Creating a Nuclear Explosion Effect



We will use an image of the gorgeous Miss Mosh, photographed by Mjranum and Deserted City from fl8us Stock.

Click here to download Miss Mosh image.
Click here to download the city image.

All rights of these resources belong to their respective owners.


Step 1 – Setting Up Background:

Create a document of size 750 by 550px and place the city image at the center of it.

Create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and check on Colorize. Key in 0 for Hue, 15 for Saturation and 0 for Lightness.

Create a new Levels Adjustment Layer and key in value 10, 0.92, 255.


Step 2 – Adding Dark Clouds:

Create a new layer above the rest.

Set foreground color to #FFFFFF and background to #000000. Go to Filter > Render > Clouds.

Set the Blend Mode of this layer to Multiply.


Step 3 – Apply Liquify Effect:

Select the city layer and go to Filter > Liquify.

Pick the Bloat tool and set its size to 600, density to 50, pressure to 50, rate to 80 and turbulent jitter to 50.

Click once or twice at the center of the city.


Step 4 – Cropping the Model:

Extract Miss Mosh out of the background and position her at the center of the bloated city.

You may wish to check out this post for different methods of extraction.


Step 5 – Adding Shadow:

Duplicate the Miss Mosh layer. Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and set its Lightness to 0.

Rearrange this duplicated layer to be under the original Miss Mosh.

Go to Filter > Gaussian Blur with 3px and rescale to the shape as shown in the diagram.


Step 6a – Adding Nuclear Wave:

Create a new layer between Miss Mosh and the city layer.

Use Ellipse tool to draw a circular path. Go to Edit > Transform Path > Rotate to turn the path at 45 degrees.

Use Direct Selection tool to adjust the path as shown in the diagram.


Step 6b – Adding Nuclear Wave:

Select the layer created in Step 6a and go to Filter > Render > Clouds.

Go to Filter > Liquify. With the same settings in Step 3, left-click and hold on at the center of the clouds. Release the mouse when you got something similar to the left.


Step 6c – Adding Nuclear Wave:

Go to Path tab to find the path you created earlier at Step 6a.

Ctrl+left click on the path to load selection. Back to Layers tab, select the bloated clouds and set a layer mask with the selection.

Using a Soft Brush tool with size 300 and color #000000, paint the bottom border of layer mask.


Step 6d – Adding Nuclear Wave:

Set the Blend Mode of this layer to Soft Light.


Step 7 – Adding Highlights:

Create a new layer on top of the bloated clouds created in Step 6.

Repeat Step 6a to 6d on this new layer.

Set the Blend Mode to Color Dodge. You may go to Image > Adjustments > Auto Levels to enhance the highlights.


Step 8 – Adding Color:

Go to Path tab and load selection of the path again.

Create a new layer above the bloated clouds and fill the selection with #7197C3. Create a layer mask for this layer and paint the center of the mask with #000000 as shown on left.

Set the Blend Mode to Linear Dodge.


Step 9 – Adding Flare:

Duplicate Miss Mosh layer and go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur. Set the Method to Zoom and Amount to 100.

Set the Blend Mode of this layer to Linear Dodge.

Duplicate this layer for another two times to achieve a brighter flare.


Step 10a – Adding Burst:

Create a new layer above the rest.

Draw bursting shapes with Pen tool and fill it with #FFFFFF.

Note that the burst starts from within the clothes. So only concentrate on the chest and sleeves area.


Step 10b – Adding Burst:

Select the bursting shapes and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with 5px.

Use Soft Eraser tool of size 100 to fade all ends of the burst.


Step 10c – Adding Burst:

Use Soft Brush tool with size 100 and color #FFFFFF, paint a dot at the center of the burst.

And you are done! This tutorial took part of Fabio’s Create a Powerful Mental Wave Explosion Effect as reference. Hope you like it.

Click here to view the final image.

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82 Comments | Write a Comment

  1. I’m writing to let you be aware of what a fantastic experience my friend’s daughter gained reading your web page. She mastered lots of details, not to mention what it is like to possess a very effective helping character to have many others smoothly know precisely specific very confusing subject areas. You truly surpassed our expected results. Thank you for providing these helpful, healthy, revealing and even easy guidance on your topic to Julie.

    • Steve Hughes says:

      Was that an attempt to sound intellectual? Hurt my brain to read that garble!

      Very nice tutorial though if that’s what you where trying to say.

  2. j.i says:

    Im having a problem with steps 6c and 6d, when i change my blending options to Soft light my clouds vanish they dont get lighter they disappear. So because of that step 7 i hardly noticable =(

  3. Ivana says:

    I need help for “paint the center of the mask with #000000 as shown on left.”

    How did you do this?

  4. I definately see what you are talking about here

  5. Aaron1023 says:

    thanks bro! you did a good job! =D

  6. Ms.Blue.Fox says:

    Nevermind.. I finally got it sort of right.

  7. Ms.Blue.Fox says:

    I keep doing but i can by following the steps but after i do the clouds and liquidfy it i try and do the steps after that and my attempt fails.

  8. saintlammy says:

    am blowing you kisses already…u ar my man! keep going

  9. What up, just needed to say that’s a good post, thanks for writing it! πŸ˜€

  10. zakariya says:

    simple….keren sangat

  11. Orthodontics says:

    very interesting tutorial

  12. diadeenero says:

    Buen tutorial, gracias..

  13. silo13 says:

    There are some steps that just do not make sense no matter how I try (and another friend of mine tries). Neither of us were able to reproduce this effect.
    Thanks for trying but this is a fail.
    Sorry man…

  14. mohammed says:

    can u put video plz

  15. daphne says:

    Nice article thanks for sharing!

  16. Lamiai says:

    wow thank you soooo much ;D
    here is the my work i did it with supernatural =)

  17. Brandon says:

    It’s missing broken windows ect, for an explosion. Really cool effect though, good work.

  18. Will says:

    Sorry unable to complete this as i cant select any of the image adjustments or filters, i followed everything (well tried to) these so called instructions say, but it will NOT let me select the filters etc as they are greyed out!!!

  19. CgBaran Tuts says:

    Good tutorial thanks

  20. D3vil says:

    It kinda just look like a shockwave. Not a nuclear explosion.

  21. Naqib says:

    hi johnson i’m facing some problem here..
    first,i’m using ps 7.0

    seem that i can’t find some options like density,rate and turbulent jitter in step 3.turbulent jitter options is available,but it’s unselectable.why?

    and in step 6a,i had problem because the circle i made will be filled with clouds when i click filter-render-clouds
    options..and to make circle and adjusting the path using direct selection tools is very-very hard…

    i’d tried for about 4 days,still stuck at step 3 and 6..

    please help me…i love this tutorial..

  22. Wilson says:

    Im stuck at step 6. how do you do this?

    Use Ellipse tool to draw a circular path. Go to Edit > Transform Path > Rotate to turn the path at 45 degrees.

    Use Direct Selection tool to adjust the path as shown in the diagram.

    Can you explain deeper? thanks!

  23. Johnson says:

    Hi Brendan, I’m using CS3. Do you have Convert Point tool?

  24. Brendan S. says:

    thanks for this but what version of photoshop are you using? i’m using cs2 and there is only one step i’m having problems with and thats making the path in step 6

  25. nichol says:

    This is more like a force field tutorial.

  26. Johnson says:

    Glad you guys like it πŸ˜‰

  27. chonghwi says:

    wow… this is the effects i want.. thanks .. i enjoy it..

  28. It’s really awesome Johnson!
    I can imagine lots of simple graphics into funky effects.
    I want same effects to convert into flash file.

  29. Johnson says:

    Thanks for your encouragement, Santiago!

  30. Santiago says:

    I’m getting really into photoshop and that’s thanks to the
    fact that the first tutorials I was able to complete are yours,

    Great job!
    Keep it Up!!!!!

  31. Johnson says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind words πŸ˜€

    @Fak: I’m sorry that it does not meet your expectation this round. Will provide better stuff next time!

    @Paulo: Thanks for mentioning the reference.

  32. Paulo says:

    i’ve seen the other tutorial at PSDTUTS. frankly speaking this one is easier to follow although the other got a better result.

    and johnson is not copying i can say at least i can see a referencing done at Step 10c.

    however i found a new site that copied 100% from johnson’s method

  33. Fak says:

    Sorry but that isnt a nuclear explocion. And is a copy of another tutorial.

  34. sara says:

    i like thes

  35. accessko says:

    Nice tutorial. Good job.

  36. 5ivedance says:

    First time here, thanks for sharing. nice job.

  37. Johnson says:

    Hi Shamsul, I agree with you myself πŸ™‚
    Fabio (in Abduzeedo) is one of my favorite digital artist too.

    I will work towards a better work next time. Thanks!

  38. shamsul says:

    ive seen something like this before…

    but the other tutorial had better outcome

  39. Dave says:

    Not so good honestly, not very explosiony.

  40. luuler says:

    Thats realy bad

  41. Nicknorth says:

    wow thats so fucking gay you should shoot yourself

  42. Johnson says:

    Thanks everyone! πŸ˜‰

    Hi uber brown, Yup. This tutorial took part of FabioÒ€ℒs “Create a Powerful Mental Wave Explosion Effect” as reference.

  43. uber brown says:

    reminds of the tutorial at PSDTUTS

  44. Tadd says:

    While the effect is pretty slick, it honestly looks more like a super power effect than a nuclear explosion. But pretty slick anyway πŸ™‚

  45. Vlad Nicula says:

    great tutorial. I liked it a lot. Never thought of using something like this but it is a cool result anyway. πŸ™‚

  46. Bosman says:

    Hey, I have tried to create that figure in two days and I never succeeded. I wonder if you can describe simpler? And send to me. Thanks (

  47. Johnson says:

    Thanks alot Dainis!

  48. First time looked over Your site – nice tuts You got here! Keep up, mate! Subscribed!

  49. Johnson says:

    Thanks Oyjorn πŸ˜‰

  50. ΓƒΛœyjorn says:

    Very nice!! Thanks!

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