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How to Add Cool Particle Effects in Photoshop With a Stylish PSD Action

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Read Time: 5 min

Sometimes you want your photographs to look a little different, a little more awesome. There are so many actions for Adobe Photoshop that claim to add cool effects to your photos; let's put one to the test!

In this tutorial, we'll take you through how to use one of the actions available from Envato Elements, where you can download unlimited resources for a monthly subscription.

Elementum — Dispersion Photoshop Action

Elementum - Dispersion Photoshop ActionElementum - Dispersion Photoshop ActionElementum - Dispersion Photoshop Action
Elementum - Dispersion Photoshop Action

1. Get Everything Ready

There are a few things you need to do before you get started with this action. First up, you need to install the action into Photoshop.

Make sure your image is a high resolution one. If it's not, the action will still work but the results might not be as good. Your image also needs to be in RGB mode and it should be 8 bit, both of which you can find under Image in the Photoshop menu.

Make sure your image is the only layer you have opened and the layer should be (automatically) named 'background'.

This is the sample image I'll be using to demonstrate the action's effects. You can follow along with the same image, which is by Havilah Galaxy on Unsplash.

sample image of a person jumping in the air on an empty street in winter overcast daysample image of a person jumping in the air on an empty street in winter overcast daysample image of a person jumping in the air on an empty street in winter overcast day

2. Run the Action

Create a new layer and call it mask, and using a hard brush on your mask layer, use any colour to brush over your photo where you want the action to apply.

brush over your mask layerbrush over your mask layerbrush over your mask layer
Brush over the 'mask' layer in any colour

There are four directional options, but because of the nature of the picture and the fact that the subject is jumping up, I'm going to select up.

select an actionselect an actionselect an action
Select a direction

Press play and then wait for the action to do it's thing. It takes a little while.

after the actionafter the actionafter the action
After the action has finished running

3. Perfect the Look

The action is broken down into groups: Colour Presets, Parts Motion, Parts Static and Object Motion.

layer breakdownlayer breakdownlayer breakdown
Layer breakdown

Let’s go through these.

Colour Presets

colour presets
Colour presets

The colour presets with the eye next to them are ones that you can see already applied to the photo; the ones that aren’t are options to add later, if you choose. You might not want to apply more than one of the photo filters, but you can, and because of this you can experiment with different effects. Here, I’ve applied the cooler, blue filters.

apply colour filtersapply colour filtersapply colour filters
Apply some colour filters

Parts Motion

parts motionparts motionparts motion
Parts Motion

As you’d expect, this refers to the particles on the image that look as if they’re moving—the blurred ones. If I hide the ‘static parts’, which we’ll come to shortly, you can see which this group refers to:

parts motionparts motionparts motion
Parts Motion particles only

Each layer is marked as visible, but if you have any that are in places you’d rather they weren’t, then this is a good time to hide those or apply a layer mask and brush out the ones you don’t want. The ones on my example look pretty good so I’m going to leave them all as they are.

Parts Static

parts staticparts staticparts static
parts static

These are the rest of your particles, so if I hide the ‘motion’ ones, this is what’s left

static particlesstatic particlesstatic particles
Static particles

The particles here have no blur effect and so they look ‘static’. Again, this is a good time to mask out any that don’t fit your image or to hide the appropriate layers.

Object Motion

Object MotionObject MotionObject Motion
Object Motion

Finally we have the Object Motion group. If I hide the particles you can see that this is the slight blur around the subject that was painted over.

Motion blur

The blur is moving upwards because of the direction I selected at the start. The layers are all visible, but the first one is masked a little. Hiding that will increase the effect of the blur.

If you have a large subject in your photo, you might not want that, but as the subject in my example is quite small, I think an increase in that effect works, so I’ve hidden the layer.

hide the layerhide the layerhide the layer
Add extra blur if required

Finished Effect

finished effectfinished effectfinished effect
Finished effect

This is a pretty cool effect, I think, and although you do have the option to change it up by adjusting layers once the action has run, it doesn't need that, so it can be quick and simple, or a little more flexible depending on your desired effect.

Before and After

before and afterbefore and afterbefore and after
Before and After

Try the Action With Different Images

Here's another photograph with a different kind of subject. Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash.

rain imagerain imagerain image

This time, instead of painting the subject, try painting the background instead.

paint the backgroundpaint the backgroundpaint the background
Paint the background

This time, we'll try the down direction, as it's raining and also remove some of the static parts. Finally, add some of the photo filters for a warmer more saturated look.

finished imagefinished imagefinished image
finished image

Before and After

before and afterbefore and afterbefore and after
before and after

And More...

You can also duplicate the layers or groups to build up the effect. In this version, I've duplicated both the static and motion part groups and moved them slightly so they're not over the top of each other.

try duplicating layerstry duplicating layerstry duplicating layers
Try duplicating layers

This would be a great effect to try with fun family photos.

More Cool Effects for Photoshop

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