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Create an Awesome Pixel Explosion in Photoshop

Make any photo explode right off the screen into a million pixels with this fun Photoshop effect. Learn how to use Layer Masks and preset brushes to create awesome effects in no time!

Software: Adobe Photoshop CC

Difficulty: Beginner

Completion Time: 1 hour

Images Used For This Tutorial:

39688880 © ostill

Final Effect:

Setup Your Canvas

Step 1

Let’s begin! Open your image into Photoshop. If you’d like to create more room for an action pose, simply adjust the size by going to Image > Canvas Size. This image of a runner is currently 3.9×5.2 inches so I’m going to change it to 6×5.2inches. Double-click the background layer to turn it into layer 1 and use the Move Tool (V) to move the runner over to the left side.

Creating the Explosion

Step 2

Create a New Layer and fill it with white. Place the layer behind the runner layer to cover the transparent pixels.


Now grab the Magic Wand Tool (W) and select the white background. Right-click and Select Inverse. Now use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to add any areas to the selection that might get cut off so that the entire subject is selected. When you’re finished, press Control-J to create a duplicate of your model on a new layer.


Step 3

Press Control-J again to create a duplicate of the copy and delete the layer with the runner attached to the white background. Control-T to Free Transform and resize the runner, making her much larger. Position her to the right side of the first layer. Duplicate the layer of the larger runner and hide the visibility for later.


Then add a Layer Mask to each layer. Keep the layer mask white of the smaller runner, and use the Paint Bucket Tool (G) to fill the layer mask of the larger copy with black. Filling this layer mask with black will cause the large copy to disappear.

Step 4

Now for the pixel brush! Select the Brush Tool (B). Right-click on your canvas to bring up the small brush panel, and press the drop down option in the upper right corner to select the Square Brushes from the preset list. When prompted to replace the existing brushes with the new set, hit OK.


Press F9 on your keyboard to bring up the Brush Panel. Select one of the square brushes and select the Scattering option. Set the Scatter to 1000%. If you’re working with a pen tablet, you can also enable Pen Pressure for Opacity to make the edges lighter; otherwise keep the square brush solid.

Step 5

We’ll be using this brush to create the pixel explosion effect. Select the layer with the black layer mask. Paint white squares all over the black layer mask to reveal parts of the larger runner slowly.


Duplicate this layer to make the pixels more solid. Now do the same with the layer with the white layer mask. This time, use the color black to paint squares all over the runner to break her body apart. Increase or decrease the size of the brush for a varied effect.


Step 6

Now unhide the visibility of the large duplicated runner. Place that layer beneath the one with the white layer mask. Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Set the Angle to 47 degrees and the Distance to 762 pixels.


The Final Pixels

Step 7

To finish this effect, add more pixels to make everything blend well together. Create a New Layer above the motion blur and use the pixel brush from before. Select the Brush Tool (B) and use the alt key to sample colors all around the runner. Use these colors to paint more squares all around for more movement and explosion. Erase the excess at anytime with the Eraser Tool (E).


Here is the final result.


I hope you’ve enjoyed making this quick and fun effect. Try it out on your own photos and let us know what you think in the comments below. Also feel free to provide suggestions of what you might like to see on our blog, it’s content for you guys after all!=)

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