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Tutorial: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Dissolve text into particles

Written by , translated by devvv · Created on Sep 27, 2011, last updated almost 13 years ago CC BY-NC License
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Dissolve text into particles


This tutorial shows you how to dissolve text into fine particles of dust. The text should not have equal amount of same-sized particles/dust, instead it should look like as it dissolves more and more into even finer dust until it finally disappears.

Tutorial details

  1. 1

    Create a new file: 800×600px. Choose black as background color and add some text in white color. Use a font size of 60-70, however size doesn’t really matter (you know don’t you ;)) Nevertheless it shouldn’t be too small :)

  2. 2

    Next you need to make a selection from the text shape.

    • Rightclick the textlayer in the layers dialogue and choose “Alpha to selection”.
    • Make the text layer disappear (click the eye symbol)
    • create a new transparent layer and click on it to make it active.
  3. 3

    Now choose in the menu:

    • Select / Distort. Choose values from the image (100, 150, 1, 1, checked, checked)
    • Now fill the selection with white. To do this very fast press D to activate the default colors. Then choose Edit / Fill BG color.
    • deactivate the selection (Select / None). Name the layer “very fine” or something like that.
  4. 4

    Next we’ve to repeat these steps, but with other values.

    What we need now is a layer with dust that is not as fine or widley distributed as the previous one and we need a third one where the text is still a little bit readable.

    • Choose “Alpha to selection” again from the text layer.
    • Create another transparent layer above the first dusty layer.
    • Now choose Select / Distort again. This time use these values: 80 / 90 / 1/ 1
  5. 5

    Repeat step 4 using these values: 120 / 20 / 1 / 1

    Now you should have 3 layers with 3 different types of dust followed one by another.

  6. 6

    Next we need layer masks to create a nice dynamic looking dissolving text. At the bottom edge of the text the dust should look fairly unvisible and it should look more and more dissolving into ashes as you come to the center of the text.

    Create layer masks for all the dust layers (Layer / Mask / Add layer mask), or just right click each layer and choose “Add layer mask”. All masks should be totally white so that everything on the layer is visible.

  7. 7

    Choose the Blend Tool to create gradients. Use the standard gradient (FG to BG color). For the “fine” (see image) layer create the gradient on the layer mask from the top edge (where you can only see the dust particles a little bit) to the bottom where the dust begins to disappear. It will be black on the top of the layer mask and white at the bottom.

    Don’t change the “very fine” layer. On this layer you can experiment with gradients on mask if you want to make differently strong effects of dissolving.

    For the layer where the text is well readable make a gradient from the bottom edge of the text to the top edge of it. It should look like that now:

  8. 8

    Now click the top layer and choose “New from visible”. On this layer you can now add color to the scene.

    I’m going a step further and make the text look like glowing ashes:

    Fot that choose the Blend tool again and select the “Incadescent” gradient from the drop down menu. Choose Colors / Map / Gradient Map. To add more glow duplicate the layer and use Filter / Blur / Gaussian Blur: 8px. Set the layers mode to “Lighten only” (the option is found above all layers in the layers dialogue).

    Now you should have a very cool glowing ashes effect ;)

  9. 9

    This is the final version of our dissolving text.

  10. 10

    Here is my first version. I experimented a bit more on the layer masks – you’ll get different states of the dissolved text – some parts are dissolved more than others.

  11. 11

    And here’s another one without gradients.


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about 5 years ago

somehow after step 5 mine never looks like yours in the image you attached. The words are still quite blurry and unreadable. Not sure what I am doing wrong.

about 7 years ago

Ash effect script has been moved to:
We moved to a different host for faster speed.

about 7 years ago

Thought this effect was cool enough to script
So here's the script:

tonysteele_ebw member for about 11 years tonysteele_ebw 4 comments
about 11 years ago

Thanks easy to follow.

over 11 years ago

Can someone help me out on how to make that awesome color? every time i do it i mess it up and it turns into the actual gradient

devvv member for almost 18 years devvv 1475 comments
over 11 years ago

Distort is a simple menu entry: Find it in the top menu "SELECT" then go to "DISTORT". See my attached file

over 11 years ago

I cannot find the distort tool that is used in step3? Is it installed by default or not? Step 3 is not clear.

about 12 years ago

I think he only colorized it with a gradient on a seperate layer with the layers mode set to overlay or so.

about 12 years ago

does anyone know how he did number 11??

devvv member for almost 18 years devvv 1475 comments
about 12 years ago

You could try to merge the whole scene and use Colors / Color to trancaprency and set black. Then it would be on transparent background.

about 12 years ago

Can you get this to work with a transparent background?

over 12 years ago

When you're working on creating the dust layers and after you've distorted the selections, do you fill those selections as well like you did on the very fine dust-layer? I'm a little confused...

redforce member for almost 18 years redforce 230 comments
almost 13 years ago

Definately but it is good to see how something is done in GIMP though. Thanks for the tutorial, was very useful to me

Ann Honnym
almost 13 years ago

Nice effect yet maybe overused / seen.
Would have been even greater if it was generalized for any kind of particles. Not just dust-like particles but other shapes aswell, like squares, triangles, ... Vector editors are maybe more suited for this though.