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How to Add Splatter & Dispersion Effects to Photos in Photoshop Quickly

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Read Time: 5 mins

Particle effects like dispersion and splatter are always eye-catching. Particularly in the case of dispersions, it can be hard to know exactly what the person has done to achieve the effect, making it all the more impressive! In this tutorial you'll see how quickly Adobe Photoshop resources from Envato Elements can help you work a little magic with your photos, with two expemples.

Example 1: Feathers Photoshop Action

Feathers Photoshop ActionFeathers Photoshop ActionFeathers Photoshop Action
Feathers Photoshop Action

Feathers Photoshop Action creates a lovely dispersion effect designed to represent feathers. There are five different directions to choose from and the action works best with images of people. The action is layered and you can customise it easily, including a choice of ten colour presets which you can mix and match.

Before You Start

Your image should be:

  • In RGB colour mode
  • 8 bits/channel

You’ll need to install:

Here’s the image I’ll be working with. You can download it for free via Unsplash.

Person jumping across a gorge mountains in the distance overcast skyPerson jumping across a gorge mountains in the distance overcast skyPerson jumping across a gorge mountains in the distance overcast sky

Let's Get Started

Open your image and create a new layer (Control-Shift-N) titled subject. This must be lowercase, or the action won’t work. With that layer selected, brush over the main subject of your photograph; so in this case, we’re going to brush over the whole person.

paint over your subjectpaint over your subjectpaint over your subject
Paint over your subject

Create a new layer above your subject layer, and name this one area, again making sure it’s all lowercase. This time, paint where you want the dispersion effect to appear. Be quite subtle, try just going down one side first and see how it works.

Choose a direction from the action options. I’ve chosen left as I’ve highlighted the left side of the body and want the feathers to appear as if they’re blowing back as the subject jumps.

Run the Action

after the action has runafter the action has runafter the action has run
After running the action

You’ll see that it breaks down into a number of layers, where you can make adjustments to the effect and also change the colours. 

The action is broken down into lots of useful layers

I slightly brushed back the subject over the mask, just enough to see a little more of the left-hand side of the body. Other than that, it looked pretty good and I was happy with the effect.

The Finished Result

the finished imagethe finished imagethe finished image
The finished image

Example 2: 20 Splatter Brushes

Splatter Brushes is a set of 20 specialised brushes that let you add texture, pattern or decoration to any image you like. The download includes Photoshop Brushes and vector files, so you can use them in Adobe Illustrator too.

Getting Started

Using brushes can be more versatile than an action because you’re completely in control of the effect and positioning. It’s really easy to add some simple colour or texture.

First, install the brushes. This is the image I’ll be using; you can download it for free from Unsplash.

Photo by David Hofmann on UnsplashPhoto by David Hofmann on UnsplashPhoto by David Hofmann on Unsplash
Photo by David Hofmann on Unsplash

Add Splatter

Cut out your subject using Quick Selection Tool and paste it onto a separate layer. Next, fill or colour the background so it’s plain.

Create a layer (or more than one) between the two to brush on. Use the Eyedropper Tool to select colours or tones from the image.

Choose a selection of brushes to paint onto your middle 'brush' layer.

It's a quick and simple effect, but with it we can easily add a little interest to otherwise plain images.

Check Out More Dispersion Effects Tutorials

For a more in-depth, step-by-step look at how to create dispersion effects and Photoshop actions, check out these great tutorials:

More Great Photoshop Resources

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