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Photoshop Tutorials For The Brainy Beginner. Step 8: A weird technique that I absolutely can’t live without. Using it in a real situation to have smoke on its separate floating layer without background.

“Watching John Smith with Photoshop is like watching Yoda with a light saber” (One of my former students).

 

Step 8:

A weird technique that I absolutely can’t live without. Using it in a real situation to have smoke on its separate floating layer without background.

 

In this tutorial I’ll show how to float the smoke, by which I mean getting the smoke on a separate layer, with no background whatsoever.

The second part of this tutorial will show how to incorporate the smoke into another image.

 

First thing first, download the original smoke here

https://www.dropbox.com/s/c9cmj56axb7exc2/smoke-01-01-16_bits.psd?dl=0

 

Open it in Photoshop. It’s a very ugly shot with lots of problems.

Its only merit is to be a 16bits per pixels image. I tried this tutorial with a 8bits per pixels version of the exact same image and the results were disappointing. Also don’t change the size or the resolution of the image: The values I give later on, like size of the brushes and feathering, are for this size. If you try with another better image of yours, you’ll have to fly by the seats of your pants.

If you followed the previous tutorials you know all you need for this technique. Doing it on this terrible image will end your career as a beginner. You’ll never have to do anything as trying as this. Floating hair? Ah! I say. Child play in comparison.

On with the job.

 

1) Please read the whole step one before doing it.

If you followed my previous tutorials just hit CTRL+ALT+2. If you haven’t, go to the Channels tab of the Layers panel, CTRL + CLICK inside the icon of the RGB channel and come back to the Layers tab of the Layers panel.

You have already done all this in step 7. The only difference is that now you get an alarming message warning you that “No pixel will be more than 50% selected and the selection will not be visible on screen” (or words to that general meaning). It just means that you won’t see any marching ants on screen. The selection is done however so just press ENTER to validate. Don’t forget to be back inside the Layers tab of the Layers panel. And by the way, just do the previous tutorials it'll make life much simpler for us all. 

 

2) Create a new empty layer (CTRL+SHIFT+N) and name it WHITES. Fill the invisible selection with white (the layer WHITES should be active). The image becomes slightly whiter. Defects from the poor shooting appear and we have to take care of this now. It will make a nice practice.

 

3) WITHOUT DESELECTING, if you followed my tutorials from the beginning you just have to hit SHIFT+F3. Otherwise go to the Layer menus → New layer mask → New layer with selection (or any wording that might mean that only the selection will appear). And please, do the previous tutorials. 

The image is noticeably darker. That’s understandable but complicated to explain. Luckily we don’t have to understand everything in this technique to use it. If you really want to know ask me in comments but be ready for everything.

I call this step applying the whites on themselves. Improper really.

 

4) Deselect everything (CTRL+D). Activate Background. Create a new empty layer, name it BLACK. Fill it with black. The image looks all black. No worries, just make sure you filled the new empty layer and not “WHITES”.

Activate “WHITES” and duplicate it 5 times by pressing 5 times CRTL+J. Some smoke reappears.

 

5) Redo the CTRL+ALT+2 trick.

 

6) Redo Step 2. You have now a new WHITES layer on top of the other layers. The smoke looks better but its crowded there. Deselect everything with CTRL+D.

 

7) Activate WHITES copy 5 and press Del 6 times to delete everything between topmost WHITES and BLACK. Darn it’s too dark again.

 

8) Activate and duplicate the remaining WHITES. Much better. You’ll notice almost all the defects are gone AROUND the smoke but still on the right of the smoke there is a vertical bar due to the background still visible.

 

9) Press L to have the lasso (polygonal if you followed my previous ramblings). Press Enter to highlight the feathering option. Type 100 and Enter to set the value.

 

10) Select roughly and widely around the vertical bar and press CRTL+F3 to mask the selection. If CTRL+F3 means nothing to you, just follow my previous tutorials.

The vertical bar is now almost invisible. Hide or delete WHITES and then activate and duplicate WHITES copy. Press CTRL+E to merge the 2 topmost layers and press “Apply” in the dialog.

 

Save your work. You’ll use it again.

 

You are done. The layer WHITES copy contains the smoke and no background. You can duplicate it (CTRL+J) and move it around if you don’t believe me.

 

If there are a few places where your smoke is too bright or a little bit strange, just add a layer mask and with a 175px soft brush at 10% opacity and paint them off with black (D+X) from inside the mask (CTRL+&) to get it perfect.

Fill the layer BLACK with a nice red. Activate and duplicate WHITES (CTRL+J) as many times as you want. You must be aware that what you see depends on the ambiant light in your room. I duplicated WHITES 6 times. 

Here is my final image.

Photoshop Tutorials For The Brainy Beginner. Step 8:  A weird technique that I absolutely can’t live without. Using it in a real situation to have smoke on its separate floating layer without background.

Practice: Redo this tutorial till you feel comfortable with the instructions. Means painting in the mask and not on the layer, delete the layer instead of erasing inside it (if you forgot to deselect on step 6, for example).

 

Next step we will use this smoke to integrate it inside another image.

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