VFX: Smoke #5- Dissipating a dust cloud

Table of Contents

Faster means more smears

If you’re familiar with animation, Smear Frames may ring a bell. 

To put it simply, the faster an object moves the more distorted it will look.

This concept applies to our Smoke animations as well. But since Smokes lack detail (especially pixel-art smoke), we must compensate by getting the length & timing spot on.

I generally like to make the climax quite lengthy (60-80% of the total distance traveled). Each frame afterwards is dissipated by reducing its length relative to its speed. I personally enjoy reducing its length by 1/2 every frame.

Curved motion

As you can see from the gifs, the smoke moves in a curved motion

If you look even closer, you’ll notice how the smoke floats upwards as it slows down. This minute detail is what makes or breaks the realism of your smoke animation. 

Guiding lines help

If you have a hard time animating in curves, try animating with these guiding lines in mind!

(The length of the lines resemble speed)

Pinching shapes

Dissipation means your shapes get smaller. Simple enough!

As for the shapes, it needs to correlate with the direction of your overall effect. 

I like to imagine the shapes as water balloons. When you throw a water balloon, the center mass gets ‘pinched’ away from you.

Here are a few examples of those pinched shapes.

For larger clouds, mix and match these water balloons until you get an organic looking cluster. Continue to shrink its size relative to its speed.

Final thoughts

Once you do all those steps, your smoke dissipation should look more natural.

Ill talk about how and why certain shapes should be used in future posts. Until then, happy animating!


Smoke FX Library

A library of Smoke FX used in games & animations.

Platformer Starter Pack

The most complete set of sprites & animations to prototype platformer games. 



I'm a Game-Dev specializing in 2D VFX & Animation. I wish to simplify the learning process & help creatives learn new skills through LearnIndie.


Leave a Reply