Alternatively, instead of a blur tool you can use a fairly large brush with a low opacity and either hard edge or just barely soft edge and sketch in your background. I find that’s useful for sketching in backgrounds in an illustration, because it’s really just more work to elaborately illustrate a background then lose 80% of the detail when you run a blur filter on it.
There are other ways to get good depth while drawing in pen. Instead of blurry, (like, narrow depth of field), you can also simply lighten the background and foreground and include less detail. That can create some nice effects.
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