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Design

How to Create Particle Effects in Photoshop (With Photoshop Action Examples!)

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create particle effects in Photoshop. I will explain everything in so much detail that everyone can create it, even those who have just opened Photoshop for the first time.

What You'll Need

To recreate the design above, you will need the following resources:

1. How to Start Creating an Action

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 2000–4000 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 Select the Subject

Step 1

In this section, we are going to make a selection of our subject and then copy the subject to a separate layer. Choose the Quick Selection Tool (W) and select the background of the photo. Use the Shift-Alt buttons on your keyboard to add or subtract areas from the selection. After you've made a perfect selection, press Control-Shift-I on your keyboard to invert the selection.

making selection

Step 2

Now go to Select > Modify > Smooth and set the Sample Radius to 5 px. Next, go to Select > Modify > Contract and set Contract By to 2 px. Finally, go to Select > Modify > Feather and set the Feather Radius to 1 px.

modifying selection

Step 3

Press Control-J on your keyboard to create a new layer using the selection. Then, name this new layer Subject.

creating new layer using selection

3. How to Create the Particles

Step 1

In this section we are going to create the particles. Go to Filter > Pixelate > Crystallize and set the Cell Size to 60.

adding crystallize filter

Step 2

Now press Control-Shift-U on your keyboard to desaturate this layer and hide the Background layer. Then, go to Select > Color Range, set the Fuzziness to 10 and, using the Eyedropper Tool, select the particles of any color by clicking on any of the particles inside the subject area.

making selection using color range

Step 3

Go to Select > Select and Mask and set the Smooth to 2, Feather to 2 px, Contrast to 50%, and Shift Edge to -2%.

adjusting selection

Step 4

Now select the Background layer and press Control-J to create a new layer using the selection. Name this new layer P_1.

creating new layer using the selection

Step 5

Repeat this process by following the previous two steps to create as many particle layers as you like. Name the layers according to the sequence number of the particle layer. Feel free to use different Color Range and Select and Mask settings each time.

repeating process

Step 6

Now Right-click on the Subject layer and choose Delete Layer. Then, show the Background layer and select the P_1 layer. After that, using the Move Tool (V), click and drag anywhere inside the canvas to position the layer as you like.

positioning layer

Step 7

Repeat this method to position the remaining particles layer as you like. Here is my result:

repeating method

4. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

In this section we are going to make some final adjustments to the design. Select the P_1 layer and press D to reset the swatches. Then, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to create a new gradient map adjustment layer and name it Overall Contrast.

creating new gradient map adjustment layer

Step 2

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light and set the Opacity to 40%.

changing blending mode and opacity

Step 3

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation to create a new hue/saturation adjustment layer and name it Overall Saturation.

creating new hue and saturation adjustment layer

Step 4

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, set the Saturation to +18.

adjusting saturation

5. How to Crop the Image

In this section we are going to crop the image. Choose the Crop Tool (C) and transform the Crop Box as shown below:

cropping image

You Made It!

Congratulations, you have succeeded! You have learned how to create a particle effect Photoshop action. Here is our final result:

final result

15 Particle Effects from Envato Elements

Want to see more exciting photo effects? Check out this list of dispersion effect Photoshop actions from Envato Elements. Enjoy incredible styles from vintage effects to so much more!

Pixelum - Digital Dispersion Effect Photoshop Action

Particle effect Photoshop actions can transform your sports photos into awesome, energetic visuals. This digital dispersion effect from profactions creates an explosion of digital pixels in any direction you need. Use it with Photoshop CS3 and above.

Pixelum - Digital Dispersion Effect Photoshop Action

Tornadum - Powerful Dispersion Effect Photoshop Action

This next dust particle effect Photoshop action looks pretty wild! Create one-of-a-kind images for Instagram or Twitter in just a few short clicks. Explore lots of graphic elements within this download as well as ten color preset options. Check it out!

Tornadum - Powerful Dispersion Effect Photoshop Action

Forge - Particle Dispersion Effect Photoshop Action

Need a wicked intro for your vlog channel or videos? This particle effect Photoshop action looks amazing with 3D text and more. Enjoy a high-quality, professional result that will blow your audience away. Works best with Photoshop CS4 and above.

Forge - Particle Dispersion Effect Photoshop Action

3D Dispersion Effect Photoshop Action

Need a 3D Dispersion effect? Photoshop can help you achieve exactly what you need with this next download. Create amazing flying particles and realistic 3D pieces that are incredibly entertaining and visually effective. Add it to your collection.

3D Dispersion Effect Photoshop Action

Commetum - Cosmic Tail Photoshop Action

Create an epic cosmic tail with this next particle effect action. Created by profactions, this Photoshop action creates a fully editable image with ten color presets and many more great options. Use it with high-quality images for the best results.

Commetum - Cosmic Tail Photoshop Action

Numeric - Photoshop Particle Effect Plugin

This next add-on features a cool numeric touch as a particle photo effect. Instantly turn your portraits into a wicked typographic effect for social media and more. Just download and install the action to get started. Check it out.

Numeric - Photoshop Particle Effect Plugin

Geometric Dispersion FX Photoshop Add/On Extension

Geometric effects have been trending for years! Now you can use this dispersion particle effect that splits your sports and action shots into edgy, geometric shapes. Use it with any image or resolution and the latest versions of Adobe Photoshop.

Geometric Dispersion FX Photoshop AddOn Extension

Liquify 2 Rain Effect Photoshop Action

Liquify your subjects in seconds! This next Photoshop action creates an unbelievable liquid effect that simulates rain or splashing water. Just mask out the area where you would like to apply the effect, and then play the action. It's that simple!

Liquify 2 Photoshop Action

Fragmentum - Breaking Distressed Effect Photoshop Action

Feeling a little edgy? Explore a distressed effect Photoshop action like this next one. Fragmentum explodes any object, face or area into millions of tiny dust particles. Easily create this effect yourself using Photoshop versions CS3 and above.

Fragmentum - Breaking Distressed Effect Photoshop Action

Seizure Photoshop Action

Seize new opportunities to express yourself. Photoshop actions like this seizure effect from codetoform turn any boring portrait into a digital masterpiece. Enjoy the well-organized layers and add-ons including a step-by-step tutorial. 

Seizure Photoshop Action

Ashes n Embers - Fire Effect Photoshop Action

Need a fire effect Photoshop action? You can create this next phenomenal look in much less time. Free up your workflow with this easy-to-use Photoshop action that includes ten color presets. Edit the directions to create the best look.

Ashes n Embers - Fire Effect Photoshop Action

Feathers Photoshop Action

Dispersion effects aren't just for dust and sparkles. This next Photoshop action bursts any subject into a cluster of floating, natural feathers for a bold, new style. Upload your result to Instagram to see how your numbers do! Check it out.

Feathers Photoshop Action

Dispersion 2 Photoshop Action

Trendy dispersion effects are used on dancer photos, but you can also apply them to ordinary objects or photos. This Dispersion 2 Photoshop action from sevenstyles creates a mind-blowing effect with realistic particle details. Edit and add to it to fit your needs.

Dispersion 2 Photoshop Action

Fractal - Sparkle Effect Photoshop Action

Create an electrifying look with lightning and sparkle effects. Simply fill in your model with color and play the action to enjoy this awesome result in seconds. Included in this download is also a helpful video with step-by-step directions. Add it now.

Fractal - Sparkle Effect Photoshop Action

Elementum - Dispersion Photoshop Action

Highly detailed and easy to customize, this next photo effect action includes four options with different directions to choose from. Explore up, down, left, and right directions to switch up the style to fit your needs. Great for Instagram and social media!

Elementum - Dispersion Photoshop Action

More Particle Effects

From sparkles to unique snow effects, Photoshop actions make it possible to create magic in just a few seconds. Explore this list of incredible resources and let us know a few of your favorites.

Enjoy more particle effects from these links:

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