How to Add Blur in Adobe Illustrator

You can add blur in Adobe Illustrator by selecting the object and then going to Effect > Blur (under Photoshop Effects) to choose your preferred Blur Effect(s)

Although Adobe Illustrator is natively a vector-based program – it is not the best place for photo editing. However, you can achieve simple image manipulations like adding a blur effect in Illustrator. 

My name is Rita. I have been using Adobe Illustrator for over five years. When I started designing with Illustrator, I didn’t like to move projects to other programs (like Photoshop) to achieve an effect.

I am the “do everything in Illustrator kind of person” (LOL), so if it’s just a simple blur, I don’t even bother to open Photoshop. 

In this article, I’ll show you how to Blur texts and images in Adobe Illustrator.

Key Takeaways

  • You can create a subtle blur effect by adjusting the opacity of your image.
  • You can blur specific aspects of an image by duplicating the object before using a mask to cut the part of the image you want.
  • Experimentation is the key to using Blur effects in Illustrator. You will experiment with the settings to discover what works best for you. 

Where is the Blur Tool in Adobe Illustrator

Are you looking for the Blur tool in the toolbar? Well, you won’t find it (sorry!). There isn’t a Blur Tool in Adobe Illustrator. However, you can find the Blur effect under the Photoshop Effects by clicking Effect from the overhead menu.

You can use any of the blur effects to edit your image. The Blur effects have different functions. Choose the one that works best for your design.

Don’t worry. We will go over the three effects and their uses. 

Note: All screenshots are from Adobe Illustrator CC Window Version. Mac and versions may appear different. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Add Blur in Adobe Illustrator 

There are two basic steps to blur an image in Illustrator. You only need to select the image and the blur effect you want.

You can change the values in the blur effect setting to suit your design needs. 

I will show you the result of the different blur effects on our sample image below. That will help you see the difference between the effects.

Gaussian Blur Effect

The Gaussian Blur effect is the most common illustrator effect. It smoothens and creates a feather effect – This effect helps the image stand out and reduces the noise. 

For example, you can lightly blur an image to express emotion through text. 

Let’s see how this works in practice.

Step 1: Select the image. 

Step 2: Go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

Step 3: Edit the settings. Use the Gaussian Blur effect settings to edit the blur. Adjust the radius pixels. 

Radial Blur Effect

It is easy to use the Radial Blur Effect. The blurring effect originates from the center point and around the center. You can activate two types of radial blurs – Spin and Zoom.

Your image will look like this.

Just as the name implies, spin creates a spin or rotating effect. 

Zoom has a tunnel radial blur effect. This effect blurs the center point and the outer part of the image around the center. 

Your image will look like this.

You can reduce the Radial Blur amount by moving the slider. The direction in which you move the slider will determine how your image will appear. 

The higher the amount, the more blurred out the image.

Smart Blur Effect

Think of the image trace effect and how it blurs the image with correctness. That is how the “smart blur effect” blurs the details of an image. 

There are four values to edit when working with the Smart Blur effect in Illustrator – The Threshold, Radius, Quality, and Mode values.

You might only need to edit the Threshold and Radius values to create a blur effect. 

The threshold value will help you determine how much detail you want to blur in the image. You can add or reduce image details by sliding left or right on the radius slider.

Let’s adjust the threshold value to determine how much detail we want to blur.

You can also add detail to your image with the Smart Blur effect. You can do this by selecting the dropdown on the Mode value.  

You can also change the Mode to Edge Only or Overlay Edge

Change the mode to Overlay to add white edges to your blurred image. 

Change the Mode to Edge Only to add white and black to the edges.

See the difference between the modes?

How to Blur Parts of an Image in Adobe Illustrator

Do you want to change the appearance of your image? Blurring parts of an object can change its appearance. You can achieve a depth of field by blurring parts of an image. 

It is faster to achieve this effect in Photoshop, but you can do that in Illustrator by blurring the edges of an image or object. 

We won’t use the Blur effect, instead, we’ll use the Feather effect. 

Let’s see how this works in these few simple steps below.

Step 1: Select the image or object you want to apply the effect.

Step 2: Go to the overhead menu and click Effect > Stylize (under Illustrator Effects) > Feather.

Step 3: Adjust the Radius. Use the arrow-up and arrow-down to increase or reduce the value of the radius. The higher the radius value, the more blurry your image will appear.

Click OK to apply the effect.

That’s it!

That is the result I got from the Radius value I inputted.  You can increase or reduce the radius value to suit your design needs.

Can You Blur Text in Adobe Illustrator?

Yes, you can.

You can follow the same process of blurring images to blur text in Illustrator. The difference is – you select the text.

You can choose any blur effects we’ve talked about except the Smart Blur or Feather effect. 

Why not?

That is because you will not notice the change on a vector image. These effects work better with pixels. The tricky part is that – you will notice any difference even if it transformed.  

See how your blurred text may appear.

You can play around with different values in the settings to achieve your desired result.

Bonus Blur Trick!

Do you know you can use Clipping Mask to blur parts of an image in Illustrator? 

Yes, you can. You can achieve an almost seamless artificial bokeh effect (Yeah, I mean it). 

Follow these few steps.

Step 1: Duplicate the image you want to blur (save it as your background)

Step 2: Use the Pen Tool to trace out the image you want to be in focus. Zoom in on the image to neatly trace.

Step 3: Make a clipping mask. Select the new shape you have created with the pen tool and the original image. Right-click and select Make Clipping Mask or use the clipping mask keyboard shortcut Command/Ctrl + 7.



Step 4: Select the duplicate image and apply your preferred blur effect to blur the background.

Step 5: Place your clipped image on the blurred background. 

Your clipped image will be in focus while the duplicate image will be the blurred background. That way, you have created your bokeh effect.

Quick Tip: You can get an amazing result using this tip, but it is time-consuming (especially if the image is complicated). You also need to pay attention to details when tracing with the pen tool.

You can make magic using a versatile tool like the Clipping Mask. Explore it and see (who knows what you might discover!)

Final Thought

Learning how to use the Blur effect in Adobe Illustrator is easy. Knowing a few things like what you want to achieve with the blur effect, what the different Blur effects do, the kind of object you are working with (raster/vector), etc. will determine your result. 

This article will give you an idea of what you can achieve with the different Blur effects and what you can do with it.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and questions in the comment section below.

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