after effects Tutorial

After Effects: How to Create Steam Using Particle Playground

Jayda Lyon
|3 min read
Written by Jayda Lyon



Steam effects can add a touch of realism to your scenes, especially in cold or industrial settings. Adobe After Effects, with its Particle Playground effect, offers an intuitive way to create this steam effect. Let's dive into the steps:

Prelude: The Magic of Particle Playground

Before we dive deep into the misty world of steam, let's shed some light on Particle Playground. Particle Playground is a powerful simulation plugin in After Effects. It's your virtual sandbox to generate systems like smoke, fire, and, in our case, steam. The playground allows for seemingly random systems to come to life with controlled precision. Think of it as choreographing a dance for each individual particle, allowing them to move in unison.

1. Setting Up Your Composition

  1. Open After Effects and create a New Composition. For this tutorial, name it "Steam Effect".

  2. Choose a dark background color. This makes the white steam particles more visible and prominent.

  3. Add a New Solid Layer to your composition. Ideally, select a dark color similar to your background for consistency.

2. Accessing Particle Playground

  1. With the solid layer selected, navigate to Effect > Simulation > Particle Playground. This opens up a variety of particle system controls.

3. Configuring The Cannon (Steam Source)

  1. Expand the 'Cannon' settings within Particle Playground.

  2. Adjust the 'Barrel Radius' to increase the width of the particle source. This ensures the steam disperses over a larger area.

  3. Tweak the 'Direction' slightly to influence the general path of the particle flow, giving the impression of steam being affected by air currents.

  4. Lower the 'Velocity' to ensure the steam rises gently and naturally.

  5. Set the particle color to white and adjust the size according to your preference. This gives the appearance of steam particles.

4. Manipulating Gravity

  1. Adjust the 'Gravity' setting from 180° to 360°. This makes the steam particles move upwards, emulating the behavior of real-life steam.

5. Adding Gaussian Blur for Realism

  1. Select your solid layer again and navigate to Effect > Blur & Sharpen > Gaussian Blur.

  2. Increase the blurriness to your preference. This softens the particle edges, blending them into the background, and giving the steam its characteristic diffused appearance.

6. Refining Your Effect

  1. Return to the Particle Playground settings and tweak the "Particles Per Second". Lowering this value can make the steam appear less dense and vice versa.

  2. Adjust the 'Barrel Radius' again if needed to influence the steam's spread.

7. Preview and Adjust

  1. Play your composition to preview the steam effect.

  2. Make further adjustments as needed. Remember, the look of steam can vary based on the scene, lighting, and the overall atmosphere you're trying to create.


Particle Playground in After Effects provides a versatile toolset for creating a realistic steam effect. With a bit of tweaking and experimentation, you can achieve the exact steam appearance suitable for your project.

Remember, this tutorial provides foundational knowledge. Feel free to experiment, layer multiple effects, and use other After Effects tools to enhance and customize your steam further. Happy animating!

Here's the final result:


Of course, let's expand the information into a more comprehensive tutorial format. Here we go:


motion design
after effects

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