I've thought that radial blur is a form of motion blur that is only applied to mobile objects, not camera movements, but I may be misinformed.

Radial blur can sometimes, albeit rarely, be configured in a PC game's options menu.

motion blur in Crysis

motion blur in effect in Crysis

4 Answers 4


The existing answers are good, but I want to offer a more in-depth explanation of what radial blur is and where it's used.

Radial blur is a particular kind of blurring effect that originates at a single point within an image and blurs outwards (or inwards) from (or to) the point. The word 'radial' itself actually means "Arranged like rays that radiate from, or converge to a common centre", which perfectly describes how radial blur works.

In the context of video games, radial blur is used for a variety of purposes.

Firstly it is used a means of drawing the player's focus onto an object by converging the blurring around a (sometimes moving) object that the game wants the player to focus on.

This is common in racing games where the effect tricks the player into focusing on their car as well as faking motion blur, visually implying that said car is moving fast without actually doing proper motion blurring. It's cheap but effective and can be found on many older games designed for systems that aren't powerful enough for full motion blur.

Radial blur around a car in a racing game

In addition to being used around the car, it is sometimes used on the wheels to fake the wheels turning. (Note that this variant of the effect is sometimes referred to as 'circular blur', but there seems to be no official consensus.)

Radial blur on a wheel at various angles

Alternatively it can be used in first person shooter games to get the player focused on their gun sight, leaving the rest of the world blurred out (as it would be if the player were really focusing on aiming a gun). This is especially common for sniper weapons that opt not to use a crosshair effect (or sometimes in conjunction with a crosshair).

Radial blur around a gun in an fps

Radial blur is often used in action games to stimulate action. For example it can be used to simulate explosions or gun recoil.

enter image description here

Lastly, it is sometimes used for UI effects in the kinds of minimalistic UIs that still show the paused game behind them.

enter image description here

For information about how radial blur works, the best resources I could find with a brief non-exhaustive search are this article using Java and this theoretical article.

Edit: Even better, I found an working example on ShaderToy.

Post Script: It's not particularly important but some people like to make a distinction between circular blur and true radial blur. Circular blur leaves a circle in the centre unblurred whilst radial blur blurs from a single point outwards, thus causing a complete blur.

  • 1
    The Fallout 3 screenshot looks a lot like depth of field.
    – user598527
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 12:16
  • 4
    @user598527 I'm assuming that's the one with the gun below the wheels. It's not depth of field, it's radial blur. Depth of field has even blurring like this image. If you look around the outsides of the image with the gun in it you will see line-like artifacts radiating out from the centre, which is the tell-tale sign of radial blur.
    – Pharap
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 12:28
  • 7
    Your wheel example isn't radial blur - rather than blurring inward or outward from the center, it blurs around the center. Radial blur would make the wheel look like it's moving toward or away from you, rather than looking like it's spinning. The effect in the wheel example is described by your jhlabs link as spin blur, and by your chemaguerra link as circular blur. (None of your links describe circular blur as a radial blur with the center unblurred - you may have gotten that impression by misinterpreting the circularly blurred tiger photo.) Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 17:12
  • 1
    @user2357112 That's a bit of a grey area. There seems to be little consensus on what constitutes 'radial blur' and what constitutes 'circular blur'. Without something more 'official' dictating the difference I'm going to leave it there for now. The image may not be 100% accurate but the principle is the same. Out of interest, this article classes both as radial blur and calls one 'Spin' and one 'Zoom'. Also radial gradients tend to form circles, so it's at least related.
    – Pharap
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 19:22
  • 1
    Some programs, like IrfanView, definitely call the wheel example "radial blur", while the other ones "zoom blur". Though I am not sure which one is better. "Circular blur" sounds better for the wheels.
    – IS4
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 21:21

A radial blur is a great way to add motion to an image, and the entire effect can be completed in a matter of minutes.

The same concept applies to gaming. It is not motion blur. More info here: http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-effects/radial-blur-action-effect-photoshop/

Original Image:

enter image description here

Same Image with Radial Blur:

enter image description here

  • 7
    A matter of minutes? You must be using a terribly slow gpu. tongue in cheek
    – Pharap
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 2:37
  • 3
    @Pharap or he included starting up photoshop Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 11:02
  • 4
    @ratchetfreak I'd be worried if a game was trying to run photoshop to do its blurring instead of using shaders like normal games. also tongue in cheek
    – Pharap
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 11:18
  • 2
    @user598527 looks more appropriate to me. Rollback if you wish.
    – Timmy Jim
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 11:21
  • 5
    @user598527 Placing captions under images used to be the undisputed norm for things like websites and magazines, but it's becoming increasingly common to put a title above an image because the title introduces the image and explains its purpose before it is shown. Ultimately it's a matter of preference, but in the case of stackexchange answers I think placing the title/explanation before the image tends to make more sense, especially with larger images.
    – Pharap
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 12:12

A blur is typically performed on an image using a convolution kernel. For example a simple 3x3 box blur uses a convolution kernel so the total of all the elements in 1.0:

| 1/9 | 1/9 | 1/9 |
| 1/9 | 1/9 | 1/9 |
| 1/9 | 1/9 | 1/9 |

Applying this filter to each pixel results in a blur over only three pixels horizontally and vertically:

enter image description hereenter image description here

You can use different shaped convolution kernels to achieve different effects. You can use a purely horizontal or vertical kernel to achieve blurring purely in the horizontal or vertical directions.

Or you can arrange your kernel to work on a diagonal:

|     |     |     |     | 1/5 |
|     |     |     | 1/5 |     |
|     |     | 1/5 |     |     |
|     | 1/5 |     |     |     |
| 1/5 |     |     |     |     |

and now you blur on the 45 degree:

enter image description here

Radial or circular blurs, you change the convolution kernel for each pixel, arranging the blur in the direction you want: radially or tangentially:

enter image description hereenter image description here

Bonus Reading: JH Labs - Blurring for Beginners (archive)

  • 1
    It's a good answer, but perhaps a bit too technical for a site dedicated to playing games.
    – Mage Xy
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 17:00
  • More information wiki style!
    – Ian Boyd
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 19:17
  • 6
    This would be a nice answer on a photography site, but I would expect any answer here to at least reference its usage in games.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 23:30

From Unreal Engine 3 manual:

The radial blur effect allows you to mimic the look of a shockwave coming from an explosion. The effect blurs the screen in the direction eminating from the center of the radial blur actor that is placed in the scene.

enter image description here

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .