The Smoke Effect

This tutorial is rather simple. You will learn how to create a real smoke effect from scratch. For this tutorial we will use a prop, such as a cigarette that you can download here.

Start off with a fairly long canvas, for the smoke will be traveling upward.
I used a 301x586 canvas with a black background and 72pi. You can also begin with a transparent background and create a new layer to later fill it with black.

To start the smoke effect you will have to choose a medium brush, we will use a 20px brush with a hardness of 50%.


Create a new layer. Go ahead and paint two white strikes on your new layer. Remember to paint those strikes near your objective, in this case a cigarette. Nevertheless, the smoke can always be relocated for it will remain on a single layer.

Now we are going to start modeling the two smoke bars with our handy smudge tool. Your smudge brush should be around 34px with a hardness of 30%. As for the mode keep it on normal and the strength should be set to 30%.

Take your smudge brush and wave it around the vertical strikes. Give it a dancing effect, but there is no need to overwork it. The point of this step is to get rid of the geometrical shape.



Make sure you’re on your smoke strike layer. Now click on the Motion Blur Filter.
Filter>Blur>Motion Blur
Keep the settings under 50 pixels. As for the angle, you are free to choose, for there may be wind in your image and you might want the smoke to move in a specific direction. As for me, I will remain with 20.

Once you get the result keep modifying the smoke with the smudge tool. You might want to change the brush size in order to obtain various results. Keep in mind that the smoke moves upwards, and that the higher the smoke the larger the smoke. Feel free to observe pictures of smoke. Notice how it dances in the air, how it feels free and alive. After playing around with the smudge tool you will get something like this.

You might have also noticed that smoke usually fades after a while. In order to accomplish that and give your smoke a more natural look, click on your gradient tool.
Choose the black to transparent option.

In order to get the appropriate look, simply drag the gradient line from left to right. Just make sure the black side is upward, and the transparent side is downward. Don’t forget to create this gradient on a new layer above the smoke layer.

When you finish you will get a result like so. This tutorial has simple procedures; however mastering the smudge tool can be quite frustrating. This tutorial requires a lot of practice but will definitely give you a satisfying end result.

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