Deke’s Techniques: Creating a smoke text effect

Published by | Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques, you’ll see how to create text out of thin air—well—smokey thin air. Using a photograph of smoke and some editable text, Deke shows you how to make wispy, ethereal letters using a standard text layer and Smart Objects.

You’ll start by putting your white, soon-to-be smokey, text in front of a plain black background layer, and merging these two layers to make a Smart Object. Next, you’ll work on distorting the text with a smart version of the Wave filter and managing the Randomize setting (which means clicking it until you get something you like) to make your smoke seem properly transient.

Then it’s a matter of adding appropriate Motion Blur, applying the best blend mode (in this case Color Dodge), and finishing up with some more Gaussian blur. Because Color Dodge is one of those blend modes that responds to Fill Opacity better than standard layer opacity, you’ll also reduce the Fill Opacity. The result is this completely editable, ethereal effect:

Photoshop smoke text effect

If this effect seems familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen it in action in the thumbnail graphic and introductory movie from Deke’s free Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview course (a living example of Deke using his effects in his own projects).

See you back next week with another free technique!


Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on
• Courses by Deke McClelland on
• All Photoshop courses on

Suggested courses to watch next:
 Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview
• Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery
• Photoshop Blend Mode Magic
• Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Advanced Blending

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3 Responses to “Deke’s Techniques: Creating a smoke text effect”

  1. Nancy Steed says:

    An exercise file is displayed at the beginning of the Deke’s Technique (smoke type), but I’m not sure how to find it.

  2. Nancy Steed says:

    Disregard previous message – found the exercise files!

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