How To Use The Sandstorm Photoshop Action

How To Use The Sandstorm Photoshop Action

The andstorm action applied to an image of a campfire.
Fire courtesy of SandStorm.

Full disclosure before we start: I am a particle junkie. Show me a Photoshop image where particles explode out of the subject or an After Effects video that uses particles and I am hooked. A couple of days ago I came across Brad Goble’s Behance portfolio and was amazed at what he had done. The thing about using particles in Photoshop, at least for me, is the effects are not easy to create. That is until I discovered that Brad’s effect, known as Sandstorm, is a simple, easy to use Photoshop action that is available for $4.00 over at the Envato Market

 How easy is it to use? Let’s find out.

How To Create And Load A Photoshop Action

The Load Actions menu item is shown.
Use the Actions panel Context menu to load an action.

Actions are not at all mysterious. They are simply recordings of a series of repetitive Photoshop tasks that can be applied to a single file or a batch of files. For example, assume you have a folder full of images that need to be resized by 50%. You can turn the resizing of one image into an action and then apply that single action to all of the images in the folder. The creation process isn’t at all complicated and rather than tell you how to create an action, this document from Adobe tells you all you need to know.

To use a Photoshop Action you navigate to Window>Actions which opens the actions panel. If your action is in the panel it will be listed. In that case select the action and click the play button at the bottom of the panel. If you are using an Action like SandStorm, you will select Load Actions , navigate to the folder containing a file with the .atn extension and click Open.

How To Prepare An Image For SandStorm

The Canvas Size dialog box is shown.
Making room for the particles in the Photoshop image.

The effect needs a lot of room for the particles because they can run Up,Down, Left, Right or in the Middle of the image. In the case of this image, I opened Image >Image Size, selected the width value and copied it to the clipboard. I then changed the Resolution value from 72 DPI to 300 DPI. This will seriously “enlarge” the Width and Height values. I selected the width value and pasted the original width value into the selection.

To add the room for the particles I next selected Image>Canvas Size. I changed the height to 5000 pixels to add the extra room. That room needed to be at the top of the image so I clicked the Down arrow in the Anchor area to do just that and set the Canvas extension color to Black.  I clicked OK to accept the change.

How To Identify The Colors For The Particles Created In SandStorm

The flames of the campfire are painted red.
Use the Paintbrush to identify the particle colours to be used.

For the SandStorm action to work you need two layers. The bottom layer needs to be named Background – the Photoshop default for opened images. The next layer added has to be named "brush" and spelled using all lowercase letters.

I made sure the Background layer was locked and selected the brush layer.

To set the colour of the particles that will be added through SandStorm. I set the Foreground colour to red (any colour will do.) , selected the Paintbrush and then painted over the flames, sparks, logs and smoke at the top of the fire.

How To Play The SandStorm Action

Click the Play button in the Actions panel to run the action.

With the colours selected , I opened the Actions panel and opened the SandStorm Action. I wanted the particles to move upwards which is why I selected Up. With this selection made I clicked the Play button and a couple of minutes later I had a really neat particle shower.

How To Edit The Particles Created By SandStorm

An Adjustment layer is selected and the Properties panel is shown
The Adjustment Layers can be changed to edit the look of the particles.

When the effect is applied you will notice that quite a few Layers have been added above the Background layer. I collapsed all of the Layers and then reopened the Color layer. There are four Adjustment Layers that can be changed to adjust the Saturation, Tint and Brightness of the particles and the background layer. If you don’t want to play with the Adjustment layers you can change the look of the particles by making a Color Option layer visible or by turning on combinations of the Color Option layers. These Color Options contain there own Adjustment layers . In the case of this image I turned on the visibility of Color Option Layers 1 and 8.

If you want to play with the particles,  themselves, Mr. Goble has a rather comprehensive video tutorial that goes well beyond the basics covered here.