Creating An Explosion Effect Using Adobe Photoshop CS

This tutorial will create an image similar to this one:

final explosion image

Each time these steps are performed a different image will result. This tutorial is for the overall "effect" not a specific image.

Step 1: Base Image

Create new document, 500 x 500 pixels, 72ppi, RGB mode, with a transparent background. Use the settings below to create your new document.

New Document

Set the foreground color to black and the background color to white. (You can do this by simply hitting the d key on the keyboard.)

Color reset

Hold down the option/alt key and choose Filter > Render > Clouds from the menu.

Cloud filter menu

Holding down the option/alt key forces the clouds filter to have more contrast.

The image should look something like the image below. Your clouds may look a little different but they should cover the entire image layer. This effect works best with some white area in the center of the document. You may need to repeat the clouds filter a couple times until you get a decent amount of white near the center of the image.

Coulds Filter

Go back to the filter menu and choose Filter > Artistic > Plastic Wrap. Set the filter like the image below.

Plastic Wrap Menu

Plastic Wrap Settings

The image should now look similar to this:

After Plastic Wrap

Make certain the contrast is adequate for this effect. Select Image > Adjustments > Levels from the menu and then click the "auto" button as shown below. You can also accomplish this by holding down the Command-shift (Mac) or Control-shift (PC) and then hitting the L key on the keyboard.


Step 2: Blowing It Up

From the menu choose Filter > Stylize > Extrude.

Extrude Menu

Change the settings in the window to match the ones in the image below.

Extrude Settings

The image should now appear similar to this:

After Extrude

To eliminate the spots and lines created from the extrude filter, choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur from the menu. Use a small setting, just enough to eliminate the harsh lines left by the extrude filter.

Gaussian Blur

Now let's color!

Step 3: Colorizing The Explosion

Choose Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation from the menu. You can also use Command-u (Mac) or Control-u (PC) to bring up the Hue/Saturation dialog.

Hue Sat Menu

Click the "Colorize" checkbox then adjust the settings like the image below.

Hue Sat One

Click "okay." The image should look similar to this:

Color One

Next duplicate this layer to add more color depth. On the keyboard hold down the Command key (Mac) or Control key (PC) and hit the j key. This should duplicate your current layer to a new layer.

Layers Palette

Bring up the Hue/Saturation dialog again (Command-u/Control-u) and simply type "-45" in the hue field (without the quotes), then hit okay.

Hue Sat Two

The image should now appear red, like this:

Color Two

To make the color work, change the Blend Mode on the top layer to "Color Burn" and lower the opacity of the top layer until your colors look about correct to you.

Color Burn

Here you could be finished, but another tweak can be added to further express the effect.

Step 4: Pushing it a little

Create a new layer above the two existing layers.

New Layer

Hold down the option key (Mac) or the alt key (PC) choose "Merge Visible" from the flyout menu on the layers palette. This will merge the two lower layers onto the new empty layer without deleting any layers.

From the menu choose Filter > Blur > Radial Blur and set everything like the image below.

Radial Blur

The image should look similar to this:

Radial image

Pretty cool effect right there. But that's not why we're here. Change this blur layer's blend mode to "Lighten" and lower it's opacity to around 30%.

Blur layers

There you are. You should now have an image similar to the one below.

Radial image

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