Creating Smoke In Photoshop From Scratch


Using Photoshop and a specific technique, it’s rather easy to create something that looks like smoke or fog—from scratch. It’s not as good as actual smoke photographed on a black background, but it’s much easier to come by. Here’s the trick…



Draw a doodle. Preferrably keep the doodle in its own layer with a black background beneath.



Use the Liquify tool to distort the doodle. Liquify resides in the Filter > Liquify... menu. Using the various “forward warp”, “twirl” and “pucker” tools residing in the menu to the left, you distort the doodle as if you were fingerpainting.


Once you’ve applied the liquify transformation, select Edit > Fade Liquify.... In the dialog box that appears, set the opacity to 50% and apply.


Now repeat the process until you’re satisfied:

  1. Liquify
  2. Fade Liquify to 50%

smoke09 smoke10

If you enjoyed this tutorial, you might also enjoy my Creating Microworlds in Photoshop tutorial.

Responses to “Creating Smoke In Photoshop From Scratch”

  1. Eric says:

    Thanks, you made my day! Just what I was looking for.

  2. zeus709 says:

    This is without a doubt one of the best and most natural looking Smoke effects I’ve found in my searches.

    The effect is just what I’ve been looking for.

    This tutorial ROCKS

  3. Jake says:

    These is a very helpful tutorial indeed… Great work! Thanks for the resource.

  4. dan says:

    brilliant (come on arsenal)

  5. Great technique, will certainly be using this on my next website design. Stumbled it! -thumbs up!

  6. DavyX says:

    SIMLPY BRILLIANT.Thanks a lot….this will be invaluable.

  7. penu says:

    Got to tell you that this tutorial is the sh@t

  8. hayatbebek says:

    Greats work ;) Thank you.

  9. sen says:

    Doesn’t look like smoke to me. Looks like a cloudy photoshop scribble.
    Nice try though. You could probably get it to look more like actual smoke with those techniques if you did more by hand rather than letting the program do it.

  10. Great tutorial! Wish I would have found it two days ago for a project I was working on.

  11. Nice tutorial to create smoke using Liquify technique in photoshop. Overall nice post Joen, keep it up….

  12. Marco says:

    Excellent, I used it to make “smell smokes” on a cartoon with food in it :)

  13. Ahh what the heck, here’s one more, just because it’s so flippin’ cool and easy.

  14. A very simple way to make smoke in photoshop – – Awesome! /via @Eckstatic

  15. A very simple way to make smoke in photoshop – – Awesome! /via @Eckstatic /via @MadysonDesigns @myen

  16. RT @madysondesigns: A very simple way to make smoke in photoshop – – Awesome! /via @Eckstatic

  17. RT @madysondesigns: A very simple way to make smoke in photoshop – – Awesome! /via @Eckstatic

  18. Cool: RT @MadysonDesigns: A very simple way to make smoke in photoshop – – Awesome! /via @Eckstatic

  19. “Creating Smoke In Photoshop From Scratch”

  20. RT @Richbugger: “Creating Smoke In Photoshop From Scratch”

  21. Working on a movie poster to match my DVD cover for the book #InfiniteJest. Working with smoke; a nice tut: