blurred box a colour overlay to change how it looks against it’s background. Select your top layer and go to Layer > Layer Style > Color Overlay… and from there select the colour you want your box to be. Be sure to try out the different blend modes and try different opacities. Personally, when using a black box I like to use Blend Mode – Multiply at Opacity 50%. I also sometimes use a white box with Blend Mode – Soft Light at Opacity 100%.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 12.31.05 PM

Step 7: Link Layers

This step is to make sure that the original image and the blurred image stay lined up. Select both clicking on one, and then hold control (command on Mac) and click the other layer. Now that both are selected, right-click and select “Link Layers”. Now if you decide to move your background image it will stay lined up with the blurred and vice versa.

Conclusive Notes

If you set up the layers correctly, you should be able to easily move your blurred box around. Select your shape layer and transform it however you want. If you use the auto-select, you can make things easier for you by duplicating your shape, making it the topmost layer, giving it Opacity 0%, linking it with the original shape layer, and re-clipping your blurred image layer. This way you can just auto-select your box instead of looking for it in your layers. The final layer setup should look something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 12.48.59 PM

Thank you all for reading! Let me know if this trick helped you, or maybe you already knew about it. Either way, I hope this helped!


Johnathan LeBlanc

Provisional RGD Member. Johnathan LeBlanc is a graphic designer turned web designer. Having graduated from St. Lawrence College with an Advanced Diploma in Graphic Design, Johnathan started working in his field instantly. He was worked with design firms and thought leaders in Toronto and now handles most of the web content for RealtySource Inc., Brokerage. Although specializing in web design, Johnathan also excels in logo design, brand development, document design, and pre-press and is starting to learn video production.

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