Blurry photos aren’t usually what you’re going for when you hit the shutter button, but if you want to use a shot that has some sensitive information in it, a little judiciously-applied censorship may be in order.
If you don’t have Photoshop or another editing program, though, you’re not out of luck: there are plenty of decent substitutes for you to blur images online, some with just a few editing tools and some with the kitchen sink. Whether you’re looking to blur a face, an object, or a whole image, one of these browser-based tools can help.
Quick and easy: Facepixelizer
Facepixelizer doesn’t just pixelate things: it can also blur them or put a Guy Fawkes mask over them (for those moments when you and your friends had one too many Molotov cocktails last night). The process just takes a few minutes and requires pretty much zero tech-savvy.
1. Drag and drop your picture into the box on the site.
2. If you want the tool to automatically detect and block a face, select Pixelize, Blur, or GF (Guy Fawkes).
3. Otherwise, use Manual to select the area yourself.
4. Once the area is selected and blurred, just hit “Save Image” to get the edited file.
Unfortunately, the drag-and-drop interface isn’t mobile-friendly, so it’s best for PC users.
For a little extra fine-tuning: Pinetools Censor Photo
Pinetools seems to have an online tool for every occasion: homework, coding, measuring time, and, of course, censorship! Their “Censor Photos” tool under the “Images” category lets you select areas to pixelate, blur, or block completely, and also lets you choose whether to blur a rectangle or an ellipse and the degree to which it should be obscured. Here’s how it works:
1. Upload your picture using the Browse button.
2. Move and resize the rectangular box to cover the areas you need.
3. Change the shape to rectangle or ellipse.
4. Choose Blur, Pixelate, or Solid Color.
5. Use the slider to set how blurry/pixelated you want the image to be.
6. Hit the “Censor” button.
7. Click PNG, JPG, or BMP to download the image in the format you choose.
The Pinetools tool is also not mobile-friendly, though — you can upload an image, but can’t move the selection box around.
Mid-level Photoshop clone: Sumopaint
If all you need is a quick blur or pixelation, Facepixelizer, Pinetools or another tool will be fine. If you need to get more detailed, like blurring a background or an irregular shape, you’ll need something with a little more punch.
Sumo isn’t a complete Photoshop clone, but it’s pretty user-friendly and has the essentials. You have two options here: use the Blur brush or select an area and apply a filter to it. The Blur brush is easy to use, but even at 100% blur, you’ll have to go over the same area a few times to make sure it gets blurry enough. For more options try this:
1. Select an area with the Rectangular Select Tool, Lasso (freehand selection), or Magic Wand (selects similar color).
2. Go to the Filters tab.
3. Select a Blur, Noise, or Pixelate option and tweak it as needed.
4. Export the file using the “Save to My Computer” option in File.
It has a pretty mobile-friendly interface, but I couldn’t get it to actually work with a photo on an Android browser.
Advanced Photoshop clone/mobile-friendly: Photopea
Sumo’s select tools are a little lacking, though, so for more complex needs, you’ll want to try a tool that more closely mimics the flexibility you get with Photoshop, like Photopea. If you don’t know Photoshop already, this won’t be much easier to use, but online tutorials for the paid program should transfer over fairly well to the clone. You can use the basic “geometric shape + filter” combo for your basic blurs, sure, but Photopea’s real strength is its ability to make fancy selections.
For example, you can use the Lasso/Quick Selection/Magic Wand tools to select irregular shapes, layer them, and apply effects to them. This allows you to do foreground/background blurring or just be very precise with the information you conceal. You might even be able to doctor the image so that the information gets hidden without anyone noticing the edits.
In general, here are the features you’ll want to use for hiding parts of photos:
For making selections:
- Rectangle/Ellipse Select: for simple geometric shape selections.
- Lasso/Polygonal/Magnetic Lasso: for selecting objects either freehand (Lasso), with straight edges (Polygonal), or well-defined edges (Magnetic).
- Quick Selection/Magic Wand: for selecting areas with similar color/tone. (Don’t forget to adjust the tolerance if you’re not getting the selections you want!)
- Filters > Blur: Gaussian or Box are good choices.
- Filters > Pixelate: Mosaic is the standard here.
Once you have the image all edited, you have a lot of export options in the File menu.
As a bonus, even with its fairly complex interface, Photopea is quite mobile-friendly. You should be able to use it on your phone with no problem.
There are a million free image-editing programs out there, so if you just can’t get enough of them, you might want to check out a few other options:
Any of these tools should do the trick for smaller jobs or one-off needs, but if you find yourself needing to batch-edit photos or do more detailed editing work, you’ll probably want to look into a downloadable program like GIMP.