How to Blur the Background of an Image in GIMP

One of the easiest ways to bring a viewers attention to a portion of an image is via a selective focus effect. Unfortunately this feature isn’t built into GIMP but there are ways to get a similar effect. This tutorial will show you how to blur the background of an image in GIMP to achieve a selective focus like effect.

What is a Selective Focus Effect?

Selective focus is a photography technique where a photographer focuses on a single subject of an image. They achieve this by using a shallow depth of field which allows the subject to be in sharp focus while the rest of the scene is blurred. This isolation of the subject brings the viewer’s attention directly to it.

How the Blur the Background of an Image in GIMP

Step 1: Open the image you’d like to edit in GIMP

Open... option in file menu GIMP
Gimp open image menu

Step 2: Use any of the selection tools to select the area that you want to focus

GIMP image selection

Step 3: Hit Ctrl+C and then Ctrl+V on your keyboard

Step 4: Look in the Layers toolbox window for a Floating Selection

GIMP Layers windows floating selection

Step 5: Click on the text of the Floating Selection and rename it to something like “focused”

GIMP Layers windows floating selection rename

Step 6: You should now have 2 layers, left click the original layer to select it (this is now your background layer)

GIMP Layers windows background layer selected

Step 7: Click Filters in the toolbar at the top and select Blur > Gaussian Blur...

GIMP Gaussian blur selected in Filters menu

Step 8: Experiment with the Blur Radius until you find a setting that you like (make sure the Preview checkbox is checked to see a live preview)

Step 9: Click OK when you’re satisfied with the result

GIMP Gaussian blur window

You’ll likely have to play around with the settings to achieve the perfect effect. Try modifying the Blur Radius parameters and the Blur Method.

Hopefully this article at least points you in the right direction. If you’re still unsatisfied with the results you might find better luck with programs like Paint.NET or Krita.

Featured Image by Nikoline Arns on Unsplash.

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