Another Photoshop tutorial because you guys asked for it! This time we are going to take a look at how to create realistic-looking smoke. Whether you use it to add that eery effect to a night-time scene, or to jazz up that photo that just looks too cool – you will find a dozen or so uses of this effect.
So let’s do it shall we…
1. As always, for the purposes of this demo, let’s go ahead and create a new document with canvas size 460×600 and black; #000000 as the background.
2. Create a new layer called “Smoke”. As always, you can achieve this in the Layer menu; ‘Layer > New > Layer’, or Shift+Control+N (Shift+Command+N on a Mac).
3. We are going to select a ‘Hard Round’ brush at about 20 pixels (which you can also select by right-clicking on the canvas with the brush selected and changing the settings. Make sure the brush is set at 100% opacity and obviously 100% hardness. Select white for the foreground colour; or #FFFFFF. Once we have these settings set-up we can roll ahead to step four!
4. Okay, as you can see in the image below, we are just going to create some ‘beanstalk’ style swirls or better yet; back to front question marks without the colon – on the canvas! Make sure to start from the left to the right. We are going to be reducing the size of the brush as we move from left to right; and the easiest way to explain this is to probably show you how it should look over a couple of screens. So here we go!
5. Okay, now that you have created the above brush patterns at different sizes, let’s create the magic. Let’s go to ‘Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur’ at 7 pixels radius. Here’s the screeny.
If you got it right it should be looking like this so far:
6. You might not have used the ‘Maximum’ and ‘Minimum’ effects before. These two effects, which can be found under ‘Filter > Other’, are useful for modifying masks.
The Maximum filter basically applies a choke to the layer; basically spreading out white areas and choking in black areas. Whereas, the Minimum filter has the effect of applying the direct opposite; a spread. It achieves this by spreading out black areas and consequently shrinking white areas.
The great thing about the Maximum and Minimum filters is both effects look at individual pixels in a selection. As mentioned in Adobe’s documentation, ‘within a specified radius, the Maximum and Minimum filters replace the current pixel’s brightness value with the highest or lowest brightness value of the surrounding pixels.’
That’s just what we need for this effect! We want to basically ‘blend’ the pixel brightness values by going over the layer with a ‘Maximum’ pass – so let’s go ahead and do just that.
Head over to the ‘Filter > Other > Maximum’ filter and select a radius of 4 pixels. Notice how the higher up you go in radius, the less-realistic it starts to look.
7. Okay, if you managed to get that section okay, your canvas should start looking like this:
8. Alright, let’s add a few more effects. Let’s go to ‘Filter > Distort > Spherize’ and select ‘-100%’, select okay, and then go to ‘Filter > Distort > Twirl’ and select a setting of ‘-75%’. Your canvas should now be looking like this:
9. Alright, we are almost there! Let’s setup a Surface Blur by going to ‘Filter > Blur > Surface Blur’ with the following settings:
10. Okay! We are pretty much done! Let’s find an interesting image to use as a backdrop. Through the magic of Stock Xchange, here’s one CraigPJ created earlier. [http://www.sxc.hu/photo/788512]
Insert this image, or any other as a separate layer but make sure it is underneath the ‘smoke’ layer we have been working on.
There you go! Cool hah? Feel free to play around with the Smoke effect to get it looking a little better. Try duplicating the ‘smoke’ layer and playing with the opacity of that layer, or moving it around the canvas.
You can use the ‘Warp Tool’ to make the smoke move in a certain direction. Maybe something like this? [Click to maximise]
So here’s just one of the ways this effect can go in terms of Levels and Curves.
So there you go guys! Enjoy playing with this effect. There are many ways to create smoke in Photoshop, but this method usually gets you good results. Not only that, it gives you ample oppurtunity to experiment with not only the settings, but the post-production after the effect has been setup.
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Till next time, Cheb 2.0.