In graphic design and photography, smoke is capable of producing dramatic and powerful effects. In modern design digital smoke is frequently combined with lighting effects to create stunning work. In this post we’ll take a look at more than twenty sources of smoke-related inspiration and resources that can be used in your own design work.
Create Smoke Type in Photoshop in 10 Steps
Over at Abduzeedo, Fabio shows us how to transform simple text into something more dramatic by adding a smoke effect. In the tutorial, Fabio applies some effects and works with a set of smoke brushes that are freely available. This technique is fairly simple to replicate for your own work, and by using the brushes you can do this pretty quickly.
In this tutorial you’ll learn how to take a standard photo of cigarette smoke and blend in another photo of a woman into the smoke. The combination of images along with some Photoshop magic makes for an interesting effect of a smoking woman.
Creating smoke in Photoshop can also be done from scratch, using no images and no smoke brushes. This is an older tutorial from Abduzeedo, but the approach is quick and straightforward, and the end result is an attractive, realistic smoke effect on a dark background.
Create a Stunning Digital Smoke Effect
In this tutorial from Psdtuts+ we’ll learn a different approach to creating smoke from scratch in Photoshop. The end result is an effect with a bit of a different look than the previous tutorial, but both are excellent ways to create your own smoke in your work.
Creating a Smoke Fading Effect
This tutorial from 10 Steps starts with a photo of a woman and transforms it into a dark image of the woman’s face fading into smoke. The end result is interesting and unique. Because the tutorial is kept to 10 steps, some of the process isn’t described in as much detail as it could have been, but it’s still a helpful guide for some experimentation.
Noe Design Studio
Noe Design Studios has possibly received the most exposure as a site that features a digital smoke effect after appearing in many web design galleries. The multi-colored smoky header on the dark background gives the site a memorable and impressive look. In this site the smoke is the most prominent graphical feature in the design.
Dreamwire’s portfolio site uses a large background image of a rainbow-colored smoke effect. The primary content area of the site is a fairly standard two-column layout, but the colorful, smoky background image gives it a unique look. Unlike most of the other sites that use smoke effects in the design, Dreamwire does so on a light background.
Elite by Design
When Elite by Design was re-designed it was given a space-style background with some light and smoke effects. The stars sit on the dark background, and they’re surrounded by a cloudy, smoke effect. This effect is fairly subtle in the overall design of the site, and it does not produce a distraction from the content.
1 Pixel Brush
1 Pixel Brush uses a dark design with some various lighting effects in the header and as part of the header text. To the side of the light effects a smoke effect is also used. Smoke and light are often used together to compliment each other, and this is just one example.
This photo from deviantART user Canadian Rocker was taken in the dark while playing with some fire on a camping trip. According to the description there was some editing, such as the removal of some digital noise. The photo is called dancer because the shape of the smoke resembles a person dancing.
This is a very interesting image on Flickr of some colorful smoke. Sunlight was used to make the smoke clear and to bring out the colors. If you read through the comments on Flickr you’ll be able to read an explanation from the artist about the effect and some advice on duplicating it for yourself.
This photo on Flickr does a great job of capturing the smoke in the photo. This gives a slightly different example than the more digital and colorful works involving smoke.
If you’re looking for some inspiration of what you may be able to do with smoke in Photoshop, this is a great source. The smoke effects and the color are similar to those demonstrated in some of the tutorials featured earlier, and also similar to a few of the real-world examples of smoke in web design that we looked at.
This image is a beautiful combination of smoke and typography. The text also falls apart and disintegrates at certain places. We saw a tutorial for working with some and text in Photoshop, and this is an example of what can be created, although it is not completely the same effect as the tutorial.
Manhattan Chaos is an image of smoke billowing into the city sky. This is much more of a traditional smoke rather than a digital smoke effect. Smoke can be very powerful in photography and graphic design in a variety of different ways, as we have seen through the examples featured here.
Smoke + Type
This work on The Behance Network is another beautiful example of smoke and typography used together. In fact, the Behance page includes a number of other wonderful examples in this series. The dark background and light text work very well with the smoke effect.
This set of brushes from Qbrushes includes seven brushes, all in high resolution. As you can see in the preview image on Qbrushes, they are excellent for use on a dark background with a variety of different light and bright colors.
This is a huge set of brushes from deviantART user photoshop-stock. The set includes nearly 40 different smoke brushes for your own work. All of the brushes are high resolution, and most are around 2500 pixels.
DeviantART user photoshop-stock gives us another set of smoke brushes. This set includes 12 brushes, most are around 700 – 800 pixels in size.
This set of brushes is available for download at Brusheezy and it contains six different smoke brushes. This set was created in Photoshop CS3, so some users may not be able to take advantage of them on older versions.
Mellyana’s smoke brushes set includes six different brushes for creating your own smoke effects. The brushes are compatible with Photoshop CS and above. These brushes are a bit different than some of the others, with more of a misty appearance.
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