The Dispersion effect in Photoshop can give quite cool effects when done well – here is a Google Search with many examples. You can also purchase Actions that will do it for you in various cool ways, but I wanted to understand how it was done manually.
Session 6 of my Awake course took us through it, essentially you have an image with a good clear background and a main subject, copy the subject to a new layer, content aware fill the background, copy the subject to another layer and warp it where you want the dispersion to go, add on black layer mask and one white one. On the mask with the warped layer you paint out to get the dispersion effect. On the layer with the background masked you paint on the subject get the transparent effect.
Its really fiddly and hard to do well, on my butterfly I had to keep pushing out the warped area to get the space to have the exploding effect I was trying to achieve. Cos it was my first go at warping I didn’t do a great job and so the heavy black lines at the bottom of the wing got too thick, hence where all the black is coming from there. And you can see the edges of the wings as well where I hadn’t pushed it out far enough.
I may have been a bit ambitious for my first go and trying to spread it out all over (who me?) but it was a really good learning experience.
Here is the original image for comparison – I added some texture overlays to the one above which has changed the background colour and texture a bit.
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