Last week I went to the movies to see Watchmen, an amazing movie with beautiful special effects. However, one in special caught my attention. It was the Dr. Manhattan transformation, so I decided to create something inspired by that scene using Photoshop.

In this tutorial I will show you how to create the disintegration effect using brushes and the blur filter. It's really simple and you will be able to create nice designs using this sort of trendy style of effect.

Step 1

Create a new document in Photoshop. For the size I used 1920x1200 pixels. Then fill the background layer with a gradient, you can do that via Layer>Layer Style>Gradient Overlay. Use #5ba1c6 and #4a565b for the colors, 90º for the angle and Linear for the style.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 2

Add a new layer and make sure you have black and white for the background and foreground colors. Then go to Filter>Render>Clouds. Change the Blend Mode to Screen and with the Eraser Tool (E) use a very soft brush to delete some areas of the clouds layer.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 3

I showed you this technique in the Flying Girl in Photoshop tutorial, it's really simple. Add a new layer and select the Gradient Tool (G). Click on the color settings and select the Black and White Preset. For the Gradient Type use Noise, 100% Roughness and select both Options: Restricted Colors and Add Transparency. Then fill the layer with the gradient and go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Use 30 pixels for the Radius. After that change the Blend Mode to Color Dodge and the Opacity to 50%, then with the Eraser Tool (E) delete some areas of the layer like you did in the last step.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 4

Place the photo that you want to disintegrate. I used one from sxc.hu, you can download it at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/924206. You will have to extrat the guy from the background. You can do that with the Pen Tool (P) or the Lasso Tool (L). Tip: There are lots of ways to cut objects from the background you can check this article out for some examples: http://abduzeedo.com/cutting-images-pictures-video-tutorials

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 5

Let's use the Adjustments to make the guy's image match the background and the rest of the image. First go to Image>Adjustments>Brightness and Contrast, change the Contrast to 100. After that go to Image>Adjustments>Hue and Saturation and reduce the Saturation to -55. Then go to Image>Adjustments>Photo Filter. Use a very light blue and change the intensity to 70%. That will give a nice bluish style to the image.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 6

Duplicate the guy's layer and go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Change the Amount to 10, Blur Method to Zoom and Quality to Best. After that move this layer so that it will be behind the guy without blur layer.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 7

In order to create the disintegration effect we will use a custom Brush. Go to Window>Brush or press F5 and use the brush settings below.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 8

Add a new layer and with the Brush Tool (B) select the brush you have just created and start painging the disintegragion. Use the skin color of the guy for the brush color but also change to some dark colors to add some depth. After that go to Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Use 0º for the Angle and 20 pixels for the Distance. The angle will vary depending on the direction the particles will be going to.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 9

Keed painting more particles. Change the size of the brush using the keyboard shortcuts [ and ]. Remember to change the angle of the motion blur (red arrows) but also the angle of the brush tip in the Brush Settings.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 10

Select the 2 guy layers and go to Layer>Merge Layers. Then go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All. Then select the Brush Tool(B) and black for the color. With the Brush you have created for the particles start painting over the mask to delete the areas of the guy that are disintegrating (1-4). After that go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Use 10 for the Amount, Zoom for the Blur Method and Best for the Quality.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 11

Create a layer beneath the guys layer and paint more particles repeating the same technique we did in the Step 8.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 12

Let's add some ligthing bolts to our design. I used an image that you can find it at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1097676 . Basically the first thing to do is place the lightning bolt photo in the photoshop document, the go to Image >adjustments>desaturate. You will have a black and white photo now. Change the Blend Mode to Color Dodge. Tip: If the lightnings are too light go to Image>Adjustments>Levels and increase the black input. Also you can add a Gaussian Blur.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Step 13

Select all layers and duplicate them. After that go to Layer>Merge Layers. You will have one layer with the whole image, then go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Use 30 pixels for the Radius and press OK. Change the Blend Mode to Screen and the Opacity to 70%.

Another nice effect to add in this step is: Create a layer on top of the others and fill it with black. Change the layer's Blend Mode to Color Dodge and select the Brush Tool (B). With a very soft brush and white for the color paint some light effects in the disintegration areas of the image, betwen the particles and the guy's body (1-4).

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen

Conclusion

You can add another layer on top of everything and use a blue gradient to make the whole image with a blueish style. Also you can add some noise and your logo to make it with that movie style. The idea of this tutorial was to show you how to create the disintegration using brushes and blur. There are other ways to do that as well, you can use the Displace filter for example, as I did in the first experiment for this effect. It's all about playing with the tool and getting inspiration from movies, tv shows, magazines, internet and many other places.

Fantastic Disintegration effect in Photoshop inspired by Watchmen
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Download the Photoshop File

Click here to download the Photoshop file used for this tutorial

About the author of this post

Abduzeedo is a blog about design. There are all sorts of articles for those who want to look for inspiration. Also you will find very useful tutorials for the most used applications out there, with a special selection of Photoshop Tutorials and Illustrator Tutorials. Of course there are other softwares conteplated like Pixelmator, Fireworks, and web design tutorials.