Use Photoshop filters to create clouds, and then manipulate them to look like smoke. Clouds and smoke are both semi-transparent, and they both look different depending on their backgrounds. Add movement to the clouds using distortion filters, then use special blurs to create the wispy look of smoke. Combine alternate layering options with layer masking, to make your smoke look realistic. For your first attempt, create smoke over a blue sky gradient.
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Load Photoshop. Choose "File" and "New" from the menu bar and sub-menu. The "New" dialogue box opens. Choose "1024 X 768" from the "Preset" option bar. Click "OK" to accept the settings and to open your image screen.
Click on the "Foreground Color" box at the bottom of the "Toolbox" palette. Choose a medium blue from the Color Picker. Click on the "Background Color" box and choose a light blue from the Color Picker. Click on the "Gradient" icon in the "Toolbox" palette. Click on the left edge of your screen halfway between the top and the bottom. Drag to the right side. A blue gradient appears.
Click on the "Foreground Color" box and choose white from the "Color Picker." Click on the "Background Color" box and choose black from the "Color Picker." Choose "Layer" and "New Layer" from the menu bar and pull-down menu. Select "Filter," "Render" and "Clouds" from the menu bar and pull-down menus. A black-and-white cloud pattern covers the screen.
Choose "Filter," and then "Liquify," from the menu bar and sub-menu. The "Liquify" preview and dialogue window opens. Type "450" in the "Brush Size" box. Click on the "Turbulence" tool in the "Tools" palette on the left side of the window. Click on the "Show Mesh" option box in the "View Options" area. A mesh grid covers your large preview window and your cloud image.
Click on the bottom left corner of your preview image and pull to the right. Release the mouse. Your cloud image is shifted to the right and compresses against itself. Move your mouse to the right. Click and pull to the left. Click on the bottom right corner of the image and pull to the left. The bottom of your image squeezes together.
Move your mouse up halfway up the screen, horizontally aligned with your new left corner. Pull to the left. Move your mouse over to the right, and pull to the left. Continue pulling the image left and right to create an undulating pattern. Click "OK" to apply the effect when you are satisfied with the look.
Choose "Filter," "Blur" and "Motion Blur" from the menu bar and pull-down menu. Type "60" in the "Degrees" box, and move the "Distance" slider until it reads "50." Notice that your image looks like smoke.
Change the "Blending Mode" in the "Layers Control" palette from "Normal" to "Multiply." Your grey smoke appears over your blue background. Click on the "Brush" icon on the "Toolbox Palette," Click on the "Brush Style" icon on the horizontal options bar. Choose "Soft Round 100" from the selection menu.
Choose "Layer," "Add Layer Mask" and "Reveal all." Click on the "Reverse Foreground and Background Color" arrow just above the "Foreground Color" and "Background Color" boxes. Brush over the hard edges of your smoke element to soften them and to blend them into the background.
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