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Stroking a Path with Gradients and Motion Blurs
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Stroking a path with a motion blur
Now, for some of you, I might be using the phrase ":motion blur" a bit too loosely. We'll see what you think after you read this. Using the same principles outlined above, you can stroke a path with either the Blur tool or the Smudge tool. But there's a problem with the Blur tool: It's isn't directional. So, if you stroke a blur along a path, you're just going to wind up with a curvy smudge—no motion to it at all. And forget stroking a path with the Motion Blur filter. It only blurs on one direction, regardless of the shape of your path.

Your other option is to use the Smudge tool, which, aside from smudging, also creates a directional blur effect. It's a bit of a heavy-handed effect, but it gets the job done. You just need to make a couple of adjustments. First, look at the example below. It's a little mouse, and I want to create the comic effect of a long motion trail behind it. So what I do is to draw the path leading from its back side.

Then I'm going to stroke the path with the Smudge tool. The problem? Well, it doesn't really look like a motion blur without a little tweaking. So, in this case, I masked off my mouse and moved it to the top layer. Then I created a transparent layer and a white background layer underneath. To get the proper effect, I'm actually going to apply the motion blur effect to the center layer, leaving the top layer (my original mouse) in tact. By checking the "Use All Layers" option in the tool bar, the stroke will actually draw the images from all visible layers but only apply the results to the currently selected layer. (Pretty slick, eh?) Here's the result.

As you can see, it's still not exactly perfect. I want to reduce the opacity of my top layer just a bit so that part ofd the smudge, or motion blur, shows through. And here's the result.

It might not be exactly what you're looking for in a motion blur, but, then again, this is just one way of doing it. By tweaking around with apply modes and playing with some of the options available, you should be able to achieve the look you're going for. Know an easier way to do this? Let me know by e-mailing me at [email protected].

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.