Sunday, February 13, 2011


We are going to learn how to use the brush tool to make some fireworks for your images. First we will create the brush and apply it to the background of a city image and then we'll spice it up a little with some layer styles.

Step 1: Find an image that you think needs some fireworks in it.
Step 2: Next, we will start the process of creating the brush. Photoshop 7 introduced a brush engine that allows us to create a ton of effects with brushes. We now have many brush properties that can be modified and even a window to preview what the brush will look like. So select the brush tool and open up the brush palette (Window => Brushes).
Step 3: Click on "Brush Tip Shape" and make your settings similar to mine here.
Step 4:Next, click on "Shape Dynamics" and make your settings similar below.
Step 5:Now, do the same for "Scattering".
Step 6: Finally, "Color Dynamics". Also, after you set these Color Dynamics properties set your foreground color to a bright red (R:255, B:0, G:0) and your background color to a bright orange (R:255, B:155 , G:0 ). Notice how we set the color dynamics foreground/background jitter in the brush palette - Changing these colors will help vary the brush strokes.
Step 7: We are ready to paint on our image now. I personally use a Wacom 8x6 tablet and its worth its weight in gold. But it will still work fine if you don't, you may just have to practice a little.
It also may help to look at an image with fireworks (search on google) but basically you just need to start painting strokes with your new brush. Because of the way that the brush fades, painted from the outside in towards the middle to simulate the fireworks exploding. Also purposely made my fireworks larger than we want them in the final image. You will see why in a few steps. See my image here for an example.
Step 8: Just keep repeating this process trying to keep a general circular exploding type look. This is where the art comes in - there is now real way to automate this. You don't need to know how to draw - you just need to experiment. Plus we are going to be scaling it down so that will hide a lot of mistakes.

Step 9: Remember how we made the fireworks larger than we wanted before. I found it easier to make them large and scale then down then to make them smaller in the first place. It was easier to create the brush strokes this way (especially if you are using a mouse). Also, scaling down will help hide any inconsistencies in your strokes. So go ahead and hit Ctrl + T to bring up the free transform tool. Hold down Shift to constrain your sizing and scale the fireworks down a bit.
Step 10: Once you are happy with the general exploding look of your fireworks there is another step we can use to make them a little more realistic. As fireworks explode, the trail that they leave slowly fades away. This  means that the center of the explosion is not as bright as the outer edges. We can handle that easily in Photoshop. First, select your fireworks layer. Then, just create a layer mask by clicking the "Add layer Mask" button at the bottom of the Then, just create a layer mask by clicking the "Add layer Mask" button at the bottom of the layers palette . Your layer palette view should look similar to mine below.

Step 11: Now make the mask active by clicking on it. Select the Gradient tool. Hit "D" to set the foreground/background colors to black and white if they are not already. Also set your gradient type to the radial gradient option. Now drag a gradient out from the center toward the edges similar to mine. You may have to play with this a bit and keep dragging to get it right. Here are some tips when working with layer masks - first remember an old saying "Black conceals, white reveals". This means that where black is applied, you will be hiding that part of the image. Where white is applied the image will show through. If you look at the layer mask before you do anything to it, you will see that it is all white. That means the whole layer is showing. Once you apply the gradient you will see some black areas (and shades of gray as the gradient changes to white). Those parts of the image will be hidden (or partially hidden where the colors are shades of grey). One more tip: By Alt+Clicking on the layer mask, you will reveal your layer mask alone so you can see what your gradient looks like. Just Alt+Click on it again to get things back to normal. Here is a picture of the layer mask for one of my fireworks layers.
Step 11: If you are following along, here is a quick check to make sure you did this step correctly. Below are before and after pictures. The difference is subtle but it makes a big impact on the realism of the image.

Step 13: We are almost done. Some final touches would be to add a layer style. So double click on the layer to bring up the layers styles box and apply an outer glow style. Make your settings similar to the screen shot below.

Step 14: Now there are two things you could do here. You could create a new layer and make some more fireworks by repeating the steps before this one, or you could copy this layer and free transform it a bit to get  more fireworks. We will go over the latter quickly here. First Copy your fireworks layer (Ctrl + J). Then hit Ctrl + T to bring up the free transform tool on the your fireworks layer (Ctrl + J). Then hit Ctrl + T to bring up the free transform tool on the new layer. Now hold down the Ctrl key and click on one of the outer corners of  the bounding box and bring it in slightly. Don't apply yet. Now move the mouse outside of the bounding box until you see the curved arrow appear near your cursor and rotate the fireworks around until you're happy with the results. Experiment with these techniques to quickly get another firework layer but one that looks different enough so it doesn't look like you just copied and pasted the same layer.
Step 15: So now that you have a new fireworks layer you probably don't want it to be the same color as the other. Fireworks are all different colors. That's easy enough to take care of. Just go back into the layer styles for that layer and make your settings similar to the screen shot below. You can make the color any that you choose. I also went back to the outer glow layer style and changed the color of the glow to the same blue that I used in the Color Overlay.