motion trail effect

In this tutorial, we will learn how to create a custom motion trail effect instead of using the Motion Blur filter. It may seem hard but it’s actually quite easy, like making a text portrait. Here is the effect we will be creating:

motion trail effect

To create a custom motion trail effect, you’ll need:

  • Any recent version of Photoshop should work (I used Photoshop CS5)

Step 1

Open your image in Photoshop.

 motion trail effect original

Now, select the main subject of your image using any selection tool like the Pen Tool and Lasso Tool. I will be using the Quick Selection Tool.

 motion trail effect selection

Make two duplicates of your subject by pressing Command+J (Macs) / Ctrl+J (Windows) twice.

 motion trail effect duplicate

Step 2

Select Layer 1, grab the Move Tool and drag your subject a short distance away from his original location in the direction he would be coming from. For instance, if your subject is running from left to right, drag him slightly to the left where he would have been if the picture was taken just a moment earlier.

 motion trail effect move

Change the layer’s blending mode to Soft Light.

 motion trail effect soft light

 motion trail effect soft light result

Step 3

With the Move Tool still selected, hold the Option (Macs) / Alt (Windows) key and drag the subject in the same direction as you did before but keep the distance wider. Holding the Option (Macs) / Alt (Windows) tells Photoshop to create a duplicate layer.

 motion trail effect move second duplicate

Lower the opacity of this new layer to about 65%.


 opacity result

Step 4

To complete the motion trail effect, repeat the above step a couple of times and lower the opacity of each new duplicate layer more than the previous one. I will be repeating the step twice and lowering the opacity of the first duplicate layer to 35% and the second one to 15%.


Finally, I will just adjust the spacing between the duplicate layers using the Move Tool and the custom motion trail effect is created!

 motion trail effect