*This post was updated in May 2016. It now shows screengrabs from Photoshop CC, but this method also works with much older versions of Photoshop too.*
I originally wrote this article for PhotographyBB magazine. Check it out for lots of great articles on photography, Lightroom and Photoshop.
The tilt-shift or toy model effect is a fun way to play with some of your travel (or home town) photographs. It tends to work best on photographs taken from a height such as a shot from a window or a bridge. The high viewing angle helps to give the impression that you’re looking down on a toy model. Here’s a quick and easy way to achieve the effect.
1. Open up your picture in Photoshop. This is an aerial picture of Paris I downloaded from Stock Xchng. You can get it here Paris From The Eiffel Tower.
2. We’re going to use the Quick Mask mode in Photoshop, together with the Gradient Tool to create a selection.
Press Q to jump into Quick Mask Mode. Reset the Foreground and Background colours to black and white by pressing D. Your colour picker in the toolbar should look like this:
3. Select the Gradient tool in the tool bar. It may be hidden under the Paint Bucket tool.
4. On the Options bar at the top of the screen, click on the Gradient preview (the small bar showing the gradient). This opens the Gradient Editor. Make sure that Foreground to Background is selected, then click OK.
Again on the Options bar, click on the Reflected Gradient icon and click on the Reverse checkbox further to the right.
5. Now with the Gradient tool, click and drag on the picture from the point that you want to be in focus downwards. I chose to make the focus just above the centre of the photograph. You may find you have a bit of trial and error with this step. You should now see a red mask appear over your photograph. The parts of the image that will remain in focus are the clear parts, while the red parts will be blurred.
6. Press the letter Q again, to turn off Quick Mask mode. You should now see a horizontal rectangular selection in the area that was clear in Quick Mask mode. This will be the part that is in focus.
7. Go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. On the panel which opens, under Depth Map, click the Invert checkbox so that a check appears in the box. In the Iris section, choose Hexagon (6) from the Shape and for Radius drag the slider to somewhere between 35 and 40. Once you change the Radius, you’ll see the Toy model effect start to happen. Finally set the Specular Highlights Brightness to 50.
8. Click OK to apply the blurring and then press Ctrl + D (windows) or Cmd + D (mac) to deselect.
You should find that your picture looks a bit like a photograph of a toy model. This effect looks really great if there are cars or people in the picture, as they suddenly look like miniatures. Here’s the final picture.
If you have any Photoshop questions that you would like to ask, please feel free to send me a message and I might be able to answer it in a tutorial.
I hope you’ve found this Photoshop tutorial useful and I would be really grateful if you would share it. Thank you so much! 🙂