Creating Smoke In Photoshop From Scratch

smoke-howto

Using Photoshop and a specific technique, it’s rather easy to create something that looks like smoke or fog—from scratch. It’s not as good as actual smoke photographed on a black background, but it’s much easier to come by. Here’s the trick…

Doodle

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Draw a doodle. Preferrably keep the doodle in its own layer with a black background beneath.

Distort

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Use the Liquify tool to distort the doodle. Liquify resides in the Filter > Liquify... menu. Using the various “forward warp”, “twirl” and “pucker” tools residing in the menu to the left, you distort the doodle as if you were fingerpainting.

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Once you’ve applied the liquify transformation, select Edit > Fade Liquify.... In the dialog box that appears, set the opacity to 50% and apply.

Repeat

Now repeat the process until you’re satisfied:

  1. Liquify
  2. Fade Liquify to 50%

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smoke09 smoke10

If you enjoyed this tutorial, you might also enjoy my Creating Microworlds in Photoshop tutorial.

75 thoughts on “Creating Smoke In Photoshop From Scratch

  1. Nice trick. I love tutorials. All this time reading your blog I had a slight hope that you will publish some. (Especially in Flash :D).

  2. Interesting tutorial!

    One way to make the smoke look more realistic would be to use Liquify to create large and small swirls and eddies in the layers to recreate the turbulence inherent to actual smoke.

    (Sorry. I’m getting my PhD by doing work on turbulence, so I’m compelled to mention these sorts of things.)

  3. One way to make the smoke look more realistic would be to use Liquify to create large and small swirls and eddies in the layers to recreate the turbulence inherent to actual smoke.

    That’s exactly right.

    The thing is, this technique is scalable in the way that if take the time necessary to create great detail, you’ll get much more realistic results. The screenshots shown here are pretty basic and quick.

  4. I believe actions in PS can also be applied to this.

    Maybe. The thing is, each “liquify” process requires a different distortion for the results to be good. You may need actual Photoshop scripting if you plan to automate it.

  5. Awesome. Nice trick, will try it soon.

    Not only is this digg worthy.. it’s stumble worthy :).

    ^ How I came by it

  6. Definitely a nice tutorial and very quick and to the point. I’ll have to save this one to give it a try here in the next few days… thanks for sharing this!

  7. are you all blind?! this is a terrible example of photoshop ability. WHOEVER MADE THIS NEEDS TO BE SPLASHED WITH HOLY WATER AND STABBED THROUGH THE HEART WITH A STAKE!!!! that is all…goodbye.

  8. Thanks for that. I am doing an animation based on the word “fire” at the moment, and the smoke trick is obviously very useful.

  9. Great! What a great way to “make some smoke” Or fog. I didn’t know it seems so easy. I thought that one had to go through a lot more just to get some smoke.

  10. I don’t use whatever digg is…. but I do Stumble… and its certainly worthy of a ‘like’ on stumble.

  11. This is without a doubt one of the best and most natural looking Smoke effects I’ve found in my searches.

    The effect is just what I’ve been looking for.

    This tutorial ROCKS

  12. Doesn’t look like smoke to me. Looks like a cloudy photoshop scribble.
    Nice try though. You could probably get it to look more like actual smoke with those techniques if you did more by hand rather than letting the program do it.

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