How to Mask a Powder Explosion Image in Photoshop

by | Jun 6, 2017 | Post Production

Getting a powder explosion mask in Photoshop appears to be, at first sight, a bit complicated. It’s not possible to use simple strategies like the color range selection and you cannot think about doing it manually at all. So how is it possible then to separate a powder explosion from the background and insert it into our image? Don’t be scared, Photoshop gives us some tools to achieve this!

First of all, once you opened the image, double the layer (Cmd+J, or Ctrl+J in Windows), create a Curves adjustment layer and apply it as a clipping mask just above the copied layer. To do this, right-click on the curve layer and select Create clipping mask or hold the Cmd key (Alt in Windows) and click at the bottom edge of the layer. As a result of doing this, an arrow will appear indicating that the clipping mask is active.

Powder Explosions Mask Tutorial 2

Now you have to hide the background and make it homogeneous to facilitate the next steps. In the Curves layer properties, select the black point icon and click on the background image, just outside the powder border. Try it in various positions till you get an almost completely black background.

The image before and after these steps should look like this:

Powder Explosion Mask Tutorial 1
Powder Explosions Mask Tutorial 3

If you have done everything right, you’re ready to make the selection and go to the more exciting part of our powder explosion mask tutorial!

We will take advantage of the luminosity masking capabilities: blend together the layers you created so far (select them and press Cmd+E, or Ctrl+E on Windows) and, while holding down the Cmd key (Ctrl on Windows) on the Channels palette, click on the thumbnail of the RGB channel. In this way, Photoshop selects the pixels based on their brightness, that is, our powders!

Create a new layer from the selection (by pressing the appropriate button in the Layers palette or the Cmd+J keys, Ctrl+J in Windows) to generate a new layer with the selected pixels.

Powder Explosions Mask Tutorial 4
Powder Explosions Mask Tutorial 5

Just for now, create a new layer with a black background and position it below the layer you have just created. You will need it to better distinguish the selection.

Our image is a bit “dark”… You just need to amplify it. Fill the powder explosion layer with white, setting the foreground color to white and pressing Cmd+Shift+Backspace (Alt+Shift+Backspace on Windows).

Our powder explosion is starting to appear. Duplicate this layer and blend them together. Here’s the selection is completed.

Powder Explosions Mask Tutorial 6
Powder Explosions Mask Tutorial 7

Turn off or remove the black background layer and… Boom! Watch the powder explosion mask in all its splendor!

Powder Explosions Mask Tutorial 8

If you want to see what you can do with this and other techniques, visit the portfolio page.

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Emanuele Turri | Venice Italy

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