Ivan Khomenko divulges some of the best techniques for creating smoke textures
You can download the brushes used in the follow tip here.
Step 1: Smoke I
In this tip I'll first say a couple words about creating smoke in Photoshop. Basically it all depends on which brush you use for creating smoke. Of course you can manage it with only a standard Photoshop brush set, for example with a default air brush, but in this case the smoke will look too soft and without sharp edges. If you want a thicker and denser smoke effect, you should use a special smoke brush (you'll find it with this tutorial).
So to start, you need to create a new file (you can use the shortcut Ctrl + N on your keyboard), and set the resolution to 2000x1400. Then you'll need to create new layer Shift + Ctrl + N. Now you can find the brush we'll be using for the smoke - it should be third from the top in your Brush Presets Panel on the right side.
Finding the right brush for the effect you want
Step 2: Smoke II
Select the brush above, and then choose a suitable color for your smoke. If you need to erase some parts of the smoke, you can use the same brush to erase areas - just choose the Eraser Tool.
Using the erase tool to remove areas
Step 3: Smoke III
Everything is ready, so now you can start to paint. Imagine that the wind will blow from right to left across the scene; in this case our smoke will be painted in as seen here.
Painting in the smoke, thinking about the wind direction
Step 4: Smoke IV
Don't forget that smoke is volumetric object and so has dark areas on the underside and lighter areas over the top - the same as if it were a spherical object.
Adding a third dimension to the smoke using shadow and highlights
Step 5: Smoke V
The last thing you can add to make your smoke more realistic is a drop shadow. For this purpose you can use another special brush, which is found fourth from the top in Brush Presets Panel. This is a flat brush which is very useful for situations such as this.
A drop shadow makes the scene more realistic
An example of smoke textures put into practice
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