Using the SandStorm Photoshop Action App

screenshot of SandStorm.

You've likely seen images and videos in which particles explode out of the subject. Using particles in Photoshop isn't very easy. That's where SandStorm, comes in. It's a simple, easy-to-use Photoshop action that's available at the Envato Market. How easy is it to use? Let’s find out.

First Things First: Creating and Loading a Photoshop Action

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

Photoshop actions are not at all mysterious. They're 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 percent. You can turn the resizing of one image into an action and apply that single action to all of the images in the folder. The creation ​process that Adobe outlines isn’t complicated.

To use a Photoshop action, navigate to Window > Actions, which opens the Actions panel. If your action is in the panel, it will be listed. Select the action and click the Play button at the bottom of the panel. If you are using an action such as 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. To create it:

  1. Open Image > Image Size.
  2. Select the width value and copy it to the clipboard.
  3. Change the resolution value from 72 dpi to 300 dpi. This increases the width and height values.
  4. Select the width value, and paste the original width value into the selection.
  5. To add the room for the particles, select Image > Canvas Size.
  6. Change the height to 5000 pixels. Choose the Down arrow in the anchor area to make sure the extra room appears at the top of the image.
  7. Set the canvas extension color to black. 
  8. Click OK to accept the change.

How to Choose 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 must be named "Background" (the Photoshop default for opened images). The next layer added has to be named "brush" in lowercase letters.

Make sure the Background layer is locked, and then select the brush layer. Change the foreground color to red or any other color you choose. Select the paintbrush and paint 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 colors selected, open the Actions panel and the SandStorm action. Select Up to make the particles move upward. Click the Play button, and watch the particle shower you've created.

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. Collapse all of the layers, and reopen the Color layer.

Four adjustment layers can be changed to adjust the saturation, tint, and brightness of the particles and background layer. If you don’t want to play with the adjustment layers, make a color option layer visible or turn on combinations of the color option layers, which contain their own adjustment layers. In the case of this image, turn on the visibility of color option layers 1 and 8.

If you want to play with the particles, a comprehensive video tutorial goes well beyond the basics covered here.