I’m hav­ing trou­ble de­pict­ing smoke. Got any tips?

ImagineFX - - Imagine Nation Artist Q & A | Your questions answe - Felic­ity Jones, Eng­land

Paco replies


To an­swer this ques­tion I’ve de­cided to paint a gun that’s just been fired. I think that show­ing the mo­ment just af­ter the trig­ger’s been pulled adds to the drama of the scene.

I need to con­sider the shape of the smoke as it flows out of the gun bar­rel. When it’s close to the bar­rel, the smoke re­sem­bles a piece of pa­per or fab­ric that you can twist. It has a ‘side A’ and a ‘side B’, and as it twists we can see ei­ther one side or the other. The more dis­tant the smoke is from its source (the bar­rel), the more sim­i­lar it be­comes to ev­ery­day smoke. Bear in mind that smoke is im­ma­te­rial, so depend­ing on how much smoke is be­tween our eyes and the back­ground, it will be more or less vis­i­ble.

The eas­i­est ap­proach to take is to paint the whole im­age, and once it’s fin­ished, block in a ba­sic scheme of where the smoke is go­ing to be on a new layer. Next, cre­ate an­other layer un­der the smoke layer and fill it with black. Then, back on the ‘smoke’ layer, con­tinue to paint the smoke, just as if you were paint­ing it on a black back­ground. Try to use el­e­gant and long brush­strokes when paint­ing the smoke close to the bar­rel, and short, thick ones on the far end of the smoke trail.

Once done, turn the smoke layer mode to Screen. The black part will be­come trans­par­ent, and you’ll have cre­ated a translu­cent, white smoke ef­fect.

In­tro­duc­ing smoke to a gun that’s just been dis­charged can help you solve an un­bal­anced com­po­si­tion, or fill an im­age that has too much empty space. Try to un­der­stand the shape of the smoke. I do this by imag­in­ing it as a piece of pa­per that you can twist.

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