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Using Photoshop Displace Filter to Create an Exploding Effect

There are a few high speed photos around of water balloons popping, using Photoshop and a displacement map we can create a similar effect.

Using Photoshop Displace Filter to Create an Exploding Effect

Step 1.

I downloaded two photos from Morguefile – Water Ripple and Hand.

Step 2.



First we are going to make the Displacement Map – open the water ripple photo into Photoshop. We want to make the photo grayscale by going to Image>Mode>grayscale. When prompted click Discard to discard the colour information.

Step 3.


We now want to blur the ripples picture – go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 10 pixels.

Step 4.


We now increase the contrast using the Levels Adjustment, Image>Adjustments>Levels and slide the lightpoint and darkpoint sliders in towards the curve. Save the picture as Map.psd in a location you can find again.

Step 5.


We now want to create the “balloon”, open the hand photo into Photoshop and make a new layer called balloon above the background layer. Using the Elise Tool or the Eliptical Marquee Tool create a circle on his hand. Next add a Layer Mask to this Layer and Lower the opacity to 57%

Step 6.


Using the Pen tool trace around the hand so the circle fits neatly in the hand. When the path is complete select “make selection” by Right Clicking on the path with the pen tool. Select the Layer mask and fill the path with black

Step 7.


Make a new Layer and change the Blending mode to Soft Light. Select the Brush Tool and paint black for shadows and white for highlights.

Step 8.


Merge the highlights / shadows layer and the balloon layer and duplicate it. Hide the duplicate layer. We now want to use our Displacement Map we created earlier, first select the Layer that isnt hidden the go to Filter>Distort>Displace.

Step 9.


Set the Horizontal and vertical scale to 50 and click OK, you will then be asked for the location of the Map we created earlier; locate it and click OK. This will displace the “balloon” next we want to rotate the “Balloon” by -90° using the Free Transform Tool. Press Control / Command & T and in the options bar set the angle to -90 then click the Tick. Use the Displace Filter again.

Step 10.


unhide the duplicate layer – we now want to displace this layer like before – but set the horizontal and vertical scale to 250. This will create a “splashing effect” we now want to mask away any parts of the balloon that overlap the original.


Step 11.


We now want to make a shadow for the wall – we merge the two “Balloon” Layers and duplicate it (Control / Command & J) Using the Hue / Saturation Adjustment make the “Balloons” Black by moving the Lightness Slider to -100.

Step 12.

Resize the shadow Balloon and using a layer mask remove unwanted parts. Reduce the opacity to 40%.

This effect can be built upon by adding more duplications and experimenting with the displacement Filter.

About Simon Rudd (51 Articles)
Simon Rudd is a freelance writer and artist specialising in Photoshop tutorials as well as Horror, the Macabre and Fantasy themed pictures. He frequently writes for magazines and websites.

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