Tool Suggestions For Basic Particle Needs


I’m writing to beseech you particle gods for some advice.

I’m a character artist, that’s my focus. But often times when I’m compositing my final presentation shots in Photoshop, I want to add some effects or atmospherics like smoke, fire, splashing liquid, etc. I would prefer not to fake it by downloading sample images and painstakingly cloning and painting in the effects for every image. Now, given that particle effects aren’t my focus, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to spend the time or money on something as robust as Krakatoa or Fume.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone who’s focus is on this stuff, but what I’m hoping for is something that will enable me to create these things on my own, and that’s easy to jump into and get cool results quickly. I know that sounds suspiciously like the “make cool art” button, and again I mean no disrespect. I’m just not very familiar with the landscape of what’s available. I don’t even necessarily need a professional tool, as long as what it renders looks good. Tools with low learning curves that produce very good results crop up all the time in other aspects of production, so it seems reasonable that particle effects would be no exception.

The trouble I’m running into is that, for smoke in particular, all of the smoke tutorials that utilize the out-of-the box tools that come with Max look more or less like this:

What I want is something that looks more structured and spindly, similar to India ink falling through water:


Ideally I would like a solution that exists in a 3D environment so I can render it from any angle with my characters, but I’m also open to 2D solutions like After Effects.

Thanks in advance!


The problem isn’t necessarily that you can’t make things like that out of the box, the biggest issue is managing and rendering a 100’s of millions to a billion or more particles. To my knowledge all of those examples are managed through PRT format and rendered in Krakatoa. That is what makes those images unique, the outrageous particle densities.

That said, there may be other alternatives, I just don’t know of any, well other than simple tools like Trapcode Particular or Particle Illusion type stuff. Krakatoa has even expanded into the Maya and C4D markets. I suspect others are really limited to in-house tools. It does really boil down to buying or renting (yes you can rent Krakatoa AFAIK) the right tools and like modelling a character, knowing how to use them.

There are tons of how-to and examples all over the interwebz.

Sorry probably not the answer you want. Maybe someone else could add some insight, I certainly may have missed something.


That’s ok. I wrote this knowing there was a distinct possibility that what I’m looking for doesn’t exist. It’s always worth asking though. Thanks for the reply!


If it is any consolation, it is far easier (and in reality drastically cheaper) now than it ever has been.

Still not yet out-of-the-box but it is fully off-the-shelf :slight_smile: