Digital SLR Photography

Disperse with creativity

By Caroline Schmidt. Posted

If you’re a fan of The Avengers saga, you may recall disintegration effects used in the most recent films that had characters vanish by dissipating into the air. You can replicate a similar effect with still images with the help of editing and, for as impressive as it looks, the process is relatively simple to apply.

Most editing software comes with a range of brushes available, but if you want to explore different splatter effects look online for brushes to add to your gallery. Photoshop CC already features a good array of Splatter brushes, but if you wanted to upload your own you’ll need to access the Brushes palette (as in step 4), click the menu icon on the left and Upload Brushes. While there are some free brushes available online, it’s worth looking at reputable sites to ensure you’re not downloading anything damaging to your computer in the process, try checking out www.brusheezy.com for good options.

The editing effect is usually reserved for action shots where the subject looks as if they should be moving, this way the dispersion of their body trails behind them. However, while the image you choose is important – particularly to ensure you have enough space to the side for the effect to flow – it can work with a lot of different images for an artistic twist. When choosing your image, do pick one where the subject is set against a clean, simple backdrop as it will make selecting them and filling in the background much easier.

1 Select your subject

With your Background Layer active, use the Quick Selection Tool to select around the subject. Draw within the subject to select its edges; hold down the alt key and click on areas you want to deselect as you refine your selection – release the alt key to re-select. The tool should learn what to avoid, but it doesn’t need to be perfect.

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2 Remove your subject

With the subject selected, go to Edit>Copy and add a new empty layer (Layer>New Layer) before clicking Edit>Paste to copy the subject on to a new layer. Deactivate this layer by clicking the eye icon next to it in the Layers palette and click back on the Background Layer before pressing the Delete key.

3 Fill in the background

In Photoshop CC, the Content Aware feature will fill in the deleted background as best it can but you’ll need to use the Clone Stamp Tool to remove any residue of the subject. Select the Clone Stamp Tool, set Opacity to 100% and an appropriate size with 0% Hardness before roughly removing any outlines.

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4 Select your splatter

Activate your subject’s layer and add a Layer Mask. Click on the Brush Tool and access the Brush palette (Options bar or via Window>Brushes). Select a splatter-style brush and set the Foreground Color to Black. Set the brush Size using the slider and rotate the compass to tweak the brush’s angle.

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5 Apply your splatter

Ensure the orientation of the brush matches the direction you want the splatter to be moving in so it looks like it’s trailing behind the subject. Click along the edge of the subject to reveal the background beneath; the best effect comes from changing the brush style, size and orientation between every click.

6 Add your trails

To finish, add a new layer to the top of the Layers palette and repeat step 5 changing the size, angle and style of the brush regularly. This time, however, use the Eyedropper Tool to sample a colour from your subject and click outside of the subject so matter appears to disintegrate away of them. Change colour frequently.

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