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After Effects Pro Tip: Quit Using Gaussian Blur Forever


Gaussian Blur isn’t just silly to say, it’s silly to use. Let’s explore why you should quit using it and look at a few alternatives.

There are a lot of different blur options in After Effects (fourteen to be exact), yet, for the most part, designers and mograph artists usually stick to one of two blurs: Gaussian Blur and Fast Blur. Both are capable of getting the job done, but both are lacking in a few ways. Let’s focus on the Gaussian Blur and take a look at why you should quit using it forever.

Seriously, stop using Gaussian Blur.

A Couple of Reasons Why Gaussian Blur Stinks

1. No Repeating Edge Pixels

Stop using Gaussian Blur: Repeat Edge Pixel Diagram
Notice how the gaussian blur creates a spill around the edges.

Ever wonder why the edges of your frame are darker than the center of the frame? Well it’s because Gaussian Blur doesn’t have a Repeat Edge Pixel feature. A Repeat Edge Pixel feature will allow your edges to interact in a more natural way, making it ideal for adjustment layers and full-composition layers.

2. Lack of Control

After Effects Pro Tip: Quit Using Gaussian Blur Forever - Lack of Control
Notice how different each blur iteration looks within the box blur.

Another problem with the Gaussian Blur (and Fast Blur, for that matter) is the lack of control over the way in which your blur is processed. With Gaussian Blur you only have the option to adjust blurriness, but you don’t have the option to adjust the number of blur iterations in your scene. This results in some very unnatural blurs.

A Couple of Alternatives to Gaussian Blur

1. Fast Blur (Good)

After Effects Pro Tip: Quit Using Gaussian Blur Forever - Gaussian vs Fast Blur
The blur properties are identical, but Fast Blur has Repeat Edge Pixels

As the name implies, the Fast Blur is fast, but you might be surprised to know that Fast Blur actually produces an identical blur result as Gaussian Blur. However, the biggest difference between Gaussian Blur and Fast Blur is the Repeat Edge Pixels feature which allows the blur to not become fuzzy near the edges of the frame. The Repeat Edge Pixels feature makes the Fast Blur ideal for adjustment layers and layers that take up the entire composition.

2. Box Blur (Great)

After Effects Pro Tip: Quit Using Gaussian Blur Forever - Gaussian vs Box Blur
The Box Blur adds greater control and more natural blurs, with the added Repeat Edge Pixel feature.

My favorite quick blur to use in After Effects is the Box Blur. Like Fast Blur, the Box Blur has a Repeat Edge Pixels feature, but the Box Blur takes it one step further. If you simply leave the Iterations value at 1, all of your blurs will have slight vertical and horizontal artifacts in them. I’ve found that these imperfect stylizations can give a project a much more organic look than simply using a Fast Blur. If you want the Box Blur to look more like a Fast Blur, simply turn up the Iterations and watch as the Box Blur converts itself to a more traditional style blur.

In the words of the good people at Prolost:

Box Blur = Alway, Fast Blur = Sometimes, Gaussian Blur = Never. – Prolost

While all of the blurs included in this list are usable, if you really want to get the best looking blur possible, the Lens Blur is by far your best option. However, the Camera Lens Blur can take a while to render on your computer, so it’s best to use it sparingly.