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Best Abstract Dust And Spray Effect

Where to use this effect

This is a great post-effect for your compositions, so you’ll probably want to use it towards the completion of your works.
For this demonstration, I’ve prepared a Photoshop Document (1.35 Mb) that you may choose to use to practice this technique on.
Spray Effect Original Demo Composition
This effect generally looks best when it takes on the appearance of emerging from behind an object. We are going to have the spray come out from behind the cloud in our example. If you’re following along in the Photoshop Document provided above, you’ll want to work in new layers under the “Cloud” layer, but above the background.

Setting up the Brush

The spray effect does not require you to go out and download any new Brushes, but we will need to adjust some of the brush options to get the right effect. You’ll want to be using a nice soft brush (the standard brush set to 0% hardness, and a large size works well), and you’re going to want to set the Brush mode to Dissolve (The Brush mode is located in the options bar. This is not the blending mode in the layers panel.) Also, set your brush’s Opacity to something around 50% (The Lower the opacity, the less dust/spray you’ll get).
Setting up the Brush

Playing with Color

When using this effect, it is important to select colors that are bright, and vibrant with color. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, and you’ll ultimately have to pick colors that work with the rest of your composition, but as rule of thumb, colors that work best include white, yellow, magenta, purple, cyan, pink, etc. Generally anything with a high luminance level will work well.
There are cases when dark colors can work, but I’ll leave that up to you for experimenting.
For starters, lets select a Foreground Color of White, and get to the brushing!

The Technique in Action

Starting in a layer underneath your object of choice (In our case, the cloud layer), start brushing with single clicks around the edges of the foreground object.
Start by brushing just along the edges of your foreground object
At this point, the specks don’t seem much like spray at all, but more like extraneous pixels floating about. To fix this, we are going to resize this layer. Go to Edit > Transform > Scale, or Ctrl + T, and then make the layer smaller by dragging the corner selection nodes inward (hold shift to keep constrained proportions). Resizing to 80% of the original layer size should be sufficient.
Resize the spray layer to 80% of the original size
Resizing the layer gives the effect of varying brightness and size of the individual pixels which were very uniform before.

Fading the Specks Away

I find that this effect looks nicer when the spray seems to fade out rather than just disappear along a rounded edge. To do this, grab your Eraser tool from the toolbar, and set up a nice large soft brush (0% hardness, 100-300px).
Erase some of the dust so that it seems to have varying volume in different parts of the layer, and also try to have it fade out the spray as it gets close to the edge.
Erase parts of the Spray with a soft large brush

Blending the Spray

Sometimes, changing the blending mode of a spray layer will greatly alter the effect of the spray. Blending modes like Overlay, Linear Dodge, Color Dodge, and Screen seem to work best in most cases.
Furthermore, by Duplicating and Erasing Parts of each of the duplicated layers can also make for some excellent effects.
Duplicated the Spray Layers, and playing with the blending Modes gives off different effects

New Layer > Repeat

You know everything you need to know now to create some great spray effects! All you need to do now is repeat the steps shown above several times with new layers (With different color sprays of course), and blend all of the different spray layers together until you get the desired result.
Completed Spray Effect
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