Can you give me some advice for painting realistic smoke?
Answer Leesha replies
Smoke is a prevalent visual effect in fantasy art. It can help to potentially reinforce both your composition, and your narrative. It’s important for any fantasy artist to not only learn how to paint smoke, but also to understand how it works, and how to integrate it within your setting.
Smoke will vary visually depending on the cause. Billowing clouds of smoke from a roaring forest fire will look very different to tendrils of smoke rising from a slowly burning piece of parchment. Using reference and real-life examples will help you to identify what kind of smoke you should be aiming to replicate in your paintings. The appearance of smoke is also affected by its surroundings. Is it a still day, or is it windy? Will there be any floating debris or embers rising with the smoke? These are all good things to consider.
While learning how to paint smoke, it’s best to avoid the overuse of photo textures or custom brushes for a couple of key reasons. First, they can be potentially limiting when it comes to appearance; and second, this will enable you to properly understand the shapes and forms involved without taking any tempting shortcuts.
In this example I’ll be talking about how to paint coloured smoke in Photoshop, with the help of some adjustment layers.
This animal spirit has escaped its bottled prison, and doesn’t seem too happy to see the keeper! I’ve featured some magical-looking smoke to help tell the story. Painting smoke on its own layer enables you to freely use Warp (Edit> Transform>Warp) or Liquify (Filter>Liquify) to manipulate the shapes however you like.