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:

break apart final 3 500x580 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

Alternative version:

break apart final2 1500 500x580 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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:

pen tool 500x423 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

pen tool 1 500x541 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

pen tool 2 499x412 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

pen tool 3 500x672 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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):

mark selection 500x428 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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

selection fea Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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

refine edge Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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

1 position 500x576 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

Step 2

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

2 linear burn 499x574 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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

2 mask 499x584 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

2 mask layer 1 500x585 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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

2 after mask 500x582 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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:

2 screen mask 500x579 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

2 mask layer 2 500x580 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

Here is the effect so far:

2 effect3 500x576 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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:

3 bw1 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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

3 mask2 500x511 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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:

3 lip 499x305 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

And you will have the following effect:

3 effect3 500x581 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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

3 curve1 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

And here is the effect so far:

3 effect 21 500x588 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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:

4 break Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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:

4 lasso tool 500x582 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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

4 invert 500x584 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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:

4 erase 2 500x456 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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

4 warp 500x503 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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

4 erase 500x414 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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

4 effect3 500x379 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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:

5 effect3 500x582 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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:

5 effect 2 500x586 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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:

break apart final 3 500x580 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

Alternative version:

break apart final2 1500 500x580 Create a Realistic Break Apart Effect with Debris Brushset in Photoshop

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!