How to Turn Your Favorite Photo into a Miniature Masterpiece

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After looking at all the amazing tilt-shift images from our previous post, I’m sure you are ready to create some of your own. It’s really very simple to do. It can be accomplished in just a few easy steps. I am using Photoshop to create this tutorial but I’m sure it can be adapted for other photo applications. Lets get started.

First you want to select a photo that will work for this technique. You want to use a photo that has the perspective of looking down on the subject matter. This will make the effect more believable.

Here is an image I will be working with from Dr. Antonio Comia via Flickr. Please check out other images from this talented photographer.

Original Image

Ok, lets get started. First open up your image in Photoshop. Once open, select the Quick Mask Mode from your toolbar or hit Q.

Toolbar Image 1

Next, with the Quick Mask Mode selected click on the Gradient Tool or hit G.

Toolbar Image 2

Select the Reflected Gradient Button and make sure your gradient runs from black to white as shown.

mode and gradient image

Draw a vertical line from the center of the area you want in focus to the point where you want the blur to start. It will probably take a few times to get it the way you want.

mask image

Next step is to go back into Standard Mask Mode by clicking the Quick Mask Mode again or hitting Q. Note: These are instructions for Photoshop CS4. CS3 has a separate button for Standard Mask Mode.

Once in Standard Mask Mode we are going to apply a Lens Blur to the image. Go to Filter>Blur>Lens Blur.

filter path image

Now it’s time to experiment with the Lens Blur setting to get what you want. When you are satisfied hit OK.

Lens Blur Dialog image

To take it a step further and give your image more of a plastic look, play around with the saturation and contrast of the image. Here is my final image after some tweaking to the saturation and contrast.

Final image

That was easy wasn’t it! Just a few steps for a very cool effect. Have fun making your own miniature scenes!

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19 Responses

  1. Adam says:

    Awesome! Can’t wait to try it.

  2. very little effort for such a great effect. love it.

  3. Jackie says:

    Fantastic thanks! (found you on Twitter).

  4. Adam B Adam B says:

    Very very nice results. I thought this effect was done by simply blurring one layer and using a gradient mask to let the original show through. I did not know there was a lens blur tool in PS! Here’s what I got:

  5. Sam23 says:

    Great effect, thank you so much for sharing!

  6. Levent Göktem says:

    There is something missing here. No layers?

  7. Bill Jones says:

    @ Levent

    You are correct, thanks for catching that. I guess I just always assume people will use layers without it being spelled out. However the novice PS user might not know this.

  8. Robert says:

    Ah, great! I keep seeing this trick and I heard it required hundreds of dollars of camera equipment.

  9. Joe says:

    Was wondering how the plastic effect was done. Thanks. :)

  10. basmanyak says:

    Very goog photos :)

  11. Great tutorial. It’s so simple. Just tried it and it looks great!

  12. Cool and easy tilt shift tutorial!

  13. Very cool. Can’t wait to try this at some point.

  14. memorycardfull says:

    Hi there. Noob here. So, do you need layers? or no? At what point do you ad a layer? do you just open the image and then ad the layer then proceed?

    I am not a noob per-se, however, I only use plug ins and could NEVER figure out PS as a stand alone. I just use its friends – NIK and ONONE and TOPAZ. lol

    Can you let me know so that I will save myself the hairpulling? And wanting to jump off a bridge into a burning lake of fire.

    Now, I can save all that dough and buy more software and not have to buy a tilt-shift! wooo hoooo. Lucas Arts Pro, here I come.

    thanks ya’ll!!!


  15. Bill Jones says:


    This is such a simple quick technique to implement that one doesn’t really have to use many layers.

    I always like to make an initial copy of the original on a separate layer.

    After you create the lens blur make a duplicate layer and then work on the plastic look (saturation and contrast).

    Hope that helps.

  16. Ajith says:

    I tried this, but never somehow got the required effect. My subject is in the middle, like yours, but I do not have environmental elements throughout the photo. So instead I tried it with a Radial gradient. It got me closer, but not just quite the rather amazing effect you got. Could someone help me here?

  17. Will says:

    Awesome! I always saw this effect around and figured it was more difficult, So I never looked into it.
    I ran across this by chance and it was probably the easiest thing I’ve ever done on photoshop.
    Photoshop never ceases to amaze me. I’ve been using it for about a decade and there are always new amazing things that I discover every day.
    Thanks for this post!
    ~Will Barnes

  18. Scooter says:

    Didn’t work in CS6. Did we skip a step?

  19. Bill Jones says:


    I just went through the tutorial in CS6 and it worked fine. It is possible you might have missed a step somewhere.

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