Advertisement
  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photoshop Actions
Design

How to Create an Awesome Dispersion Action in Adobe Photoshop

by
Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create an amazing dispersion effect. 

First we will create several patterns that we will use for creating the dispersed parts. We will then define which areas of our photo we want to disperse and create the parts. After that, we will disperse them in the direction we choose, transform them, blur some of them to add depth, and finally make some adjustments to our design.

I will try to explain everything in so much detail that everyone can create it, even those who have just opened Photoshop for the first time.

The effect shown above is the one I will show you how to create here in this tutorial. If you would like to create the effects shown below, with a single click and in just a few minutes, then check out my Dispersion Photoshop Action.

Dispersion photoshop action final results

What You'll Need

To recreate this tutorial design, you will need the following photo:

1. How to Get Started

First, open the photo that you want to work with. To open your photo, go to File > Open, choose your photo, and click Open. Now, before we get started, just check a couple of things:

  1. Your photo should be in RGB Color mode, 8 Bits/Channel. To check this, go to Image > Mode.
  2. For best results, your photo size should be 1500–4000 px wide/high. To check this, go to Image > Image Size.
  3. Your photo should be the Background layer. If it is not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.
Checking image size and mode

2. How to Create the Patterns

Step 1

In this step, we are going to create some patterns that we will use for creating the dispersed parts. So, go to File > New to create a new file, name it Pattern 1, and choose the settings below:

Creating new file named Pattern 1

Step 2

Now choose the Ellipse Tool and left-click anywhere inside the canvas to create an ellipse, and select the settings below. Then position the ellipse exactly in the center of the canvas.

Creating new ellipse

Step 3

Left-click the eye icon of the Background layer to hide it, go to Edit > Define Pattern to define a new pattern, and name it Circle_Pattern_1.

Defining new pattern named Circle Pattern 1

Step 4

Now you can close the Pattern 1 file. Go to File > New to create a new file, name it Pattern 2, and enter the settings below:

Creating another new file named Pattern 2

Step 5

Choose the Ellipse Tool and left-click anywhere inside the canvas to create an ellipse,  and select the settings below. Then position the ellipse exactly in the center of the canvas.

Creating another ellipse

Step 6

Left-click the eye icon of the Background layer to hide it, go to Edit > Define Pattern to define a new pattern, and name it Circle_Pattern_2.

Defining new pattern named Circle Pattern 2

Step 7

Now you can close the Pattern 2 file. Go to File > New to create a new file, name it Pattern 3, and select the settings below:

Creating another new file named Pattern 3

Step 8

Choose the Ellipse Tool and left-click anywhere inside the canvas to create an ellipse,  and choose the settings below. Then position the ellipse exactly in the center of the canvas.

Creating another ellipse

Step 9

Left-click the eye icon of the Background layer to hide it, go to Edit > Define Pattern to define a new pattern, and name it Circle_Pattern_3.

Defining new pattern named Circle_Pattern_3

3. How to Create the Base

Step 1

In this chapter we are going to create the base that determines which areas of the photo will be dispersed. Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Base.

Creating new layer named Base

Step 2

Now choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, adjust the size of the brush, and brush over the areas that you want to disperse. You can use any color—it doesn't matter.

Creating the base

4. How to Create the Parts

Step 1

In this chapter we are going to create parts that we will disperse later. Control-click on the Base layer thumbnail to make a selection of that layer.

Making selection of the Base layer

Step 2

Now hide the Base layer by clicking on the eye icon next to its thumbnail. Pick the Lasso Tool (L), right-click anywhere inside the canvas, choose Make Work Path, and enter the settings below:

Making work path from selection

Step 3

Select the Background layer and go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer. Keep the default name Layer 1 because we will delete this layer in one of the next few steps.

Creating a new layer for filling it with Circle_Pattern_1

Step 4

Pick the Pen Tool (P), right-click anywhere inside the canvas, choose Fill Path, and select Circle_Pattern_1 as Custom Pattern. Enter the other settings shown below:

Filling work path with Circle_Pattern_1

Step 5

Now Control-click on the Layer 1 thumbnail to make a selection of that layer, select the Background layer, and choose Layer > New > Layer Via Copy.

Creating a new layer via copy to create first medium parts

Step 6

Double-click on the Layer 2 name and rename it MP_1 as these are medium-sized parts. Then right-click on Layer 1 and choose Delete Layer.

Deleting Layer 1 and renaming Layer 2 to MP_1

Step 7

Now to create more medium-sized parts, repeat all the steps from Step 3 to Step 6 in this chapter. Of course, in Step 6, change the name according to the sequence number of the medium parts layer. Repeat these steps as many times as you want, depending on how many parts you would like to create. I have repeated these steps 49 times, and created 50 medium-sized parts layers.

Creating more medium parts

Step 8

We are going to group these parts so it will be much easier for us to work with them later. So while your last medium parts layer is selected, Shift-click on the first medium parts layer on the top, go to Layer > New > Group from Layers to create a new group from these layers, and name it Medium Parts.

Creating new group named Medium Parts

Step 9

Now we are going to create small parts. Select the Background layer and go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer, and keep the default name Layer 1 because we will delete this layer in one of the next few steps.

Creating a new layer for filling it with Circle_Pattern_2

Step 10

Pick the Pen Tool (P), right-click anywhere inside the canvas, choose Fill Path, and select Circle_Pattern_2 as Custom Pattern. Enter the other settings shown below:

Filling work path with Circle_Pattern_2

Step 11

Now Control-click on the Layer 1 thumbnail to make a selection of that layer, select the Background layer, and choose Layer > New > Layer Via Copy.

Creating a new layer via copy to create first small parts

Step 12

Double-click on the Layer 2 name and rename it SP_1 as these are small parts. Then right-click on the Layer 1 layer and choose Delete Layer.

Deleting Layer 1 and renaming Layer 2 to SP_1

Step 13

Now, to create more small parts, repeat all the steps from Step 9 to Step 12 in this chapter. Of course, in Step 12 change the name according to the sequence number of the small parts layer. Repeat these steps as many times as you want, depending on how many parts you would like to create. I have repeated these steps 14 times, and created 15 small parts layers.

Creating more small parts

Step 14

We are going to group these parts as well. So while your last small parts layer is selected, Shift-click on the first small parts layer on the top, go to Layer > New > Group from Layers to create a new group from these layers, and name it Small Parts.

Creating new group named Small Parts

Step 15

Now we are going to create large parts. Select the Background layer and go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer, and keep the default name Layer 1 because we will delete this layer in one of the next few steps.

Creating new layerCreating a new layer for filling it with Circle_Pattern_3

Step 16

Pick the Pen Tool (P), right-click anywhere inside the canvas, choose Fill Path, and select Circle_Pattern_3 as Custom Pattern. Enter the other settings shown below:

Filling work path with Circle_Pattern_3

Step 17

Now Control-click on the Layer 1 layer thumbnail to make a selection of that layer, select the Background layer, and choose Layer > New > Layer Via Copy.

Creating a new layer via copy to create first large parts

Step 18

Double-click on the Layer 2 layer name and rename it LP_1 as these are small parts. Then right-click on Layer 1 and choose Delete Layer.

Deleting Layer 1 and renaming Layer 2 to LP_1

Step 19

Now, to create more large parts, repeat all the steps from Step 15 to Step 18 in this chapter. Of course, in Step 18 change the name according to the sequence number of the large parts layer. Repeat these steps as many times as you want, depending on how many parts you would like to create. I have repeated these steps 13 times, and created 14 large parts layers.

Creating more large parts

Step 20

We are going to group these parts as well. So while your last large parts layer is selected, Shift-click on the first large parts layer on the top, go to Layer > New > Group from Layers to create a new group from these layers, and name it Large Parts.

Creating new group named Large Parts

Step 21

Now drag the Large Parts group above the Medium Parts group. Then pick the Pen Tool (P), Right-click anywhere inside the canvas and choose Delete Path.

Changing layer order and deleting path

5. How to Disperse the Parts

Step 1

In this chapter, we are going to disperse the parts. Pick the Move Tool (V) and start selecting the parts layers in the Layers panel and moving them around to create a dispersion effect. You can disperse them in any direction you like. I'll disperse them in an upward direction. So here is what I got:

Dispersing the parts

Step 2

Now we are going to blur some parts to create depth. So select some of the parts layers, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and enter the settings below:

Bluring the parts layer

Step 3

You can repeat Step 2 to blur as many parts as you want. Also, feel free to use different Radius values in the Gaussian Blur panel. I have blurred 14 parts in total, and here is my result:

Bluring more parts layers

Step 4

Now we are going to rename all layers that we have blurred to BP_1, BP_2 and so on, depending on how many blurred layers you have, so it will be easier for us later to customize the effect if needed. 

Then select all the blurred parts layers, in my case all layers from BP_1 to BP_14 as I have blurred 14 parts, and then go to Layer > New > Group from Layers to create a new group from these layers. Name it Blurred Parts. Position this group on top of the other parts groups, just below the Base layer.

Creating new group named Blurred Parts

Step 5

Now we are going to transform some parts to add more depth. So select some of the parts layers, press Control-T on your keyboard, and change the width and height as below:

Tranforming the parts layer

Step 6

You can repeat Step 5 to transform as many parts as you want. Also, feel free to use different transforming values. I have transformed nine parts in total, and here is my result:

Transforming more parts layers

Step 7

Now you can make some final changes to the parts, like blurring some more parts, transforming them, changing their position, creating more parts by duplicating some of the layers, or removing some parts by hiding some layers or using the Eraser Tool (E) and a soft brush. Here is my result:

Final changes to the parts

6. How to Add Motion

Step 1

In this chapter, we are going to add motion to the parts. Click on the Background layer eye icon next to its thumbnail to hide that layer, select the Blurred Parts group, and then press Control-Alt-Shift-E on your keyboard to make a snapshot.

Hiding Background layer and merging visible

Step 2

Change the blending mode of this layer to Screen, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and enter the settings below.

Adding gaussian blur filter to Layer 1

Step 3

Now press Control-Alt-Shift-E on your keyboard to make a snapshot again. Then go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and choose the settings below:

Adding motion blur filter to Layer 2

Step 4

Go to Filter > Distort > Wave and select the settings below:

Adding distort wave filter to Layer 2

Step 5

Now right-click on Layer 1 in the Layers panel, choose Delete Layer, and click on the Layer 2 eye icon next to its thumbnail to hide that layer. Select the Blurred Parts group and press Control-Alt-Shift-E on your keyboard to make a snapshot again.

Deleting Layer 1 and merging visible

Step 6

Now select Layer 2 and click on the eye icon next to its thumbnail to show it. Control-click on the Layer 3 thumbnail to make a selection of that layer, pick the Move Tool (V), and click on Align bottom edges in the top menu. Then go to Select > Deselect to remove the selection.

Aligning Layer 2 with selection of Layer 3

Step 7

Right-click on the Layer 3 and choose Delete Layer. Then click on the Background layer eye icon next to its thumbnail to show that layer. Drag Layer 2 just above the Background layer, double-click on its name, and rename it Parts Motion. Drop its Opacity to 20%.

Renaming Layer 2 to Parts Motion and changing its opacity

7. How to Add Contrast to Parts

Step 1

In this chapter, we are going to add some contrast to the parts. Press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches, select the Blurred Parts group, and go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to create a new curves adjustment layer. Name it Parts Contrast.

Creating new gradient map adjustment layer named Parts Contrast

Step 2

Now change this layer blending mode to Soft Light and drop the Opacity to 20%.

Changing blending mode and opacity of Parts Contrast layer

Step 3

Now, while the Parts Contrast layer is selected, Shift-click on the Parts Motion layer to select these two layers and all other layers between them, and go to Layer > New > Group from Layers to create a group from these selected layers. Name it Parts and change its blending mode to Normal.

Creating new group named Parts

8. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

In this chapter we are going to make some final adjustments to our design. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer and name it Color Look.

Creating new curves adjustment layer named Color Look

Step 2

Double-click on the Color Look layer thumbnail and enter the following settings:

Changing settings of Color Look adjustment layer

Step 3

Now go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance to create a new vibrance adjustment layer and name it Overall Vibrance.

Creating new vibrance adjustment layer

Step 4

Double-click on the Overall Vibrance layer thumbnail and enter the following settings:

Changing settings of Overall Vibrance adjustment layer

Step 5

Now press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches and go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to create a new gradient map adjustment layer. Name it Overall Contrast.

Creating new gradient map adjustment layer named Overall Contrast

Step 6

Change this layer blending mode to Soft Light and drop the Opacity to 15%.

Changing blending mode and opacity of Overall Contrast layer

Step 7

And finally we will add some sharpening to our design. Press Control-Alt-Shift-E on your keyboard to make a snapshot, go to Filter > Other > High Pass, and choose the settings below:

Adding high pass filter to Layer 1

Step 8

Now double-click on the Layer 1 name and rename it Overall Sharpening. Then change its blending mode to Hard Light and drop the Opacity to 80%.

Renaming Layer 1 to Overall Sharpening and changing its blending mode and opacity

You Made It!

Congratulations, you have succeeded! Here is our final result:

Final result

Creating this effect manually can be really time-consuming and painful. If you would like to create dispersion effects with a single click and in just a few minutes, with the direction and shape of parts of your choice, then check out my Dispersion Photoshop Action.

Dispersion photoshop action final results

The action works so that you just brush over the areas that you want to disperse, choose a shape and direction, and play the action. The action will do everything for you in a few minutes, giving you fully layered and customizable results. The action includes 13 different shapes that you can choose from:

  • circle
  • heart
  • diamond
  • star
  • triangle
  • hexagon
  • musical note
  • circle stroke
  • heart stroke
  • diamond stroke
  • star stroke
  • triangle stroke
  • hexagon stroke

And also five different directions of dispersion that you can choose from:

  • right
  • left
  • up
  • down
  • middle
Advertisement
Advertisement
Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.