How to Create a Smoke Dispersion Effect in Photoshop CC

Description: In this tutorial we’ll create a cool smoke dispersion effect that makes our model look like she’s disappearing into thin air! The meat of this tutorial is really the deep dive into creating a selection with the new Select and Mask feature in Photoshop and how you can change your workflow to adjust to the quirks and differences this tool brings to the table. We’ll also, of course, cover working with multiple masks, brushes, and customizing brushes to create the perfect smoke dispersion effect complete with a little color grading thanks to a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer. If you like Photoshop, you’re going to love this tutorial.

DOWNLOAD Smoke Brushes used in this tutorial here. 

Finding the Perfect Image + Things to Consider

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When looking for an image online or among the shots from your latest photo shoot, you ideally want an image with a lot of extra clothing or object in your image. This will give us something to work with. Ideally, it’s also good to have a very simple or solid colored background. For this tutorial, I’m going with an image with a complex background simply because IT IS more difficult. Let’s get started!

Cut Out the Model with Select and Mask

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I used the Quick Selection Tool (Q) to make a rough selection around the subject of this photo and then went Select>Select and Mask and used a combination of the Brush tool and Refine Edge Brush tool to paint over the edges of the hair to get a better selection around her hair. I also chose to output the refined selection as “New Layer with Layer Mask”. Check out the video at the top of this tutorial for the full fifteen minutes of selecting and Select and Mask action.

Adding a Mask and Starting the Effect

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Once we have this new layer, we want to duplicate this layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + J and then right-click on the layer mask for this new, duplicated layer and choose “Apply Mask” to use this mask to make the hidden bits of this layer disappear.

Finishing the Effect with Liquify and Smoke. Lots of Smoke!

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On this new layer where we applied the mask, go Filter>Liquify and use the Forward Warp Tool and stretch out the dress to pull it in the left and right a bit. Next, add a mask and fill it with black to hide the liquefied layer. Next, go back to the other masked layer that is not liquefied and paint in that mask with your foreground color set to black using the smoke brushes we downloaded from Brusheezy (DOWNLOAD Smoke Brushes.) and paint on this mask to get rid of some of the dress. Then go up to the black mask on the liquefied layer and paint with white to reveal smoky bits of this stretched dress. The two layers working together will give us the effect we want.

Watch the video to see the full tutorial and all the details!

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As usual with these short tutorial summaries, make sure you watch the full video above so you can see all the details and depth and get a great idea of how you can create this effect for yourself. Thanks!