Create a Realistic Break-Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

In this tutorial, I will show you an interesting technique I use to produce realistic break-apart/disintegration effect in Photoshop by using debris brushes, with a watercolour background attached. There are many tutorials on the web showing techniques about break-aparts but, it never hurts to learn more :)

It will be a bit boring if the whole tut is just to break something apart, so I also combined a bit of photo retouch techniques along side and hopefully they can be useful to you as well. Together we will be using layer blending options, masking, the pen tool, adjustment layers and of course, brushsets. Have a try!

Here is a preview of the final effect:


Alternative version:


OK let’s get started!

To complete this tutorial, you will need the following stocks:

Female stock

Debris Brush

Watercolor Brush

Step 1

Create a new document sized 3100px * 3600px with White background. Open the “Female Stock” image in Photoshop, use Pen Tool (or whatever selection method you prefer) to make a working path around the model:





If you chose to use Pen Tool, make sure to make a selection after you close the path (by right-click inside the path with Pen Tool selected):


After clicking “Make Selection …”, keep the Feather radius to 0px and tick the “Anti-aliased” checkbox as shown below:


If your selection isn’t perfact, you can hit Ctrl + Alt + R and bring up the refine edge option and apply the following settings:


Then copy and paste the selection on our document and name this newly-created layer as “model”, resize and position it as shown below:


Step 2

Duplicate the “model” layer twice. Then on the first duplicated layer, change the blending option to “linear burn”:


Add a vector mask and grab a soft round brush, gently erase the portion as shown below:



This is the effect after apply the layer mask, you can see the dask parts are now gone:


Then on the second duplicated layer, change its blending mode to “Screen”, then also grab a soft round brush and apply the following mask onto it:



Here is the effect so far:


Step 3

I decided to add some black and white adjustment to the model however preserve the yellow and orange parts of the image.

So we can go to Layer > New adjustment Layer > Black and White and apply the followng options:


On the mask of this adjustment layer, use the Eraser tool with a soft brush to erase the following part of the image:


I also feel like to preserve the lip colour for the model, so I used the Eraser Tool (with a opacity of 40%) to gently erase the lip part on the mask of this adjustment layer:


And you will have the following effect:


We can adjust the lighting contrast a bit for the model. So go to Layer > New adjustment layer > Curves and apply the following settings:


And here is the effect so far:


Step 4

Now we’re on the break-apart bit of the tutorial! Firstly load the “Debris Brush” into Photoshop, then create a new layer called “break apart” on top of all other layers:


Grab one of the brush in the “Debris Brush” set, use a colour match the background colour (in this case it’s white), then use the lasso tool with 100px feather to draw a selection in the area you would like to break apart, simply paint over it:


Duplicate this “break apart” layer, hit Ctrl + I and invert the colour on the duplicated layer:


Add a layer mask on the duplicated layer, this time use the Eraser tool with the Debris Brush, eraser the area and reduce the density of the black part:


Also use the Warp Tool (Ctrl + T and right-click choose Warp) to add a bit of motion:


Also tidy up the bits and pieces arund the hair with a soft eraser:


Here is the effect I have after apply the above steps:


Step 5

Now we can use the watercolour brush to add some background for this image. Create a new layer just above the background layer, load the “Watercolor Brush” into Photoshop and simply paint over it (great chance to use your creativity!)

Here is what I have after the painting:


We can futher add some colour onto our image. To do this, simple create a new layer on top of all other layers, set its blending option to “overlay”, use a big soft brush and paint over it.

Here is my effect so far:


Ok that’s it for this tutorial! You can of course add some of your own texture or filter effect and see what the end results are!

Here is my final image for this tutorial: (I slightly adjusted the colour balance and curves ) – Click to enlarge:


Alternative version:


Hope you enjoy this tutorial, drop me a comment if you have any question, I will try my best to help you out.

Cheers and have a nice day!

Categories: Abstracts,Photo Effect

Tags: ,,,

  • ricardoFx

    nice effect @james;
    maybe can use this cool techniqqqqqqq.
    thx dude!

  • wiresskylines

    nice..^^ i really appreciated all your photo effects..^^ it is easy to understand..

  • joyoge designers’ bookmark

    nice effect thanks for the helpful tut..

  • jorge

    que buen efecto, gracias por compartir el tuto

  • photoshop image masking

    I love the tutorials. Would love to see more. Thanks!!

  • psaddict

    Nice work!

    Added to

  • huwaw69

    Wow cool effects it looks professionally done…

  • moih60

    good tut ..thanks and go on

  • Moes

    Fantastic tuturial….very, very nice work…tks

  • Jay

    Can you drop me an email :… I’ll maybe have a jo for you! :)




    how do i add a vector mask? i’m just starting to work my way around photoshop.. i need your help in this one :( .. thanks..

  • photo retouching

    A really long tutorial, but well worth the wait as the result is great!

  • admin

    @MICHELLE: you can go to Layer > vector mask. In CS3 there is also a small icon down the bottom of the layer palette to add a mask.
    Hope this helps

  • Josh

    Thanks for sharing. This is great!

  • jenny nguyen

    it’s amazjng… :D

  • joel

    Hi it’s amazing
    can I send my photo to you , it’s my mail
    Because I wanna work on it but i couldn’t do like you .
    you do proffesional man !

  • joel

    hi , can i send my photo and make it so for me plz .
    cuase i can not do like you man !
    this is my mail :

  • iki

    dude,there is no new adjustment layer called Black & white in CS2,,poor me!!btw awesome tutorial man…i’ll ask you again if i could borrow your brain and your creativities..lmao :D

  • Matt

    @iki – Duplicate the layer (Ctrl + J) and go to Images -> Adjustments -> Black and White, that’ll end up being the same thing.


    I’m a Sri Lankan.It was so usefull for my creativity.

  • aakash kulshreshtha

    hi, this is awesome creation in photoshop
    its rare
    its a good tutorial

  • Draysen

    Well I want to do this with MY photo, not this, and I’ve followed the steps on this with my photo to Step Two, Part two where you got to erase some parts. what the frig. this is complicated especially when its NOT your photo. someone should make a tutorial of this but explain how to do it on a photo you choose.

  • Gabriel

    Elo may i noe how do u make the alternative version as
    i dunno how to create the ‘wall’ behind the model ..
    Btw,its an awesome tutorial.Bravo man

  • Reza

    Hi dear friend,

    I put this tutorial in image mode in my website…

    you can see it…

    and i want a thing! Put the zipped file the up of this great tutorial…

  • Amber


    Very nice tutorial, I used it on an image.
    Uploaded it at ImageShack:

    Keep up the good work!

  • future-eng

    this is wonderful tutorial .. i read it 3 times and get a fantastic results

  • Evan Skuthorpe

    That’s great. I love the final effect so will try this myself at some stage. Cheers!

  • Casper

    Hallo, I come not futher than stap 4 by the tutorial apart. can you help me? please help!

  • nesa

    a bunch of thx

  • amr

    very very nice tut i hope for more
    i found out if u use the glossy blood splatter instead of debris it gives a totall awesome new effect

  • Caden Davidson

    Hmm… having a lot of trouble with your tutorial. Maybe it is because I am on a mac, but when i follow your beginning steps strictly, does not show the same results. Would be nice to see a video version, or a more detailed tut for I am having trouble following this one ><

  • Aaleen

    I’m sorry, if may be something wrong on my end, but when I try to unzip the debris brush I get an error saying “! F:\Aaleen\Downloads\ The archive is either in unknown format or damaged”

    If anyone could help me that would be sincerely appreciated.

    Thanks for the amazing tutorial though, I’m sure if I can get started on it after unzipping the file I will be completely satisfied.

  • machinedaddysnd

    very nice tutorial, would luv 2 c more

  • machinedaddysnd

    Amber u did a great job keep it up

  • Name (required)

    hieee d tutorial ws fab…cn u upload more….

  • MrKing

    how do i do the vector mask thing in step 2

  • Makil Shah

    I’m pakistani
    HallO….! ur design iz v.v.v Nice i like ur work .
    its rely oWaum yr.

  • 爱国者

    非常厉害 ,谢谢分享

  • Mohawk

    Cool.. thnx for sharing this technique! Hope this site stays on forever
    to help those new to photoshop and also those who might have forgotten certain techniques here and there.

  • tedc

    Looks great to me… I think the warp effect is cool

  • STEF

    Good tutorial…but i still got confused with it. Work on the explaining part and you’ll be ok!

  • WARZYinside

    NICE ..


  • bread maker

    Omg this is absolutely amazing! Thanks for sharing this tutorial, I like it very much :)

  • white

    super good

  • rhaenyc

    can you tell me,how the exactly i must do to ” Grab one of the brush in the “Debris Brush” set, use a colour match the background colour (in this case it’s white), then use the lasso tool with 100px feather to draw a selection in the area you would like to break apart, simply paint over it:” in step 4. i use cs4.

  • klip izle

    heeyy > this, is, the, incredible….!! thanks much much.

  • Portland Web Development

    Really its an awesome work. Thanks for the step by step instruction.

  • Neel_6427

    Someone please help me please make me 1 pic…4 me :(:(  if any 1 want help me den mail me will send my pic there..:(:(:(

  • michelle

    so nice!!!!

  • Kambone3

    a video of some more of your work would be outstanding

  • Namrata

    really liked it

  • temmy

    thanks bro

  • Matt

    grab a soft round brush, gently erase ? poor explication if u are not advanced photoshop user you ll get NADA

  • Robin Isteak

    It’s really realistic break apart effect. hair masking work is outstanding.