Illustrations/Digital Models: A Cloud/Smoke Brush Creation (Adobe Photoshop)

Discussion in 'Tutorials and How Tos' started by Chaos Incarnate, Oct 9, 2008.

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  1. Chaos Incarnate

    Chaos Incarnate Not just a name.

    Nov 24, 2003
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    Hey again! I'm back, and this time with another new technique. This is something that Adobe Photoshop does, but in all the years I've used this program, I've never used the feature.

    I've been working on making good smoke effects for a long, long time, and have been mostly failing at it. Finally, I decided that what I needed was a new way of painting those pixels on, I needed a cloud brush. That, my friends, is what I will be teaching you today.

    I am using Adobe Photoshop CS2 on a Windows platform.

    Step 1: Make a new document

    I simply made a new document, 500 pixels by 500 pixels. Easy stuff here:


    Step 2: Make Clouds

    Now, what you are looking for here is clouds that are mostly black and white. The clouds filter makes a random pattern, so just keep repeating it (Ctrl-F) until you get something with a good definition:


    Step 3: Make Selection

    Take your Lasso tool (and for once I actually recommend the default lasso, every other time I use the polygonal lasso) and make a roughly round shape that includes light and dark areas.

    Now go to Selection>Feather and make it about a 10. This blurs your selection by 10 pixels:


    Step 4: Make new document

    With your selection selected, just click copy (Ctrl-C) New Document (Ctrl-N) and Paste (Ctrl-V). This makes a document the exact dimensions of your selection and pastes it in there:


    Step 5: Eat a Sammich

    Go ahead, I'll wait...

    Step 6: Create the new brush

    Go to Edit>Define Brush Preset. Now, in all technicality, your new brush has been created:


    Step 7: Edit Brush Properties

    So, we got the brush made; you can even use it by going to your brush selection, then getting it from the very bottom. But, if you notice, the stuff you make with it doesn't look anything like smoke or clouds. Now you must edit the properties of your new brush. With your new brush active, go to the control palette on the top and open the Brushes blade. Make sure your new brush is selected; if not, then simply click it on the bottom of the list. You can edit your default brush size here (I like to make it a nice round number like 100).

    One more thing to remember: When making your brush, it's basically taking the image you defined, and stamping it many times to make the stroke. So, if I refer to the image as a stamp, bear with me. These options affect just how it gets stamped:


    Step 7A: Brush tip shape

    Click the next item in the list, immediately under Brush presets. There is one very important option here. The spacing must be modified, and you will probably want to tweak this again, so remember where it is. This will affect how closely together the stamps are:


    Step 7B: Shape Dynamics

    Here is where you start to inject some randomness. Smoke is random in nature, (actually, all fluid motion is a chaotic system) so we want to jumble it up.

    The first slider says "Size Jitter". This controls how likely it is to change the size of the stamp. Let's move this to 100%. Next is "minimum diameter". This controls how small the stamp can actually get, randomly. Since we don't want lame tiny specks, let's move this up to 50%. After that, go to the "Angle Jitter". This will randomly change the angle of the stamp. Move this to 100%. This will do for now:


    Step 7C: Scattering

    Smoke and clouds like to bloom out and have little offshoots instead of staying in their place. So, what this option does it affect how far the stamps will deviate from the actual position of your brush.

    Click the box for Both Axes, this will affect distance in both X (the line of your stroke) and Y (perpendicular to X). Then put that slider wherever you want it (I only wanted a little deviation, so I put it at 66%). Keep an eye on the preview at the bottom.

    (I put the count at 2, since 1 seemed too thin, and 3 seemed too thick.):


    Step 8: Test Drive

    You can't be expected to buy something until you test drive it, right? So open up an image and play with your new brush! Here's my test. Something's not quite right though, everything is flat looking. The brush is stamping them in the same shade of color. I don't really want that, so it's back to the Brushes blade:


    Step 9: Color Dynamics

    Back in the options, click on "Color dynamics". This will make it do the stamps aren't all the same color. Make your settings something like mine. Feel free to play with it, of course, but I found this to work pretty well. What it does it takes the foreground color, and mixes it with the background color. The jitter slider changes how strong that mix is:


    Step 10: Other Dynamics

    Just for fun, click this box to throw in more randomness (Again, the settings are what I felt was good). Feel free to pick your own:


    Now, after testing it again, I find that it works great!


    Step 11: Play!

    What's this shiny new brush good for? Anything smokey! For instance, by picking a dark gray foreground color and a mid gray background color, I can make cool smoke, like in this shot:


    Maybe it's Prime's funeral pyre . . . .

    It can also be used for big fluffy clouds. Here's a giant Master Chief standing tall!


    That's all I have for now! Keep on running those editing programs, and don't get discouraged! Remember, every success stands on the shoulders of previous failures. So go out and make comics and have fun!

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    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 27, 2010
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