How to Create an Easy Dispersion Effect in Photoshop

How to Create an Easy Dispersion Effect in Photoshop

Giving a subject a dispersion or splatter effect can create an incredibly dynamic image. The best part is, it’s very quick and easy to do with a few Photoshop brushes, but the end result can look very complex as if it took you hours to create. In this tutorial, I’m going to walk you through 3 easy steps to create this dispersion effect.

Here’s a look at what we’ll be creating.

WeGraphics members will want to grab this brush set for the tutorial:

Splatters Volume 2

For non-WeGraphics members a good free alternative can be found here:

Splatters Brush Set

Step 1

After a little bit of searching I found this photo of a guy jumping in the air by Camera Eye Photography. This is a great photo for this effect because the subject is in motion. So our dispersion effect will help to enhance that motion.

Copy and paste the photo into a new PS document. I sized mine down to 2500px wide. Using the Quick Selection Tool (W), I made a selection of the guy and copied and pasted him to a new layer. I then loaded the selection again, and with the background layer selected, I chose (Edit | Fill | Content Aware).

Content Aware did a pretty good job of removing the guy from the background. There is still a silhouette visible, but that’s okay, we’ll be covering most of it up. We just want some of the background color to show through. If you’re extra picky, you can remove the silhouette with the Clone Stamp Tool (S).

Step 2

Lets go ahead and duplicate the guy layer one time. So you should have two layers that have our guy jumping. Select the bottom most guy layer and press (Cmd+T) to transform him. You want to stretch the guy horizontally.

I roughly selected his arm and leg and moved them back to the edge of the non-distorted guy in the layer above. The idea here is that we’re giving a color area for our splatters to pick up via a mask.

Lets go ahead and create that mask for the distorted guy layer. Select the distorted guy layer and click the layer mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette. Fill the mask with solid black.

Now use the splatter brushes to reveal portions of the layer by clicking the mask using solid white as the foreground color.

For the top non-distorted guy layer, we also want to create a layer mask. But this time we want to leave it solid white, and use a black splatter brush to remove portions of the guy to reveal some of the background.

Pretty easy, huh?

Step 3

For the final touches lets add a bit of vignette and highlight. But before we do that… I took one large dark splatter and placed it on a layer behind the guy. I basically just wanted to see some light splatters that fell beyond the distorted guy’s layer mask.

For the vignette, lets switch over to Quick Mask Mode (Q), and choose a very large soft black brush and click once in the center of the image.

Switching out of QMM you’ll see that we have a selection that excludes the very center of the image. The selection is also nicely feathered due to our soft black brush.

Now create a new Levels Adjustment Layer above all other layers, and adjust as follows.

For the final touch, lets add a highlight. Create a new layer above the guy layer, and set its blending mode to Opacity. Now with a soft white brush make 1 or two clicks over the guys head and torso. You may need to reduce the opacity of this layer down to 50% or 60% depending on how hot the highlight appears.

I hope this quick tutorial has inspired some ideas on how to use PS brushes to create interesting dispersion effects in your artwork. Experiment and have fun!

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Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown is a graphic designer who loves working with various media. He combines traditional art styles with a little experimentation and digital flare. Nathan's works have contained everything from ink and paint to leaves and a box of dirt. Everything is fare game when it comes to his approach to art. Nathan lives in Austin, Texas where he has been working as a designer for 10 years.


(+add yours)
  1. thanks for this tut

  2. Rautaro

    Always wanted to do this effect but never knew how to. The result is amazing, thanks!

  3. really nice tips! I will try it, thank you for sharing.

  4. nice tutorial and nice controlled effects. I’ll try this one out tomorrow.

  5. Khassali

    Thanxx <3<3 !!!!

  6. jim

    what do you mean by “Copy and paste the photo into a new PS document” ? and why the background are white ? i dont understand .

    • Anoop

      ya i didn’t get that one too ..

      • me

        Go to File > New…, and create a new document.

  7. w3bw3aver

    The Tutorial is really cool..looking for forward to more such!!!!

  8. Ankhbayar

    please show us by video and share in the youtube. please please

  9. chloe joy

    its very nice..!@!! i get a lot of information about how to create dispersion in photoshop..

  10. Daman

    I can’t see any detail after STEP 2________pls mention detail whether we have to use distort application or Brush____

  11. This is the worst dispersion tutorial effect, theres no steps, it feels like most of the important steps were missing, this is the worst tutorial ever.

  12. Kristy

    Thanks so much!! this is awesome!!!! :D

  13. Sarah

    This is a very bad tutorial, there is no steps and you dont explain how to do steps correctly, your just basically explaining what you have already done. I find this very hard to follow, you should add to this tutorial with step-by-step instructions for beginners.

    • you right

    • achyela alexander

      there is a Photoshop for beginners section look there if u want tutorial for beginners
      this is a step by step for persons familiar with photoshop

    • Jules

      I agree… There were not enough pictures to explain the overlays and such. I didn’t understand the part to where it got to the splatter brushes and how to add these extra layer masks and all white ect. I would have purchased these brushes otherwise. The comment directing people to “new beginners” is missing the fact that, with a FEW SIMPLE extra steps explained here… they would be making money on these brushes for sale.

  14. awesome man
    thanks for this

  15. I liked the tutorial. I have a good grasp of the program and understood what was going on (even if he missed some steps) but I do agree that you have to mention some of the basics for beginners. I even got lost near the end when it becomes more of ‘Do this’ instead of ‘This is how we do this’ but overall, a nice effect that I’ve always wanted to play with.

  16. Hi..
    This tutorial was amazingly detailed. I learned more by creating the website via your tutorial than I did in my Graphic Design and Photoshop classes put together. Thank you so much! A very annoying cloud has been lifted off of the intimidating monster that is Photoshop.
    Thanks again!

  17. deceef

  18. chaya

    Thank you (:

  19. Hi Nathan
    Thank you for sharing this. Nicely explained tutorial.

  20. lorna

    that was great step by step progress i liked it still getting use to photoshop and more

  21. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to
    say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and
    I hope you write again very soon!

  22. Wow ! So damn cool.

  23. I am sure this piece of writing has touched all
    the internet people, its really really good paragraph on building up new website.

  24. It’s very straightforward to find out any topic on web as compared to textbooks, as I found this post at this site.

  25. this is really good tutorial.

  26. Aw, this was a very nice post. Finding the time and actual effort to produce a
    superb article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and never manage to get anything done.

  27. What’s up to every single one, it’s truly a nice for me to pay a quick visit this site,
    it contains important Information.

  28. crootich

    Awesome tutorial, you made it so simple..

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  30. ijaz

    how layer 2 copy 2 show???fill>edit>content aware is disable how enable it plz help????

  31. Thank you, I have just been looking for information approximately this subject for ages and yours is the best I
    have discovered so far. But, what about the bottom line? Are you sure about the supply?

  32. Serhij

    Thanks a lot for this tut! Always wanted to make a pic with this effect.

  33. asda

    Why not show brush step?….

  34. You might want to try my new Dispersion Photoshop Free Action:

  35. I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Well written!

  36. charlie

    well done really good :)

  37. charlie

    there is no content aware !!! HELP ME ASAP ??????

    • me

      You probably didn’t see it. It has to be there check again (Edit > Fill > Content Aware).

  38. me

    Great tutorial! Love it so much! Although in the last step, you messed up. The blending mode is Overlay, not Opacity… <3

  39. santiago

    I just did this on a photo of my kids. I need to work on the lights to make it more ionteresting, but this effects cameout perfect, Thank you

  40. Axelle

    Thanks for this tutorial. What do you mean by “I then LOADED the selection again” in step 1 ? Do you select it all over again ? (but this does not allow me to then select the background layer and get the content aware to work).
    Thank you !

  41. Thank you for sharing this tutorial mate :) really useful!

  42. Hi Nathan ! You shared very easy tutorial to create dispersion effect. Can you suggest me any resources for hair retouching effect to images . Thanks in advance !!

  43. Hey very nice web site!! Guy .. Beautiful .. Wonderful ..
    I will bookmark your web site and take the feeds also?
    I’m satisfied to seek out a lot of helpful information right here in the post, we’d like work out more techniques in this
    regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

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