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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.

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