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Making sparks

What we will be making

You have probably seen sparks fly up from grinding metal in road construction, or possibly from some special effects in a movie or tv show.  Now learn how to design them yourself!  Here is an example of what we will be designing in this photoshop tutorial:

image 1

Where do we begin?

We will start by creating an impact point where a laser will meet our surface.  This is fairly simple to accomplish.  Begin by creating a new document in Photoshop (400x400), and filling it with a dark gray background:

image 2

Now, select the Brush tool ( image 3 ), and set it up as follows:

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Create a new layer above your background layer, and make a mark with this brush somewhere near the lower right of your document.

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Now, apply the following blending options to your new layer.

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After applying these blending options, your document should have a nice impact spark as shown in the figure below:

image 8

Creating the Flying Sparks

Its time to start adding sparks that will appear to fly up from your impact point.  To do this, we will be using the pen tool in adobe photoshop, as it can provide us with excellent curved sparks for our graphic.

Before we dive into using the pen tool however, set up a brush in the following manner:

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The Fade Settings in our brush have been edited so that after 225 steps, our brush will fade out completely.

As we create our sparks, we are going to be creating "paths" with our pen tool, and then have our brush follow along these paths.  Select your pen tool from the tool bar now.

image 11

Set your pen tool to its "Paths Mode".

This will allow us to have our brush conform along the path we set with the pen tool.

Create a new layer in your document, and create a simple curve with the pen tool such as the one in the picture shown below:

image 12

Now lets have our brush follow this path.  While still using the pen tool, right click your document, and then click "Stroke Path".

Select the Brush tool in the box that pops up (shown below).  Also be sure to simulate pressure so that the fade effect is applied to our brush along the path.

image 13

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Spark Blending Options

What is a spark without the special glowing effects that typically come with it? 

We need to add some inner glow, and outer glow blending options to our spark layer so that it appears to glow, and extend from the impact point.

Apply the following Blending options to your spark layer (Also should mention now that if you want to turn off your path viewer, go to View > Show > Target Path):

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And now your spark should look like this:

image 17

Now lets make a bunch more sparks!

Making multiple sparks with ease

There is no sense in creating new layers for each spark, and respectively stroking each one!  Create a new layer, and then create a new path layer in your layers panel:

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Grab your Pen Tool Again, and make a new path:

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Hold Ctrl, and left click somewhere on your document to unselect your new sub-path, and now create another path (in the same path layer).  Repeat this until you have a few paths set up:

image 20

Right Click, and stroke your paths as you did before, and you will stroke all of them at once.  Use the same blending options you used on your previous spark on this layer:

image 21

Finalizing the Sparks

You can try experimenting here a bit more before continuing to the laser part of this tutorial.  Try duplicating your layer with the sparks a few times, and rearranging them and resizing them to create some unique spark effects:

image 22

Creating the Laser Beam

Finally, lets add a nice laser to our spark effect.  Create a new path with the Pen tool on a new layer, and Stroke it with a size 3 brush as shown below (Do not Simulate Pressure this time).

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Move this layer underneath all of your spark layers and impact layers, and add the following blending options:

image 24

Click ok to apply these blending options, and then admire your final result!

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You can shrink the size of your sparks by throwing the entire document into a layer set and transforming it, and then add your sparks to other images for great styling effects!

Making Sparks

Good Luck!

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