Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design > Adobe Photoshop

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Debris and Dust

Debris and dust are something you often see in movie posters when there’s a lot of action and explosions. As always with Photoshop, there are countless ways to create this debris and dust effect.

Creating the Brush

  1. Create a new document: go to File > New, make the dimensions 1500px width and 1500px height, set the resolution to 240ppi, and for Background Contents choose anything other than Transparent. Click OK.
  2. Then go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise, set Amount to 400%, set Distribution to Gaussian, and select the Monochromatic checkbox (Figure 4.14).

    Figure 4.14

    Figure 4.14

  3. For this effect to work we need to make the noise bigger. Choose the Rectangular Marquee tool, Shift-click, and drag out a square in the center of the document (Figure 4.15).

  4. Copy this selection onto its own layer by pressing Command/Ctrl+J. Then go to Edit > Free Transform, Shift+Option/Alt-click any corner transform handle and drag outward so that the square fills the document. As a result, the size of the noise has been increased. Flatten the layers by going Layer > Flatten Image.
  5. Go to Filter > Filter Gallery, and then to Stylize > Glowing Edges. Here is where you can experiment with the Edge Width, Edge Brightness, and Smoothness settings to create random shapes that will pass as being debris. In this example I found that setting Edge Width to 14, Edge Brightness to 20, and Smoothness to 1 worked great (Figures 4.16 and 4.17).

    Figure 4.17

    Figure 4.17

  6. Click OK to close the Filter Gallery, and then press D to set the foreground and background colors to their default of black and white. Press X so that white becomes the foreground color. Choose the Gradient tool from the toolbar and, in the options at the top of the screen, select the Foreground to Transparent from the Gradient Picker, and the Linear gradient as in Figure 4.18.

  7. Drag inward from each side (left, right, top, and bottom) and from the corner of the document several times. This will cover the debris that is too close to the edge and ensure that there are no straight lines (Figure 4.19). Then go to Image > Adjustments > Levels, click the Black Point sampler icon (Figure 4.20). Zoom in on the document and click any of the debris shapes (this darkens them all so that they stand out more). Click OK to close the Levels Adjustment dialog.

    Figure 4.19

    Figure 4.19 The result of using several gradients to remove the debris from the edges and to remove any straight lines

  8. Choose Edit > Define Brush Preset, name the brush Debris, and click OK. Choose the Brush tool (B), and in the options at the top of the screen click to open the Brush Preset Picker. The brush we just created will appear as the very last in the list. Click this new brush to select it, click the gear icon in the top right of the Brush Preset Picker properties to open a menu (Figure 4.21), and choose Save Brushes.

  9. Name the brush set Particles, and click OK.

    The Particles brush set, which contains the Debris brush, is now stored for future use and will appear in the Brush Preset Picker’s list of brushes (Figure 4.22), meaning you can share it and export it. (Brush sets are a great way to keep similar brushes together.)

    Figure 4.22

    Figure 4.22 The Particles brush set is now stored in Photoshop for future use.

Saving Brush Presets

Now we can make some adjustments in the Brush panel to make the Particles brush look and behave as we want it to.

  1. Choose the Brush tool (B), and from the Brush Preset Picker choose the Particles brush. Click the Brush panel icon (Figure 4.23).

  2. In Brush Tip Shape, set Spacing to 60%. In Shape Dynamics, set Size Jitter to 5% and Angle Jitter to 100% (Figure 4.24). In Scattering, set Scatter to 25% and Count to 1. In Transfer, set Opacity Jitter to 65%.

    Figure 4.24

    Figure 4.24 Making changes in the Brush panel

  3. To save these settings as a preset, click the gear icon in the top right of the Brush panel properties and choose New Brush Preset (Figure 4.25). Name the preset Debris/Dust, and click OK.

    Figure 4.25

    Figure 4.25 Saving brush settings as a preset for future use

Using the Debris Brush

We’ll now add depth using several layers.

  1. With an image open in Photoshop that you want to add debris to, add a new blank layer to the top of the layer stack and name it debris 1.
  2. Use the Debris brush with a black foreground color to paint the debris. Debris in the distance would be small because it is farthest from the camera, so to make it appear out of focus go to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters and then to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. I used a blur amount of 20 pixels (Figure 4.26). Then click OK.

  3. Add another blank layer and name it debris 2. Increase the size of the brush a little because the debris nearer to the camera would be larger, and then apply a few brush strokes. Go to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters, and then to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and apply less blur than in the previous step. I applied a blur amount of 15 pixels. Click OK.
  4. Add another blank layer and name it debris 3. This debris should be slightly larger than the previous layer, so increase the size of the brush. Add a small amount of Gaussian Blur (5 pixels) so that it still has the look of movement. Click OK.
  5. Add another blank layer and name it debris 4. This will be the debris nearest the camera. This debris needs to be largest of all, so increase the size of the brush to the maximum and apply a few brush strokes (if you want the debris to be even bigger, use Edit > Free Transform and resize the contents of the layer). Finally, go to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters, and then to Filter > Gaussian Blur and add a blur amount similar (if not slightly more) to the amount you used on the debris 1 layer.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020