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Colour your incense smoke photographs in Photoshop


Colour your incense smoke photographs in Photoshop - You've taken the pictures now add a little bit of colour to your incense smoke images in Photoshop.

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Adobe Photoshop

  • Software used: Photoshop CS4
  • Time taken: 30 minutes (for all stages)
  • Try this tutorial for yourself by clicking on the image to the left to download a high resolution image.
 Smoke photography

Adding one colour

Step 1: Duplicate the background layer

Open your image up in Photoshop.

Go to the layers palette rename the layer and copy the layer by dragging the layer onto the new layer icon or by going to the layers menu and selecting duplicate layer. The original Background Layer is left untouched so if you get into trouble you can easily start again.

Layer panel

Step 2: Brighten the smoke

If you want to brighten the smoke slightly go to Layer> New Adjustment Layer>Levels to open the histogram or by clicking the black and white circle in the layers palette. If you click on the white arrow to the bottom right of the histogram and drag it to the left the image will brighten. Keep an eye on the background when you do this as you don't want to lighten this so much that the black begins to disappear and white specks appear.

Adjustment layer

Step 3: Create Hue/Saturation adjustment layer

Next we want to create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer which you do by going to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation. When a new window opens you can simply move the hue slider up or down to vary the colour. For more variety click the colourize box and when you move the slider this time you'll notice there are more colour options. On our image, changing the hue value to -39 turned the image green while +45 turned it purple. Adjusting the saturation will give the image more or less punch.


Once you've done this and are happy your image is complete.

Purple smoke

Changing a black background to white:

Step 1: Change background colour

To change the colour of the background go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Invert.

Invert image

Inverted image

Step 2: Change the smoke colour

This will change your background to white but your smoke now may be a colour you don't want it to be. To rectify this, if you're still working on the same image, go back to your hue/saturation adjustment layer and simply adjust the hue until you find a colour your happy with. If it's a new image go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation and adjust as you did before.

Hue/Saturation to invert colour

Use hue to colour smoke

Green smoke

Rainbow colours:

Step 1: Add a gradient

To add a rainbow of colours to the image we are going to add a gradient fill layer. To apply the gradient you can go to Layer>New Fill Layer>Gradient. Here a new window will open. In the window that opens you'll see you can adjust the angle, style and scale. There's also a box called gradient which has the current gradient style in it. To change this simply click on it to open the gradient editor. Once you're happy with the selection click OK.

Gradient Fill

Gradient Fill

Step 2: Apply the fill gradient to the smoke

You'll notice the gradient is covering the whole image – don't panic! To apply it to the smoke find the drop down menu in the layers palette that says 'normal', click on it and select 'colour'. Now just the smoke will have the gradient applied to it. If you don't like the colours, double click on the gradient fill in the layers palette to bring the window up to correct it.

Layers mode

Gradient Fill

Smoke Image Gradient Filter

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