This Photoshop smoke tutorial provides a simple, yet effective approach to creating artistic smoke in Adobe Photoshop. For this tutorial, you need a version of Photoshop that features the Liquify tool. Follow the steps below, and with a little creativity, you’ll be blowing your own smoke in Photoshop!
Step One – Paint
In Photoshop, setup a new blank image with 2 layers – in this example, the background layer is filled with black. Using the brush tool, select a main color you’d like to make your smoke. On the layer above the background, paint a simple abstract shape. It’s not too important to be precise here, as we’ll soon be applying several distortions.
Step Two – Liquify
Time to Liquify! Once you paint your shape, access the Liquify tool by clicking in the menu, Filter > Liquify (or Shift+Ctrl+X). In Liquify, experiment with your image using the Warp, Twirl, Pucker and Bloat tools. Try different brush sizes and pressure levels to determine the best settings for image.
Once you’ve warped your image a bit, click “Ok” to apply the transformation. Now, before doing anything else, in the menu, go to Edit > Fade (or Shift+Ctrl+F), and change the value to 50%, click “Ok” to apply.
Step Three – Rinse and Repeat
Repeat step two as many times as it takes to get the result you’re looking for. Liquify, apply, Edit > Fade 50%. Don’t get frustrated if you’re not happy with the results. Just repeat the steps and it will come together. Since smoke is “organic” by nature, there’s no way to really mess this up. Just keep your warps smooth and avoid sharp lines and angles.
Step Four – Enhancements
Once you’re satisfied with your “Liquifications,” it’s time to step back and think about tweaking your image to enhance its realism. The Dodge and Burn tool becomes quite effective in helping to create a more 3D look. Try experimenting with the Dodge tool around the edges and lines (with Highlight mode selected) of your image. Using the Burn tool inside the smoke shapes will add depth to your image.
Make your Photoshop smoke look even more spectacular by playing with color.
- Duplicate your smoke layer (Ctrl+J).
- Adjust Hue/Saturation (Ctrl+U).
- Add a Layer Mask (Hide all).
- Now Paint/Reveal the layer to selectively apply color.
Experiment even further by adjusting the Levels (Ctrl+L) of your image. Move the sliders around, toward each other, etc., and see how the adjustments affect your smoke image (this will be different for each image). Once satisfied, click “Ok” to apply the changes.
The final result: