How can I show speed in this example?

I don't have any vector programs, I'm working in Photoshop.

enter image description here

Any advice will be helpful.

  • 2
    In general speed is conveyed via lines or blurred lines along with an angle to an object (if horizontal) google.com/…
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 19:30

5 Answers 5


Create a teardrop shape with the pen tool:

enter image description here

Fill it with white (Command+Delete).

Duplicate, stretch and rotate your copies to match up with some of the lines in the object:

enter image description here

Merge the shapes together by selecting all of them and 1.hit Command+E or 2. right click and choose Merge to Smart Object.

Then add a layer mask and put a slight gradient from the bottom up...

enter image description here

  • 1
    +1 this is the least intrusive option and fits well with the sharp, clear illustration style Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 8:50
  • 1
    @user568458 I agree. all other examples (ie. blurs and background blobs) are completely incompatible with the original illustration style, this one fits perfectly. They make it look like a spaceship, this one makes it look like it's a paper plane that has been thrown.
    – user21087
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 9:37
  • I like this way. that's really good for static images
    – Vinand
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 21:12
  • I also decided to use ellipse with deformation tool to get similar results instead of pen tool.
    – Vinand
    Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 8:40

An alternate approach is to provide an external point of reference.

In this case, the viewer is traveling at the speed of your subject. Stationary objects appear to move in the opposite direction as indicated by the clouds below.

You'll see this approach in Anime, where the example provided by @Dalvenjia is possibly more commonly seen in cartoons from the west. Not to imply that this is a better approach, but certainly takes on a different stylistic character.

enter image description here

From a technical point of view it's essentially the same.

I created a few layers with clouds using the brush tool, then apply a motion blur to copies of each layer. Shift the alignment of your motion so that it fades away in the direction your subject is moving.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Very nice answer. I edited your image in, welcome to GD.SE!
    – Yisela
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 0:54
  • Thanks, @Yisela I was't sure how to post my image for direct viewing. I didn't notice that in the posting documentation.
    – jwarton
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 2:01
  • 1
    No problem :) You can only post images once you have 10 reputation. That's why the option was disabled (not an issue anymore!)
    – Yisela
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 2:04
  • Your way looks only suitable for animation
    – Vinand
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 21:14
  • I'm sorry if this wasn't helpful @Vinand. I wasn't aware of your application, and thought it would be effective to look at implicit motion from a slightly different angle. I hope some of the other posts here were able to get your wheels turning. :)
    – jwarton
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 21:52

As Scott commented, motion is usually illustrated using lines, blur and/or translucent partial images of the object trailing behind the "direction of motion."

To end up with a clean leading edge with a motion-blur or similar effect on the trailing edge, you need two layers. The first is the object itself, the second is laid on top and partially masked out.

One quick and simple way to do this is with Motion Blur. Here's an illustration, copied to a second layer with a motion blur applied to the copy.

enter image description here

And here it is with the "leading edge" blur removed with a layer mask:

enter image description here

By feathering the mask, you can adjust how much or how little of the effect overlays the object. For extra credit, you could apply a Liquify filter to the tail end of the blur, to create "turbulence."

  • 1
    Wouldn't it generally be better to start with a shorter motion blur and just move the blurred layer so that the leading edge aligns with the original object? You can then use masking to fine-tune the effect if you want. Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 16:09
  • 1
    There are many ways to do it. Shorter motion blur tends to be too opaque and insufficiently feathered, and there's a definite limit to how far you can move it. If anything, I'd use a larger blur and move it in the opposite direction. Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 17:18

Apply some Wind and Motion Blur and you can give the speed feel: Effects Applied

  1. Rotate your Image 90CW because Wind only works sideways.
  2. Select the layer with the paper plane (no background or anything else).
  3. Duplicate the layer so you have a clean copy and you can try various settings and compare.
  4. Apply Filters>Stylize>Wind and repeat as needed, I only did it twice.
  5. Apply Filters>Blur>Motion Blur
  6. Play with the settings, I used 0° and 100 strength.

Now is your turn to be creative.

EDIT: Don't forget to rotate your image back 90CCW

  • 1
    A slight problem here is that the lines going straight down don't match the implied perspective of the plane, so it could be seen as icicles or as the back of the plane moving upward Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 8:49
  • 1
    I think it would be improved if the wind/blur in front of the plane was removed.
    – MrWhite
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 20:51

This one may appeal more to you, but it'll takes some effort using the path tool, stroke, and some careful masking:

  • 3
    +1, that s a nice picture, probably not suitable for speed, but for motion for sure
    – Ilan
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 22:06
  • Haha, Indeed. You have a point there.
    – jwarton
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 22:08
  • I like it so much that I will even rewrite some game code to add it. But I still find the previous example with pen tool better for splash screen.
    – Vinand
    Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 8:25
  • 3
    This sounds like a fun project! Keep us updated on your progress!
    – jwarton
    Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 17:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.