Jump right to the overlays. Bokeh is this beautiful effect achieved by having lights in the background or foreground of an image being blurred up to the point of obtaining just soft circles of color.

It's easiest to obtain beautiful bokeh when taking photographs using a wide-open aperture for a very shallow depth of field where the background and/or foreground gets really blurred-up.

Oftentimes you won't be able to capture the bokeh that you would have wanted straight in camera. There's an easy fix for that, just add it afterward as an overlay to the image! To help with this, I've prepared a collection of 220 free bokeh overlays that you can use in Photoshop. These were created by taking real photographs, so that will have this real organic feel to them.

Bokeh Overlay Usage Example

Here's the summary of the steps I've taken to add the overlay:

  1. Added my overlay as a new layer.
  2. Converted the layer to a smart object.
  3. Rotated and resized the layer so that it falls at the right place for the photo.
  4. Applied at slight gaussian blur to the overlay layer.
  5. Added a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, clipped to the overlay layer so that it only affects the overlay. I checked theColorize option and I selected a Hue value that approximates the color of the eye makeup.

And here's a screenshot that should help illustrate those steps:

Adding the overlay in Photoshop
The model in that fashion portrait is Shannon Baker. Go follow her!

Using the Bokeh Overlays

I wrote up a post about how to use texture overlays in Photoshop. Very similar principles apply to using these bokeh overlays. You'll add the overlay as a new layer on top of your image and then change the layer blend mode to Screen. You can apply a gaussian blur to the overlay layer to make the bokeh more diffuse and blurry. And you also can apply a hue/saturation adjustment layer clipped to the overlay layer to change the overall hue (color) of the overlay.

Pro tip: Don't mind the color

When choosing the perfect bokeh overlay for your photo, don't worry too much about the color of the bokeh. You can pretty easily colorize the overlay layer using Photoshop and have it be the color that you want. What you'll want to pay most attention to is the size and distribution of the bokeh in the overlay.

Also remember that you can easily add more than one overlay to an image. You can use the same one at multiple places, erase part of one, rotate them, resize them... The sky is the limit! ☁️

Free Photoshop Bokeh Overlays

Below you can see thumbnails for the 220 Free Bokeh overlays. Just click on any of the thumbnails to download a full high resolution version of the overlay.