What Dreams May Come (Smoke Art #19)
So for anyone that is interested in my process, here is All About Smoke Art - Part 2: Layering and Coloring.

If you followed my last article, you now have a smoke photo on a black background -- like this:


To move from photography to art, you must begin to manipulate the photo in your favorite photo editing program. I use Photoshop Elements, a fairly stripped down, yet still powerful version of Photoshop. I will discuss two aspects of post processing your smoke in this article -- layering and coloring. Later articles will cover other techniques.

Smoke photos are very conducive to layering. Take your original smoke photo, duplicate the layer and then flip it horizontally or vertically. Then change the blend mode to lighten or screen (if on a black background) or darken or multiply (if on a white background). Sometimes this makes some incredible things. Here is the above photo with a horizontal flip and blend mode set to Lighten....do you see a hooded figure? Nothing was added to the smoke to create this:


You can layer multiple times for other effects. Changing the blend mode to difference also yields interesting (or sometimes ugly) things. That's really all there is to layering.

Adding color can be done in a variety of ways, so I will share a couple of my techniques. First, if there is already a slight tint to the smoke (usually a bluish tint), you can change that with an adjustment layer and hue alteration. This typically produces a more subtle coloring than the next strategy. Here is the above photo with a hue adjustment. I did this to have it better fit with the object I chose to go with it.

My most common strategy for coloring is to add a color gradient to the photo. In Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, choose Layer, Gradient Fill to insert a gradient layer above your smoke photo. You then must change the blend mode to either color or overlay. Each produces somewhat different results, but in most cases makes a more realistic looking color in the smoke. To create a smoke photo on a white background, first create an adjustment layer - invert, and then add your gradient above it. Another blending method which produces a very different result would be Difference. This typically makes a very bold colored smoke on the opposite background...when done properly it can be very striking. There are also plug-ins that produce interesting color effects in the smoke. NIK Color Efex has some coloring strategies that I have used, as does Flaming Pear. Others have found somewhat different methods to add color to their smoke photos, so please experiment.

I blended the final smoke figure above with the photo that I took separately of the dream catcher. The final result "What Dreams May Come" is below:

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. And if you decide to make some smoke art, please share it in my group called Smoke & Mirrors (http://www.ipernity.com/group/smokeandmirrors):