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How to Create Vapor Effects in Photoshop

These photo manipulation tutorials are aimed towards beginners and those looking to expand their Photoshop skills. The ability to create a cloud, vapor and smoke effects can be a useful ability for your photo editing skill set. Not only can these techniques save time but they can also help you create stunning images!

Getting Started:

This is a simple and fast formula for creating an instant smoke effect over your image using Photoshop. Once you have the basic steps down you can customize them to your liking, the fun part is experimenting!

1. Open the image you wish to edit in Photoshop then create a new, empty layer.

2. From the main menu bar, click through: "Filter" - "Render" - "Clouds". Now your layer will be full of fluffy clouds!

Helpful hints:


    • Use the color picker to set the two colors you would like the clouds to render as. Black and white are a good choice for more realistic looking smoke.

  • By using the shortcut "Ctrl" plus "L" you can adjust the levels of these clouds by moving the arrows in the dialog box.

3. In your layers menu adjust the blending mode to "Screen" then adjust the opacity to your liking. Now your image should have the effect of smoke or fog!

  • You can use the Soft Eraser tool to edit the final effect to your liking.

If you are looking for more in-depth tutorials for creating clouds, smoke, and vapor effects here are some helpful resources:

    • Introduction to Photoshop: Not a specific tutorial for creating digital effects but a good resource if you need help with different editing aspects of Photoshop.

    • Add Smoke to a Photograph: This tutorial by Adobe is all about creating a "moody" effect to your photographs by adding smoke.

Using Brushes:

Brushes in Photoshop can be used in a similar way to stamps. You could use one click to create a "stamp" with your brush that can be edited and morphed using other tools like the "Free Transform". Photoshop brushes in the shape of curling smoke are a convenient tool for digital artists since it can be faster than rendering photographs and layers. Here are some resources to help you find or create your own brushes in Photoshop:

    • BrushLovers: Free Photoshop brushes featuring vapor, smoke, and fog patterns.

    • Brusheezy: More free Photoshop brushes, textures, patterns, etc.
    • Working With Brushes: The basics on how to use and adjust the brush tool in Photoshop.

Project Ideas:

how to photoshop smoke or vapor into a picture

Now that you are more familiar with the tools and techniques needed to create smoke and cloud effects you can start getting creative! You could practice by creating a fantastical image using smoke and the opacity tool: create a figure or portrait that fades away into thin air. Or you can enhance your photographs using the above methods: make that plate of food appear extra appetizing by adding a subtle cloud of steam over the plate. The possibilities are endless!

    • Smoke Portrait: A very simple tutorial for creating a dynamic smoke portrait using photographs and brushes.

    • Smoked Text Effect: A short tutorial on how you can create text with smoke effects inside.