Create a pixel explosion in Photoshop

With this interesting Photoshop effect, you can blow up any image per million pixels. In this tutorial, you will learn how using a layer mask and a brush to create a beautiful pixel explosion effect in an instant!

The final result:

Note: The author used paid materials. In the archive you will find an alternative version of the images to perform the lesson.

1. Set up the workspace

Step 1

Let’s start! Open your original image in Photoshop. If you want to add more space to your image, which shows the dynamics of movement, then just adjust the size, for this we go Image – Canvas Size (Image> Canvas Size). This runner image has a current size of 3.9? 5.2 inches, therefore, I am going to change these dimensions to 6? 5.2 inches. Double click on the runner layer, in this case it’s a layer with Background (background layer) to convert it to Layer 1 (layer 1). Using tool Move (Move Tool (V)), move the runner to the left side of the scene.

2. Create an explosion

Step 1

Create a new layer, fill this layer with white color. Shift this layer down, placing it below the runner layer to close the transparent pixels.

Now select the tool Magic wand (Magic Wand Tool (W)). With this tool, highlight the white background. Right click on the layer and in the window that appears select the option Inversion (Inverse). Next, use the tool Polygonal Lasso (Polygonal Lasso Tool (L)) to add any areas to the selected area that may have been cropped when selected, thus completely selecting the object in the photo. When you complete the correction of the selected area, press the keys (Ctrl + J) to duplicate the image of your model on a new layer.

Step 2

Press the keys again (Ctrl + J) to create another duplicate of the image with the runner. Next, delete the original layer with the image of a runner on a white background. Press the keys (Ctrl + T) to activate the free transform mode. Significantly zoom the runners. Place the second enlarged duplicate runner to the right of the first runner layer. Duplicate the zoomed-in layer of the runner, and then temporarily turn off the visibility of this duplicate layer that we use later.

Next, for each layer with the runner, add a layer mask. The layer-mask of the runner layer with the original dimensions should remain white. Choose a tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (G)) to fill with black the layer mask of the layer with the enlarged image of the runner. Filling the layer mask in black will hide the image of the runner.

Step 3

Next, we will configure the pixel brush! Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B)). Right-click anywhere on the canvas and the brush settings window that appears, click the small icon in the upper right corner of the settings panel to open the menu. Now select the option Square brushes (Square Brushes) from the drop down menu. When the window that asks you to replace the existing brushes with new ones appears, click the ‘OK’ button.

Press the key (F9) to display the tab Brush (Brush). Select one of the square brushes, then go to the setting Scattering (Scattering). Install Scattering (Scatter) by 1000%. If you are working with a tablet, then you can also use the option Pressing the pen to change the Opacity (Pen Pressure for Opacity), this will make the edges of the squares lighter, otherwise the edges will be hard.

Step 4

Now we use the customized brush to create a pixel explosion effect. Go to the layer with the black layer mask. Start drawing white squares on a black layer mask, gradually restoring individual fragments of the enlarged image of the runner.

Duplicate this layer to make the pixel effect more pronounced. Now do the same with the layer with the white layer mask. At this time, use a black brush, paint over the brush with a runner, breaking its body into small squares. Vary the brush size to vary the effect.

Step 5

Now turn on the visibility of the duplicate layer with a larger image of the runner. Place this duplicate layer below the runner layer with the white layer mask. Next, go Filter – Blur – Motion Blur (Filter> Blur> Motion Blur). Install Angle (Angle) at 47 degrees, and Bias (Distance) at 762 px.

3. Final pixels

Step 1

To complete the effect, add more pixels to perfectly align all the elements in the scene. Create a new layer on top of the motion blur layer, on this layer we will apply the pixel brush we used earlier. Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B)), use the (alt) key to sample color shades from the runner image. Use selected color shades to add squares, as well as to enhance the dynamics and enhance the explosion. Using tool Eraser (Eraser Tool (E)), you can remove extra pixels at any time.


Hope you enjoyed this simple and interesting effect. Try to recreate this effect in your photos, and also share your work in the comments to the lesson.

The final result:

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