How to create a realistic smoke / steam effect in Photoshop

To show how this effect can work in it’s end result I am going to add steam to a coffee photo that I found on Wikimedia commons. If you wish to use this image too you can find it here. Photo by Julius Schorzman.

Coffee Cup without steam

Step 1.
Create a new document. I choose to create mine at 800×800. This will not be an effect that you will be able to scale up so make sure your original canvas is an appropriate size for the size of the image you want to add the smoke / steam to.

Create a new document

Create a new document

Step 2.
Create a new layer and use the paint bucket to fill this layer with black.

Create a new layer and fill with black

Create a new layer and fill with black

Step 3.
Create another new layer and select the paintbrush and white from the colour picker. You will need to set the paintbrush to various different sizes but keep the hardness to a low level. Start with a mid size brush.

New layer

New layer

Select Paintbrush

Select Paintbrush

Step 4.
On the new layer, draw wavy lines upwards, using varied brush sizes.

Wavy lines

Wavy lines

 

Step 5.
With the wavy lines layer selected in the layers palette, choose Filter > Other Maximum. Keep the radius low.

Choose filter > Other > Maximum

Choose filter > Other > Maximum

Maximum options box

Maximum options box

Step 6.
Repeat step 5 until your lines are quite distorted.

Distorted Wavy Lines

Distorted Wavy Lines

Step 7.
Chose Filter > Distort > Twirl to distort the lines further.

Choose Filter > Distort > Twirl

Choose Filter > Distort > Twirl

Twirl

Twirl

Lines after twirl

Step 8.
Choose Edit > Transform > Warp

Edit > Transform > Warp

Edit > Transform > Warp

Warp

Warp

Step 9.
Drag the different points on the transform closer together at the bottom, to give the effect of the smoke rising from a central point.

Distort the lines further using warp tool

Distort the lines further using warp tool

After warp effect

After warp effect

Step 10.
Change the opacity on the top level to fade the lines into the background.

Change opacity

Change opacity

Duplicate the lines layer

Step 11.
This layer can then be duplicated and moved around to create the desired effect.

With Multiple Lines

With Multiple Lines

Step 12.
I have used different parts of the layer over the top of the coffee image and added more blur to create the effect I wanted. See the image below for the final result.

Coffee With Steam

Coffee With Steam

 

hannah

Author: hannah

Hannah works as a website designer for a digital agency based in the UK. She has over 15 years experience using Photoshop and has been using it daily since 2005. Google+

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks very much for this excellent tutorial. Exactly what I needed!

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