Photoshop Techniques - Create Negative Space & Blur

The first image above is the original. To create the second image, I made two edits to the original - apply a motion blur filter to the water and darken the mangrove background to create negative space. Below is my step-by-step process. If you are unfamiliar with these tools, at this point I recommend you watch my YouTube video that provides details for each step.

Blur Water

  1. Quick selection tool – select the water.

2. Copy via layer – copies the selected area to create a layer.

3. Convert water layer to a smart object

4. Apply motion blur to the water selection, re-edit as you wish.


Darken the background

  1. Quick selection tool – select the mangrove background
  2. Layers Adjustment menu – select curves, layer mask is automatically created
  3. Drag down the curves line to darken the area, re-edit as you wish

Photoshop’s selection tool is quite intuitive and makes the process of creating negative space around objects relatively easy. However, you must pay close attention to details by zooming in along the selection edges and sometimes select and unselect specific areas. Photoshop’s Select and Mask workspace can also be used to help refine the selection edge. It is important you spend time examining and editing the selection edge because you want the transition between the edited selection and unselected areas to appear natural.

Here are a couple more examples of white bird images before and after negative space was applied.

Thanks for looking on and if you want to learn more about Photoshop layers and masks in Photoshop, need help with your editing workflow or simply want to get started in Photoshop, I offer tutorials at $75/hour. Please check out my website and feel free to contact me at