Dispersion Scattering Effect In Photoshop

We all love a pixel explosion every once in a while, creating a dispersion effect in Adobe Photoshop is the perfect way to add a little superhero to your images. We will achieve this by utilizing duplicates of our foreground image and using layer masking to bring them in and out of view. Take a look at our step by step guide below or watch the video with me running through the steps.

Step 1 – Preparing Our Image

If you already have an image with no background and have it saved as a .PNG file then skip straight to step two. If your image already has a background but you only want to add a dispersion effect to the foreground then choose the quick selection tool and use refine edge to get as close to the edges as possible. If you are unsure of how to remove a background with refine edge then check out the video to the left. Make sure you save the image as a .PNG file then we're good to go.

Step 2 – Creating The Dispersion Effect

You should now just have a background-less foreground image so lets start by creating a new layer on top and selecting the paint bucket tool and filling the layer with the color we want to use as our background. Drag and drop the layer to below our original layer and highlight the foreground layer, press Ctrl & J to duplicate the layer once or twice depending on how far you want the dispersion to go. Select one of the newly formed layers and press Ctrl & T (transform) and drag the image to warp it in the direction of dispersion. You can stretch certain parts individually to add a really good warping effect by clicking filter, liquify and choosing a fairly large brush to warp the image in your chosen direction. Once you have finished warping press ok and do the same for the back layer. You should now have a normal front layer a background and two warped layers.

Step 3 – Creating the Dispersion Mask

On each of your three layers add a layer mask by clicking the camera icon in the bottom right, invert the warped two by pressing Ctrl & I. Select the foreground mask and fill it with white. You should now just see the created background and foreground images alone.

Step 4 – Adding The Dispersion Effect

To create my scattering shown in the video as different sized squares I created a custom brush preset but there are lots of brushes on offer in Photoshop or available free to download on our website. Choose the brush you want to disperse with and select the front layer mask. Using the brush tool and applying black or white to bring in or take away our foreground image. Select window then brush to play around with the dynamics of the brush, the idea is to create a scattering or dispersion effect that is as random as possible so it actually looks like our foreground image is breaking down in some way so using variants of the same brush, increasing and decreasing brush size, and changing around a lot is key to making it look good. Alter settings within the shape dynamics, scattering and transfer to give it a really unique look. If you want to test out the selections just click to the side of the menu and change the brush size with [ ]. Press Ctrl & Z to undo. After taking away some of our foreground image we now want to apply the exact same techniques to our background masked layers, use white with the layer mask selected to bring in the background images and create the dispersion effect.

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