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Explosion Effect - viewed 171,720 times

Introduction

In this Photoshop tutorial we're going to create exploding clouds or whatever you want to call it. The strength of this tutorial is that the effects are easily adjustable and this Photoshop technique is also well suited to create animated explosion effects in ImageReady. Let's start.

1. Prepare the background

Open a new image. I created a small 400x300 image and kept it small to be able to use it in this tutorial. As long as you use this size you want to have many problems with the advised brush size or gaussian blur setting later on. But the tutorial shouldn't give you any majors problems even if you choose a much larger size.

Black & White by pressing DPress the letter D on your keyboard, which makes the foreground color white and the background color black.

Now grab the Paint Bucket tool Paint Bucket Toolfrom the toolbar and fill the background with black.
Go to the layers palette and click on the Create a New Layer icon New Layer to add a new layer.

2. Change the foreground color to red

Now click on the foreground color Foreground color in toolbar and select an average looking red.

In my case I selected the color in the upper right corner (A) which has the value FF0000 (B).

Selecting foreground color

3. Select the proper brush

Select the Brush tool Brush Tool in the tool bar.
Click on the area of the options bar that I've marked in red and select a
100px brush, with a hardness of 0%, which is the softest brush you can use.

Selecting brush size and hardness

The size of the brush depends a bit on the size of the image you started with.

4. Paint the basic shape

We're going to use 3 colors:
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • White

First we start with red and paint a random shape. Make sure that it does look random, so don't paint a circle or square. Don't paint just an outline, but paint inside of the shape too. (although it's fun to experiment with shapes that only show an outline, but for now we stick to a filled shape).

After we're done with this we select a yellow color, I selected #FFFC00.

This time paint inside the red, but not too close to the border. Consider to one or two (or more) separate yellow areas, as long as they are inside the red shape. If the brush is too big, then just go back to the options bar to select a smaller size or press [ a few times on your keyboard. Press ] to make the brush bigger. Again, try to draw a shape (or shapes) that's quite random.

The last color that we select is white (#FFFFFF). This time paint inside the yellow shapes, again not too close to the border and resize your brush if you have to.

Here's an example of what it might look like:

Painted colored shapes

 

In the red shape we have two yellow shapes and inside them two white shapes. Not all that random, but this will do for now.

5. Blur the clouds and add a Hue & Saturation adjustment layer

Got to the menu and select Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur...
Select a radius of 40 pixels and click OK.
Again, the same story with the brush; the radius depends on the size of the image. Use a smaller radius for a smaller image, a larger radius for a larger one.

Now click on the Create an Adjustment Layer icon Adjustment Layerin the layers palette and select Hue/Saturation... and click OK.
We now have a Hue & Saturation Adjustment Layer and we're going to change it to a Clipping Layer on top of our layer with the blurred shape by pressing Ctrl + G(Command + G on the Mac) or Ctrl + Alt + G (Command + Option + G on the Mac) if you use Photoshop CS2.

By turning it into a clipping layer we're making sure that the Hue & Saturation adjustment will only affect the layer underneath (that's how clipping layers work).
What is the function of this Hue & Saturation layer? I'll explain later. For now leave the default settings of this adjustment layer the way they are.

Hue & Saturation adjustement layer

6. Add a 'Clouds' layer

Go to the layers palette and click on the Create a New Layer icon New Layer to add a new layer.

Like in step #1, we're going to change the fore- and background colors again; press the letter D on your keyboard, which makes the foreground color black and the background color white.

Now we fill the layer with black (the color doesn't really matter) using the Paint Bucket tool Paint Bucket Toolin the tool bar .

Now go to the menu and select Filter/Render/Clouds.

The result is a random result. If you don't like the generated 'clouds' then just press Ctrl + F (Command + F on the Mac) until you see something you like. You can repeat this as often as you like.

Set the blending mode of this layer to Color Dodge.

Blending mode Color Dodge for Clouds layer

7. Add a levels adjustment layer

Now click on the Create an Adjustment Layer icon Adjustment Layerin the layers palette and select Levels... and click OK.
We now have a Levels Adjustment Layer and like in step 5 we're going to change it to a Clipping Layer and this time on top of our clouds layer by pressing Ctrl + G (Command + G on the Mac) or Ctrl + Alt + G (Command + Option + G on the Mac) if you use Photoshop CS2. By turning it into a clipping layer we're making sure that the levels adjustment will only affect the clouds layer.

This is how the result should look like in our layers palette:

Levels Adjustment Layer

8. Select the proper brush

Now open the Levels Adjustment Layer by double clicking on its icon Levels in the layers palette.
Select the gray slider and move it sideways, in my example I moved it slightly to the left or right. Just experiment, it all depends on your particular image.

 

Levels Adjustment

 

Final result

And here we have the final result. Yours will look slightly different, but like I said earlier; experiment with all the settings.

Result

In this example I used 4 colors; I started with blue, followed by red, yellow and white.

Result with 4 colors

I had to go back to the clouds layer a few times in this last example to get the effect that I wanted. So again remember; if you don't like the final result, consider to go back to the clouds layer and press Ctrl + F (Command + F on the Mac) a few times, play with the gray slider of the Levels adjustment or paint different shapes.

Note: Be careful with Ctrl + F, because you have to be sure that the last effect you used was Render/Clouds.
All Ctrl + F does is repeating the last effect that was used. If you hit Ctrl+F and something goes wrong, then just undo by pressing Ctrl + Z (Command + Z on the Mac) and go back to the menu and select Filter/Render/Clouds again. After that you can use Ctrl+F again.

And what about the Hue & Saturation adjustment layer we added earlier?
Open the Hue & Saturation Adjustment Layer by double clicking on its icon Hue & Saturation in the layers palette.
Now use the Hue slider to change the colors of the clouds or use the Saturation slider to change the saturation.

To summarize all 5 major steps:

  • Create a black background
  • Add a new layer, painting colored shapes with soft brush and blur the layer
  • Add a Hue & Saturation adjustment clipping layer
  • Add a new layer, filling it with black and apply the clouds effect, layer's blending mode set to color dodge
  • Add a Levels adjustment clipping layer

 

Animation

There are a few things in this tutorial that make it easier to use the effect for an animation and that's because of the following variable adjustments:

  • Ctrl+F (Command + F on the Mac) to re-render clouds effect
  • Adjustment layer for the Hue & Saturation correction
  • Adjustment layer for the Levels correction

Because of this it's easy to create the frames that can be used in a program like ImageReady.

Since levels adjustment layers are not supported in ImageReady (what a shame!), we'll have to export every frame to a separate file. It's a good idea to export all files (frames) to a dedicated directory and give each file a number. It's advised to to use numbers like 9,10,11, etc, but please include all preceding zeros, so in my example the numbers should be 09,10,11, etc. This avoids that files are sorted in the wrong way.

Open ImageReady and select in the menu File/Import/Folder as Frames... and the program will convert all your files as frames. How you go from there is all up to you and a detailed description of how to adjust or expand the animation in Imageready is beyond the scope of this tutorial. I can tell you the results can be quite spectacular, depending on how you created your frames in Photoshop to begin with and how many frames you used.

Here's a very basic example with only six frames in slow-motion

Animation


Again, like always; have fun!

 

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