In Depth: What in the Heck is Bokeh?

What in the heck is bokeh?

What is bokeh and how is it pronounced?

Bokeh /bōˈkā/ is derived from the Japanese word “boke”, which means “blur” or “haze” [Wikipedia: Bokeh]

The dictionary definition of bokeh is the aesthetical visual quality of the blur or out-of-focus areas of a photographic image with a narrow depth of field or taken with a particular lens. The blur effect looks especially nice on lights and reflections. You’ve seen this effect hundreds of times before. I know you have.

Image credit: Todd Diemer@todd_diemer

Why do you want this depth of field effect? 

It looks beautiful and focuses your viewer’s attention on your subject.

In post-production, you can use a Lens Blur effect to simulate a bokeh effect. You can make it in your own eyes squinting your eyes, causing blurs through your eyelashes to all of the lights and reflections. This works best on a dark rainy night with lots of lights and reflections.

So, how do you pronounce it? It seems a bit like the GIF debate.

Some people are really annoyed by Apple’s pronunciation of the word bokeh and how they’ve turned it into a verb!

I really don’t care, personally. Pronounce it how you like it. I won’t correct you.

Let’s See a Few Examples of Bokeh

Below are some examples of bokeh on footage with lights and reflections.


How to Create Bokeh in Post

There are several ways to create bokeh in After Effects. either right in After Effects or with third-party plug-ins. First, the Camera Lens Blur effect, which comes with After Effects. Justin Odisho shows you his technique.

How to create realistic BOKEH Blur & Focus Pull in Adobe After Effects (CC 2017 Tutorial)

You can also create a bokeh depth effect by enabling Depth of Field in After Effects and adjusting the Aperture settings.

Fast Bokeh for After Effects

Rowbyte released a free plug-in called Fast Bokeh on June 26, 2019. It creates a smooth Depth of Field bokeh blur using a Depth Map. It works with After Effects CS6 and Creative Cloud. Tested with CC 2017, CC 2018, CC 2019. macOS 10.8 and above or Windows 7 and above.

Download Fast Bokeh

Frischluft Lenscare

Frischluft Lenscare is available as plugins for Adobe After Effects/Premiere Pro, OFX (Nuke, Digital Fusion, Toxik/Maya Composite) and Photoshop.

Depth Passes Made Easy + Frischluft Lenscare and Camera Lens Blur

Joren Kandel from The Pixel Lab shows you an easier workflow to set up depth passes in Cinema 4D and bringing them into After Effects. If you do them in After Effects, the render is much faster and it’s not baked into your Cinema 4D render.

Add DOF and Motion Blur to your C4D Render with After Effects

Chad Ashley from GSG explains how to use the world position pass in Cinema 4D for a good depth pass to use in After Effects. Then, he explains how to apply the motion vector pass to use in After Effects for post motion blur. He uses Frischluft Lenscare and RE:Vision Effects ReelSmart Motion Blur in this tutorial.

Frischluft LenscareFrischluft Lenscare

Give your footage breathtakingly realistic depth of field and focus effects
Lenscare’s physically-based algorithms blur pixels based on their depth value, so you can add high-quality camera blurs to your 3D footage in 2D post-processing without the extensive render times you’d experience in your 3D app. If you need to add some spectacular lens work to your post-production workflow, Lenscare’s results are unequaled.

Lenscare AE Lenscare OFX

To download a trial version, click on the product page.

Create Custom Bokeh Images for Redshift with After Effects and Cinema 4D

YellowDog 3D Tips explains how to create bokeh with the depth of field with Redshift in Cinema 4D. He makes heart-shaped bokeh light blurs in After Effects.

Camera Tips and Tricks with Redshift for CINEMA 4DCamera Tips and Tricks with Redshift for CINEMA 4D

In this tutorial from Blue Fox Creation:

0:08 – How to enable bokeh
1:13 – Bokeh shapes & Chromatic aberration
2:32 – Follow Focus
5:17 – Redshift Motion Blur
7:04 – Vertigo Zoom effect
8:35 – Turntable camera
10:47 – Camera like games


Redshift is the world’s first fully GPU-accelerated, biased renderer.
That’s right! Redshift is a powerful GPU-accelerated renderer, built to meet the specific demands of contemporary high-end production rendering. Tailored to support creative individuals and studios of every size, Redshift offers a suite of powerful features and integrates with industry standard CG applications.

Learn More

To download a trial version, click on the product page.




Everything you need for high-end 3D

Easy to learn and extremely powerful! In a nutshell, Cinema 4D is the perfect package for all 3D artists who want to achieve breathtaking results fast and hassle-free. Beginners and seasoned professionals alike can take advantage of Cinema 4D’s wide range of tools and features. Quickly achieve stunning results. Cinema 4D’s legendary reliability also makes it the perfect application for demanding, fast-paced 3D production. In fact, there are a range of attractively priced software packages is available to fit any artist’s needs.


To download a trial version, click on the product page.

Boris Sapphire S_BokehLights

This plug-in generates random, defocused lights that move around the screen. You can find it in the Sapphire Lighting effects submenu.

Sapphire S_BokehLights in the Sapphire Preset Browser
Sapphire S_BokehLights in the Sapphire Preset Browser

Boris SapphireBoris Sapphire

Sapphire is the most in demand, unequaled, work-horse plug-in suite for visual effects.
Sapphire plug-ins let you create stunning organic looks unmatched by any host native effect tools. Key features include over 270 effects and 3000+ presets, a powerful Effect and Transition Builder, and integrated tracking and masking with the Academy Award-winning Mocha. Sapphire’s superior image quality, control, and render speed offers massive time-savings — allowing creatives to focus on what matters most, delivering an impact that keeps audiences coming back.

Perpetual License Subscription

To download a trial version, click on the product page.

Boris Continuum BCC Fast Lens Blur

BCC Fast Lens Blur gives really lovely bokeh shapes effects. It’s easy to use and extremely fast, with 100% GPU accelerated replacement for their older version of the filter.

BCC Fast Lens Blur uses OpenCL to emulate a lens blur defocus/rack focus effect where out of focus highlights of an image clip take on the shape of the lens diaphragm. When a lens is used at its maximum aperture (fully open / set to the smallest f stop number) the out of focus highlights are typically in the shape of a circle, however, when the lens is stopped down (set to something other than the smallest f stop number) the blades inside the lens shape the out of focus highlights into multi-sided shapes. This filter includes a pop-up that can be used to match the different looks that can be achieved in the physical world based on the lens aperture setting. This pleasing optical result is referred to in photographic terms as Bokeh.


Here are the effect controls for BCC Fast Lens Blur, in After Effects.
Here are the effect controls for BCC Fast Lens Blur, in After Effects.

Boris Continuum Boris Continuum

The most comprehensive visual effects and motion graphics plug-ins collection available!

Continuum 2019 is the latest major upgrade for the most comprehensive plug-in collection on the market. Key features include the rebirth of Particle Illusion, the famed motion graphics generator, new Title Studio image-processing shaders such as glows, rays, and blurs for visually-stunning titles and lower thirds, new Mocha Essentials workspace with 4 new spline tools like magnetic edge snapping and geometric shapes for faster tracking and masking, new point-driven parameter tracking powered by Mocha, and overall GPU-acceleration.

Perpetual License Subscription

To download a trial version, click on the product page.


Other Options: Lens Flare Plug-ins or Dust Elements with Bokeh Elements

Lens flare plug-ins can also provide you with some bokeh effects as if you have dust in front of your lens flare. Below are a couple of options.

Red Giant VFX Knoll Light Factory

With Lens Textures, you can add dirt and grime to your lenses, for even more realism. Flares light up one of 12 textures including Bokeh, dust, scratches and more.

Knoll Light Factory is only available as part of the Red Giant VFX Suite.

SUGARfx Xflare for Final Cut Pro X by FxFactory

SUGARfx Xflare for Final Cut Pro X works in FCP X and Motion. Create Realistic Lens Flares for Final Cut Pro X. Includes Includes 20 easily customizable styles to get you started.

Greyscalegorilla 4K Dust Elements

Captured live in the studio, these 4K dust elements are the perfect assets for video editors, compositors, and VFX artists. Available only as part of GSG Plus. Learn more


Now that you know what bokeh is, you’ll be noticing it everywhere! It really is a beautiful effect. There are lots of other plug-ins out there to create the effect, and you can do it in many of your NLEs with built-in Lens Blur effects, but this should give you some ideas on getting started adding your own bokeh transitions or flair to your work.

Share This Post

Subscribe to Toolfarm!

Get the latest updates on products, sales, tutorials, and freebies, delivered bi-weekly to your inbox!

Posted by Michele Yamazaki