Photoshop: Increase the strength of the blur tool.

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It's too weak. It needs to be more versatile. Maybe even allow airbrush to be enabled so the blur effect can build-up like water on a watercolor painting.
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Peter Bailey

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Posted 7 years ago

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Chris Cox

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The blur tool is for subtle retouching, not effect building.

If you need something stronger: consider duplicating the layer, using a blur filter, and then using a layer mask to isolate where it should or should not show the effect.
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Scott Mahn

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"The blur tool is for subtle retouching, not effect building."

Why was it decided as such?

I think Peter Bailey makes a good point, that it's only "for" subtle moves because it's only capable of subtle moves.

The same decision could have been made for the smudge tool too, for instance, rendering it far less useful than it is. Any of the tools could have been left impotent, but to what end?
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Eric Tadsen

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I googled "why is the blur tool so weak" and got to this page so obviously I totally agree with you. Using layers and masks is sometimes more effort then I want to go to to get a blur. The effect with the tool is WAY too subtle even at 100%. I can click on an area 50 times and barely tell that anything has happened. Why not simply make 100% much stronger and let people dial it back as they wish? You could argue that you should use layers and masks for any tool - burning, curves and etc., but shouldn't that discretion be left up to the user?
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Peter Bailey

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That's not really what I'm looking for. I need a tool for painting that can soften hard edges and disperse pigment into a painting just as water does to watercolor. The blur tool would be perfect for this except that it's too weak. It only blurs the image so much and the effect doesn't look or feel right for painting. It's such a simple concept, but I'm not sure a lot of digital painters realize how awesome a tool like this would be.

I understand that the blur tool was probably initially designed for photo editing. But right now, that's all it's really good for. I'm just asking that it be modified so it can have a wider variety of application. Even if you just doubled its strength, there would still be enough room in the slider for subtle retouching. If not, you could increase the maximum strength to 200%.
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PECourtejoie, Champion

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Just wondering: none of the new mixer Brushes in CS6 work as you want?
Or just some wobbles with the smudge tool?
I guessed that you tried them, so could you post a video example, to see what kind of results you are after? I think it would help the engineers to see what is needed.
If 200% strenght would be sufficient, would two applications of the blur tool suffice?
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Peter Bailey

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The new mixer brush tool works great. But that and the smudge tool create more of an oil painting simulation. I'm looking for something that's more like watercolor. Even something that is less of a simulation and more of something that is unique to digital painting; the ability to soften hard edges with a single stroke.

The blur tool does this beautifully, but only up until a point. Then it just stops blurring the image. This is because, at maximum strength, each sample of the blur tool creates a Gaussian blur of only about 0.5 pixels. It works well enough for photo editing, but not for digital painting. If that was increased to about 1 or 2 pixels per sample, it would create more of a blur effect, which would be very useful for digital painting.

Also, I've already tried increasing the count of the blur tool. This only increases the rate at which it blurs, not the strength.
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Ken

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I agree with Chris about this. The Blur Tool, as it is, is an excellent tool for image editing.

Have you actually tried Chris' suggestion about using a strongly blurred layer, filling its mask with black, and painting on the mask with white to reveal the blur? When you paint on the mask, you have the full controls of the Brush Tool, including pressure sensitivity if you're using a tablet.

Otherwise, if you really want a "true" watercolour effect, you're better off using a program that can do that, such as Corel Painter or PainterEssentials.

Ken
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Peter Bailey

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You're right Ken, the blur tool is an excellent tool for image editing. And it could still be an excellent tool for image editing, even if its strength were increased. In fact, it would be an even better tool, because you could do more with it than just image editing. Increasing the strength of the blur tool would only result in more freedom, not less. It wouldn't take away your ability to perform subtle retouching and it would allow painters more freedom to interact with their painting in real-time without having to duplicate layers, use masks and merge layers.

Yes, I have tried Chis's suggestion and although it was a good suggestion, it's still not what I'm looking for. It doesn't allow me to set blur strength to pen pressure and most importantly, it doesn't allow me to easily switch back and forth between the paint brush and the blur tool for real-time painting and blending.

Also, just to make it clear, I'm not looking for a "true" watercolor effect like in Painter or Artrage; I'm just looking for a stronger blur tool. It just so happens that a stronger blur tool would be perfect for creating simple yet rather life-like watercolor effects.

Below are some images further illustrating my point. The first is an image of some paint strokes done in Photoshop made to look somewhat like watercolor. The second is that same image with the blur tool applied to it at maximum strength. The third is an example of what the blur tool may have looked like if it was stronger. The fourth is an even stronger example of what the blur tool may have looked like.

Paint Strokes


Regular Blur Tool at Maximum Strength


Stronger Blur Tool


Even Stronger Blur Tool
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Scott Mahn

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I would use a stronger blur tool on masks for selective focus items, where you need to alter the degree of blur on mask edges selectively, to match the bokeh of the item.

As it stands now, I have to made a broad selection, then feather the selection, then blur the mask - and repeat over and over to smaller areas, increasing the ultimate blur at the fartherst points, with seamless transitions between.

All this could be drastically simpler with repeated strokes of the bur too, however, the limited strength of the tool makes it prohibitively weak on hi-res image masks.
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bt lrq

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I can only agree with Peter, I would like a more powerful blur tool. Especially if it could be set to a modifier key so it would work similarly to smoothing in Zbrush. A digital painting setup like that would be incredibly user friendly and very fast.
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1221si

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I completely agree with Peter. There is no reason at all why the blur tool should not be stronger, and it would be much easier for applying a quick treatment to a small area. I've long found it baffling that Adobe cripples the tool.
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Corin Stedman

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I use the blur tool very often for retouching and have always found it to be too weak. I usually have to sit and draw back and forth over a spot for a minute or two in an attempt to remove a hard edge. Actually duplicating the layer, using a blur filter, and then masking that out would be faster but is too tedious. I need the blur tool to blur small spots! I have never actually successfully used it and often have to use a combination of blurring, smudging, and clone stamping. As a daily user, professionally and at home, I am highly unsatisfied with the capabilities of Photoshop in general compared to InDesign (the best) and even Illustrator. Of course, I could never blur an image with those applications, so Photoshop is my only hope, sadly.
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Chris Cox

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If you are trying to blur a large area, then the blur tool is the wrong thing to use.
Blur a copy of the layer and use a layer mask, or use a smart filter and a mask.
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1221si

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We want a stronger blur tool. We think it would be useful. That is the message. Is Photoshop for consumers or Adobe engineers? Corin didn't say "large area," he said "small spots." I often find that a stronger blur tool would be helpful, and other solutions are far more complex and time consuming.
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Corin Stedman

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Yes yes yes! If we want it to be subtle, we can make it suble on our own!!!
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Corin Stedman

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To be clear, I am talking about very small areas where I need to remove hard edges, not large areas.
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Corin Stedman

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By the way, also it's the slowest application I have on my 6-month old computer (windows 7 64 bit, intel xeon cpu e5-2620 @ 2.00GHz x2, 32 gigs RAM)
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Corin Stedman

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I am using large images but the program is still just too slow.
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Chris Cox

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Ok, then something may be wrong with your system that is making it slow. But that would need a different topic to try and help you figure out why your system is so slow.
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Corin Stedman

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Actually, nothing is wrong with my system. Many people have said that your application is slow. Why do you argue instead of actually wanting to improve your product?
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Chris Cox

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Millions of users are running Photoshop without seeing it run slow. When we help customers who say it runs slow, we always find something on their system responsible for the slowdown.

Again, we'd like to help you with your slow system, but that needs another topic (because it is not related to this topic), and we need more information to help you track down the cause.
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christoph pfaffenbichler, Champion

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Corin, you should take Mr.Cox’ advice, you are not likely to get better when it comes to Photoshop.

And your claim is in itself pretty much non-descript.
Maybe check out
http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/o...
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Yngvar Asplund

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A stronger Blur Tool is definitely needed. It would be a shame to limit a tool's potential simply because it was intended for one specific use.

An option would be to add the functionality of a strong blur tool as a setting for the Mixer Brush. This would make the Mixer Brush more versatile, and leaves the Blur Tool as it is for subtle retouching, if that is how you want it to remain.
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Richard Darlington

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I also find the weakness in the blur tool to be baffling - and saying it's intended for "subtle" retouching as a way to explain its built in limitation sounds as absurd as limiting color saturation to 10% and saying that's all it was intended for. It doesn't take much imagination to realize that if you make it adjustable through a wider range then the "user" can decide what they want too use it for and adjust it to their needs. If the user only wants a "subtle" blur then they simply adjust it to where they need it. I have to take the photo I want to blur from Photoshop over to Aperture where they have a fully functional and totally adjustable blur tool that actually blurs. Photoshop doesn't really have a fully functional "blur" tool at the moment and since it apparently wasn't intended to be one they should call it something else and make a real one or just copy the one that Aperture has which is great.
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christoph pfaffenbichler, Champion

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"since it apparently wasn't intended to be one they should call it something else"
That makes about as much sense as demanding cars that don’t go over 120km/h be called something other than cars.
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christoph pfaffenbichler, Champion

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And to clarify: This is not intended to mean the Feature Request lacks merit.
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Richard Darlington

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My experience with the Blur tool, as it relates to your car speed analogy, is that the top speed of the Blur tool is more like 10km/h when other Blur tools are capable of 200km/h. I don't think we'd be having this discussion if the existing Blur tool were actually capable of the equivalent of 120km/h in a car.
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Juha Antila

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I too have been baffled, for many years now, as to why the blur tool is so weak. The justification for keeping it so weak is even less sensible. Adding the option of increasing it's strength, would not prevent people from using it at a low setting, and enabling stronger settings would let the tool be able to achieve so much more.

I'm a graphic artist so I use Photoshop for digital painting, and I do a lot of color blending. I've tried several programs but so far Photoshop has won in the end, because it has offered the best overall selection of tools. Not necessarily the best tool for all situations, but good enough for most. Since I really dislike juggling several different programs while working, Photoshop has been my go to choice for over 15 years.

There is a lot to like in Photoshop, and along the years many tools have been expanded and new options have been added and thus made more versatile. But the Blur tool has stubbornly remained the same, and lately I've been thinking: Does Photoshop really offer me the best overall selection of tools, or am I using it simply because I'm used to it, and am accustomed to dancing around it's flaws.

The weak Blur tool is a good example. Other programs offer so much better options for controlled blurring with pressure sensitive brush tool, that not having anything even close to it in Photoshop has become really jarring. Using layer masks and blur filters to achieve the effect is so tedious and fiddly that it's actually less of a hassle to just port the work into a program that has a decent blur tool. Even for just one phase of the work.

But the things is: If I am going to have to do that step in another program, then I might as well do the rest of it in that program as well. That is, if it's easier to live without the things I like about Photoshop, than it is to work around the bits I don't like about Photoshop. So far that hasn't been the case, but there are some pretty neat programs out there, and lately I've seriously started to think about whether Photoshop is the program for me. A decent Blur tool would certainly go a long way towards maintaining Photoshops image as the king of the hill. Insisting on limiting it's utility is just keeping on shooting at it's own foot.
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1221si

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Very thoughtfully expressed.
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Richard Darlington

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There is an additional function (beyond the ability to vary the strength of the blur tool so that it would be stronger) that would make the blur tool and a few of the other tools (Dodge, Burn, Blur, Sharpen, etc.) MUCH more valuable and useful in my opinion.

The tools are all set to keep adding more adjustment on EVERY pass at whatever degree you have initially set them to. So if you overlap your strokes you will get double the adjustment where the strokes overlap which creates an uneven effect if you attempt to build up the adjustment by multiple passes. In fact even if you want only a single pass of the adjustment you will have uneven application where the strokes overlap unless your brush size is large enough to cover in one pass, and who is so good they can perfectly match the edge of one stroke up against the next stroke you put beside it?

In Aperture if you select any one of the tools - say the Dodge tool - it doesn't matter how many times you go over the area back and forth or how often your strokes overlap - the final STRENGTH of the effect on the photo is the same, and perfectly even over the entire application area because it maxes out at whatever STRENGTH (from 0 to 100) that you choose. It would be great if Photoshop were to increase the strength potential of the Blur tool and also add a toggle switch for each adjustment tool that toggles between a variable but set LIMIT to the maximum effect of the adjustment (as Aperture does) and the CUMULATIVE effect that they have now. Having both would increase our creative choice and efficiency as well - not to mention keeping Photoshop at the top of the heap.
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1221si

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What is was intended for is not necessarily what consumers need and want? Then what is wrong with modifying it so it provides both, or creating a tool that allows the sort of quick spot blurring we want?

I see no reason at all why allowing more flexibility in blurring tool strength would make it "a lot slower." It would make my work a lot faster.
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Chris Cox

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What the tool is intended for is useful.
But there are other things that some people need beyond that tool, which are already available.
Modifying a useful tool to do something already available by other methods , for a small subset of users, seems like a waste of development time.

It would be slower because the tool will have to do more calculations from a larger area, and more math + more memory access = more time taken = slower.
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Chris Cox

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If you cannot carry on a useful conversation on this topic, then please stop adding noise, insults and random off topic comments to this forum.
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Richard Darlington

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Chris -

1) The argument that the blur tool is good for what it was designed for (which I have yet to hear described) does not seem sufficient to negate the benefits that could be realized by making it better and more versatile - especially since adding more power and making it more versatile would not compromise it's ability to do whatever it is that it was designed to do - it just adds more functionality.

2) The argument that there are other ways to get the effect that strengthening the Blur tool would provide, which are already built into Photoshop, is not consistent with what Photoshops philosophy has been over the years

When almost anyone associated with Photoshop development (J. Kost, etc., etc.) does a video on aspects of Photoshop they almost always mention, with pride, that Photoshop builds numerous layers of redundancy into the things that PS can do. They seem to think there is an advantage to having multiple ways to approach the same thing and I agree. I've never heard them argue that they see an advantage in limiting whatever PS can do to only one way to approach it.

3) What about new users to PS? The Blur tool is very convenient and handy and the suggestion to apply the gallery of blur options with masks and additional layers to achieve a similar end result is much more intimidating - especially to your new customers.

There are advantages to having a very simple way to help new operators of Photoshop make the transition to using Photoshop and be able to blur things simply and easily with the blur tool and allow them the time to learn all the more complex and convoluted options that will eventually give them more control over more situations.

4) One of the most salient lessons that many developers could learn from the genius of Steve Jobs, in my humble opinion, was his innate sense that there was immense value in making the complex SIMPLE to use. Less is more. It's easier for someone to learn to drive a car with an automatic transmission when they are already overloaded with new information they must absorb and they can eventually learn to drive a stick shift at a later time when they are more comfortable with the basic driving techniques.

5) PS has called it a Blur tool and it's apparently not - it's some sort of specialty tool designed for a purpose that has been kept vague and mysterious. Having a Blur gallery, with lots of complex options, is all very well but to have a tool that is called a Blur tool and doesn't function as a Blur tool (when compared to other blur tools in other programs out there) is confusing at best and, if my experience is at all typical, eventually irritating.

6) The argument that making it stronger and more flexible would slow down the program is hard to consider seriously when I look at the unbelievable depth and complexity that has been continually developed and designed into new versions of Photoshop. PS can do 3D calculations and you would have us believe the reason for not simply making the blur tool stronger is that it will waste developers time and slow down the program? This is the point at which I feel that I've been wasting my time here, I'm sorry to say.
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1221si

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As have we all. When my CC subscription expires I'm going to find apps that better meet my needs.
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M Sohier

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It would be nice to have an extra field so you could adjust the pixel amount of the blur tool, like the gaussian blur function has.

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Franz Haertl

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The real Problem is not that it's not strong enough. Try blurring an Image of 300x400 pixels, and you will find it has a pretty strong effect. The true problem we face here is that the effect is actually depending upon image resolution, so the bigger the image the weaker the result. Having images at resolutions of 3000x4000px and the tool hardly has any effect at all.

This is NOT (as fanboys claim) by design, this is sloppy programming! For the tool to be useable the strength of the effect should be automaticly adjusted to give the same visible result depending on the size of the brush NOT the resolution of the image. If you want "subtle" blurring it should be adjusted by the strength-parameter.
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Nicole Herrick

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SOLUTION:
Brush Panel > Shape dynamics = Control > Pen pressure Min diameter 100%
Next: Scattering > Scatter 135% > Count 16
Next: Transfer > Strength jitter 93% Pen pressure 100%

That should give you a decent blur on a high res image but obviously, have a play around with those settings and see what works for you. 

You're welcome. 
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Nicole Herrick

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Yes, that size high res. I should clarify that my solution is to increase the blur strength significantly, but not blend like watercolour as i don't think the blur tool is the right kind of tool to create his effect even if super strength was added. 

My CPU ain't crawling. 
(Edited)
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Yngvar Asplund

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If you could save your blur tool settings into a tool preset file and share that, I'd love to try it out. :)
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Yngvar Asplund

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Hmm, yeah, that is still too weak for color blending unfortunately. :)

You use a high brush spacing, which is why the high scattering count doesn't cause lag. You could also disable scattering and decrease the spacing to 2-3% to achieve a similar blur, while also avoiding the unpredictability in edge control that scattering brings with it.

Setting the size control to Pen Pressure with a minimum diameter of 100% is the same as setting it to Off by the way, so you might as well just untick Shape Dynamics. :) Transfer > Strength Control set to minimum 100% also equals unticking Transfer altogether in this case.

Thanks for taking the time to share it!
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Eric Barker

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I think the problem is that in the time since the blur tool was introduced (heck, to my knowledge it's always been there, at least since the mid-90s), resolutions for most tasks have skyrocketed. What once probably made a definite difference to our low-resolution graphics, means nothing to today's 5k+ images.
And the workarounds aren't all that perfect either. The nice thing about the blur tool is that it can be gradiated, creating various degrees of blur. Where-as, copying the layer, blurring it, and masking out parts may get the right results in some cases, but it doesn't allow for subtle gradations of blur between the regions. This comes back to my bigger issue that Photoshop is really behind it "compound blurs" compared to After Effects. The only compound blur we have is the Lens Blur, the only effect not able to be dynamically inserted into a smart object, that looks to a particular channel as a blur map. Lens blurs are nice but they are often overkill and processor intensive for day-to-day needs, and their CPU intensiveness is what probably prevents them for being added as smart effects. If we could just have a regular old compound gaussian blur, that would be money.
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1221si

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It is such a simple thing for Adobe to modify the capacity of the blur tool. I don’t get the resistance.
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Eric Barker

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One thing I noticed is that even if it's a very mundane change, developers are really hesitant to change the operation of existing features. This makes a certain amount of sense, as many users go "BUT WAIT, IT WORKED DIFFERENTLY THE LAST TIME I DID THIS!" Probably the best solution would be to create a toggle that says "Blur More" (which fits with their terminology), that would increase the blur by a power of x4-10 or something, and have it off by default.
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1221si

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Surely a weak-to-strong slider wouldn’t be too hard for users to grasp.
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Eric Barker

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Yeah, I would agree. I like you're idea better, not a toggle, but a strength slider.
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Lily Skove

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled Photoshop: Blur tool needs way more potency - Would help with layer masks and cur....

I frequently need t to create layer masks around my products photographed on white - one of the most common photography scenarios.  The problem is that when I convert a pen tool path into a mask, I need to be able to selectively choose which areas have a blurred edge mask, and which areas should have a sharp line in the selection.  When you take pictures of small products its often nearly impossible to get everything in focus at any aperture.    So this is extremely common for photographing small products.  I want to use the blur tool to soften parts of the mask, but the blur tool is so weak its almost completely ineffective.  I think this is because I'm always working at 5 and 6k resolutions.  This also makes the blur tool useless for many photos and I have to use a blur filter instead.  But a blur filter is not helpful when you are needing to selectively blur parts of the mask itself.  So mask manipulation would be WAY more powerful if you would make the blur tool more powerful.  Like up to 100x more powerful.  I'm not sure if the blur tool is so weak because its a legacy tool from times when we only had a fraction of the resolution in our photos to work with.  Whatever the reason, there are a lot of people asking for this, and it would save me hours of workarounds to have this simple obvious tool enhancement.  Thank you!
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Ronald Chambers

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Even though I don't have a need to blur that you do, I would like to see if I can help. I know a great deal about these kinds of filters so maybe I can get a definitive answer to what you want and then figure how to do it.
RONC
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Eric Barker

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It's not a filter, it's a tool. The blur filters work just fine. It's the blur TOOL that we all have issues with, and there's really nothing to figure out, it just has no settings. The sad part is that other than the incredibly powerful but broken Lens Blur filter (it's the only blur that can not be used as a smart filter), the blur tool is the only way of creating a compound blur, that is, make part of an image more or less blurry than another. And as Lily Skove mentioned, that makes it incredibly useful on layer masks. I believe it's a huge oversight on Adobe's part.
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Ronald Chambers

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I glean from reading this thread that Adobe does not deem this a problem. I would say that their software is doing what is mathematically correct but you don't need math here. From a quick test I made, blur works correctly for what it is designed to do. Problem is that you want what I will call un-normalized blur. Un-normalized does not divide the result by the number of filter coefficients. I'm trying to think of a way to get the same effect without changing software.
I will have image showing un vs normalized in morning.

Tell me how you would do this with actual paint, canvas and brush. Do not add more paint when you blur it. The blur expands and gets weaker. Now if you un-normalize by adding paint you get what you want to do.

This is a communications problem more than anything.

RONC
(Edited)
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Eric Barker

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BTW: I've always suspected that the "Lens Blur" filter's feature to use a channel as a blur map, is precisely the reason why it can't be used as a smart filter. That's a whole new level of computation that no other filter process has to do, and would probably be difficult to code without causing crashes. Makes me really sad, because I'd LOVE to have a compound blur as a smart filter. I often just throw up my hands and do this kind of stuff in After Effects, which has a lot better handling of compound blurs.
Sorry for the off-topic.
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Ronald Chambers

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Smart filters are none destructive. Smoothing filters don't have unique inverses so can't be backed out like a simple scaling.
RONC
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Ronald Chambers

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I would like to see the problem that you are trying to solve with Blur.  Is the anomaly separated from the background?  Peter Bailey's example with the background included will always fail if you expect to cover the background with blurred data.  Does someone file I can see and a few works explaining the anomaly not that Blur fails.  What would you do with real painting?

RONC