How to Add Smoke in Photoshop

By Tata Rossi 10 days ago, Photoshop Tips

If you want to learn how to add smoke in Photoshop and level up your editing skills, my tutorial will come in handy. With 3 simple yet effective techniques described in this article, you can easily add smoke effects in Photoshop. Besides, you can download these overlays for better results.

Method 1. Using Layer Blend Mode

To improve simple photos with smoke or fog effects, you can follow this method. Here you need two pictures – your image and overlay, which is available on various resources or among Google images.

Step 1. Open Files

how to add smoke in photoshop layer blend mode

Open two pictures as separate layers in a PSD format. As an example, we’ve added a picture of smoke on a black background. This is the top layer that we’ll blend with the picture of a dark alley placed on the bottom layer.

Step 2. Choose the Blend Mode

layer blend mode how to add smoke in photoshop

When you use a blend mode, Photoshop starts mixing pixels from the selected layer with the one placed below. There are several ways to mix pixels depending on the chosen mode. You can select the smoke layer and try different modes in the Layers panel to find the effect that suits perfectly.

Step 3. Make the Smoke Layer Transparent

layer blend mode transparent

For this example, I prefer using the Lighten blend mode since it accurately hides the black background of the top layer to mix it with the main scene. I reduced opacity to get a well-pronounced effect.

Step 4. Create a Layer Mask

layer blend mode layer mask

To get a lifelike Photoshop smoke effect, I added a layer mask since the outer edge looked too sharp. Besides, with the help of a soft-edged brush, I painted the smoke layer for smooth transition.

Step 5. Remove Excess Smoke

layer blend mode remove access smoke

Remove excess smoke and soften some areas with a semi-transparent brush. After two pictures were blended, I received a great play banner.

To create new designs for future projects, you can combine image layers. This is a wonderful alternative for frequency separation retouching techniques. You can always ask experts for help and outsource your photos for professional and fast results.

Method 2. Brushes and Filters

Use this method to create cigarette smoke effect Photoshop. This method is also suitable for those who are fond of drawing.

Step 1. Create a Work Area with a White Background

how to add smoke in photoshop brushes and filters

Open a new file in Photoshop, choose custom size, and set white background in “Background Contents”. Click OK when ready.

Step 2. Fill the Background with Black

brushes and filters how to add smoke in photoshop

Select the Paint Bucket tool to make the background black. Create a new transparent layer.

Step 3. Select Gray Color

brushes and filters selection

Click on the color picker and select gray.

Step 4. Use the Brush Tool

brushes and filters brush tool

Take the Brush tool, set the desired size, and draw smoke.

Step 5. Darken and Lighten Certain Areas

brushes and filters areas

Use the Burn and Dodge tool to darken and lighten certain areas.

Step 6. Gaussian Blur

brushes and filters gaussian blur

Use Gaussian Blur and set it to 9.

Step 7. Select Wave Filter

brushes and filters wave filter

Press the randomize button until you get the desired smoke effect Photoshop. You can repeat the last steps to get better results.

Method 3. Creating Your Personal Action

This is a win-win method if you already know how to create a Photoshop action. To get a unique effect, use smoke brushes available in Photoshop.

Step 1. Open a Photo and Create a Blank Mask 1 Layer

how to add smoke in photoshop creating action

Open your file and prepare masks before recording an action. Make a New Layer and name it Mask 1.

Step 2. Choose the Smoke Brush

how to add smoke in photoshop smoke brush

Create another Layer and name it Mask 2. Paint it with black by using smoke brushes. Draw smoke clouds in the approximately same direction. Unfortunately, you cannot rotate stamp brushes but rotating canvas instead, you’ll get similar results.

Step 3. Use the Motion Blur Tool to Blur Mask 3

how to add smoke in photoshop motion blur

Create a New Layer (Mask 3) and paint it black. Then add a bit of background smoke. I recommend blurring the layer and reducing opacity. The Motion Blur filter copes with the task easily.

Step 4. Create Mask 4 and Add More Black Smoke

how to add smoke in photoshop mask

Create a New Layer (Mask 4) and draw black smoke in the same direction as the previous objects.

Step 5. Merge Layers

how to add smoke in photoshop merge layers

Merge Mask 2 and 3.

Step 6. Start Recording an Action

how to add smoke in photoshop recording

Go to the Action panel and create a new action under the name “Smoke Effect”. 

Step 7. Duplicate Images Twice. Hide Three Layers with a Mask

creating action duplicate images

Click Control-J twice to duplicate the background layer. To select Mask 1, choose the upper copy, hold Control + click the thumbnail of the relevant mask. Invert the selection with Control-Shift-I, and add a Layer Mask.

Step 8. Blur the Second Copy of the Image

creating action copy image

Go to the lower copy. Choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. There will appear the basic smoke effect.

Step 9. Create Another Copy of the Original Image

creating action smoke

Duplicate the background layer and place it on the top. Add Gaussian Blur, make opacity lower to get a dreamy glow look.

Step 10. Resize the Layer

creating action resize layer

Create another duplicate of the original photo and move it up. Hold Control-T to resize the layer. On the top panel, choose “Maintain Aspect Ratio” and set the width to 150%. Then move the layer 100 pixels to the left. Double-click Enter.

Step 12. Gaussian Blur

creating action blur

Apply Gaussian blur to the created layer. Then take the selection from Mask 4 and add it as a Layer Mask without inverting.

Step 13. Add Mask 4

creating action adding mask

Press Control-Shift-Alt-E to create a snapshot of the whole picture. Add Gaussian Blur to it. Then choose the selection from the middle mask and add it as a Layer Mask.

Step 14. Stop Recording an Action

creating action stop recording

Stop recording. Now you can apply this smoke effect to any image. To create another image with the Smoke effect Photoshop, you need to add all the masks and click “Play”.

Bonus Tools

fixthephoto free photoshop smoke brushes

We’ve prepared a kit of brushes that come in handy when you need to apply smoke or fog effect to RAW and JPG pictures. These effects will make your shots look more dramatic. These brushes are commonly used by novice photographers, designers, and retouchers.