It’s fairly common to utilise the Photoshop dispersion effect, splatter effect, shatter effect, or whatever name you want to give it, on photos, especially ones with movement. Since this is such a well-liked approach, I decided to try my hand at creating a lesson. So, this is a really easy approach to achieve this effect. I say straightforward because the mechanics are really not that difficult. To produce good results, selecting the best brushes and knowing when to use them takes some practise. Therefore, don’t worry if you don’t obtain a nice outcome the first time; simply keep trying. In my illustration, I choose to aim for a more fluid stylistic outcome.


Start with a picture you think will go well with this; the best pictures usually have some action in them. In this instance, I choose a picture I took of the model Lina. I chose this photo because of the woman’s body’s boomerang form, which might add visual intrigue and provide the idea of impending movement.


The item should be separated from the background and placed on its own layer. You may find a guide here that explains how to do that.

Be sure to fill in the space where the object once stood. Use the lasso tool to make a rough selection, then hit Shift+Delete (Shift+Backspace Windows). The Fill dialogue box will open as a result. Deciding on Content Aware. If you need to make any repairs, fix these steps on smaller regions. By the way, it doesn’t have to be perfect. (You could simply just relocate the cut out object to a new document if you like).


At this point you should have a clean background and your object on a new layer like shown. You are ready to begin.


Duplicate the object layer by selecting it and press Ctrl/Cmd+J


We need to provide some pixels for the splatter effect.

Choose Filter>Liquify to go into the liquify filter

Use the default tool (forward warp) make a decently large brush

Push pixels off to the left. so we have smudged out enough pixels for use to use in our effect as shown.


Move the smeared layer beneath the item by clicking yes to Apply.


Layer masks will be the key to all the magic.

When you click the add layer mask button in the layers panel for our top layer, a white mask with no effect on the layer will appear.

We want to make a mask that covers the bottom (smudged layer). While pressing the add layer mask button, keep holding down the Alt or Option key. This will include a black mask that covers the layer’s contents.


Make the background colour white.

Choose a shatter or splattered brush from the brushes panel after selecting the brush tool.

There are many free photoshop brushes that can be found online in places like deviant art or brusheezy. Do a Google search for terms like “free photoshop splatter brushes” and you will find tons of them.

Set the brush opacity to 100%

Choose the layer mask on the bottom layer (smudged) as you paint, you will notice the contents of the layer will begin to appear. Change bushes ofter and dab rather than drag. Start to build up the splattering effect.


Choose the top layer mask, select a black brush and begin to cut into the object with brushes, to remove parts of the image to make it look like they are exploding away.


A result will begin to emerge, which you may or may not like. Using layer masks has the advantage that you can always paint away the modifications and try again, or work on small portions at a time until you are satisfied with the outcome.

I have something like this in the end.


The outcome is acceptable, however I want to add some colouring to it.

Press Cmd+Shift+Option+E (Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E on Windows) to select every layer.

This will create a visible layer that is either composite or stamped. (Without merging the layers below, combine all the layers into a single new layer on top)

Opt for Filter > Camera Raw. (On CS6 or earlier, you must right-click the image in Bridge and choose “Open in Camera Raw”)

Visit split toning and experiment with various settings, like I have done here.

And we have a colored result.

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