Give your photos a unique look with this retro effect that is super easy and fun. This effect is a great way to improve the look of photos with a dark background. It also only takes two minutes to complete because it only uses two layers.

Example of the results

Smoke On Sunday
Smoke On Sunday

Step 1

Start by opening a photo in Affinity Photo. This effect works best with isolated objects on black backgrounds like the image below I made with these Smoke brushes. There are also the Particle Smoke brushes that also work and basically any white shape works with different light gradations. On the same website you may find more or else search for smoke brushes and you will find enough. Check whether it is a nice refined smoke trail. There are also many smoke overlays on the internet, which you can use or of course just black and white photos of smoke. I'm going to try that in this article. The picture below I found on Pixabay and you can use it freely.


Step 2

For starters, we will desaturate the image, or convert it to black and white. I suspect that this photo was taken in color because I see a bluish area in the middle of the smoke. This step is only necessary if your image is not yet in black and white. Click on Ajustment and Black & White, this will make the photo black and white.

Black & White
Black & White

Step 3

Now we are going to make a new layer. This is the layer where we will paint the colors on. Click the New Layer button in the Layers palette. Rename this layer to “Rainbow Color” or any other name you find appropriate. Change the blending mode to Color. We choose this because this mode responds to luminance or brightness. In black it shows nothing, especially in the shades of gray it lights up in the color you use and the bright white part remains white, just what we need for this .. Soon I will come with an article about all the blending modes and what they do.

Color laag
Color Layer

Step 4

The primary colors that we will use are yellow, magenta and cyan. These colors give the beautiful rainbow effect. Usually I now get it out of hand with the color picker but in the beginning it might be easy to use a CMYK Swatches pallet for which the first three colors are the three primary colors mentioned.

Primaire kleuren
Primary colors

Choose replace when asked if you want to replace or add the swatch. Your swatch palette now has yellow, magenta, and cyan as the first three colors. You can now quickly select one of these three colors.

Step 5

Also select the brush. Choose a soft round brush with a hardness of 0%. Don't worry about the head diameter setting yet. The bottom brushes from the basic panel are very suitable.

Zachte brush
Soft brush

I set the opacity of the brush to 50% to make a nice soft color.


Step 6

Start by selecting yellow, magenta, or cyan from the Swatches palette, and paint all over the image with a large brush. You can adjust the brush size by pressing the [or] key on your keyboard. Select another color and paint the rest of the image. Then you can set the opacity of your brush to 50% and continue painting until you get the desired results.

Overzicht Affinity Photo
Overview Affinity Photo

End result

Gekleurde rook
Colored smoke

The other images I made with a smoke brush, as mentioned before. The advantage is that you have a little more control over the position and size of the puff, so that you can make a more beautiful or at least your own composition. Of course you can also photograph smoke yourself on a black background. If you like them, you can see the pictures in full size on Flickr.

Finally, an example that shows that it does not only work with smoke. Here I just made an abstract figure and edited it in the same way as described here. In my opinion, this technique can also be used to color in old black and white photos. In the example below, the lightning bolt is an extra, so it was brought in separately from the described technique, the rest are all colored in the manner described.

Fight The Corona
Fight The Corona

As always, give it a try and especially experiment with it. If you like something nice let me know, maybe something for a next article mentioning the inventor.


Also look here

Selected messages for you

The messages are partly about the same subject, maybe the golden link is there for you. We have already selected them for you so that you can easily read more about this subject.