Making Smoke in Photoshop
by Jeffrey Sward

Step 1 Canvas

  1. Create new psd file
  2. Background transparent
  3. Next layer black (to be able to view smoke)
  4. Next layer transparent. This layer contains the smoke.

Step 2 Base of Your Smoke

  1. Make sure to have the transparent layer selected
  2. Pick a dark gray color less than 127 perhaps less than 63
  3. Draw overlapping squiggles
    1. Use a medium to large brush,
    2. If gun barrel is in final image then the brush size of the squiggle should be equal to the size of the gun barrel.
    3. Only one single squiggle should touch the gun barrel. This one squiggle should start horizontal before curving up.
  4. Fill in any gaps with a brush half the size of the original,
  5. Fill in any gaps with a brush one quarter the size of the original

Step 3 Filters

  1. Go onto Filter ==> Blur ==> Gaussian blur
  2. Go to Filter ==> Blur ==> box blur
  3. Repeat Steps 1-2 until smoke effect complete

Step 4 Application to Main Image

  1. Edit main image up to setting tonal values.
  2. Crop but do not resize the main image
  3. Duplicate only the transparent layer containing the smoke onto the main image
  4. Resize and move the smoke layer
  5. If the smoke is invisible the tone is too white. Start over with a darker gray squiggle.
  6. At some point the image can be flattened and resized for final usage


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