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

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:

  • Stock Image

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 2Feather to 2 pxContrast 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

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