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Create a Particle Based Explosion with FumeFX

In this tutorial, we are going to learn how to create explosions. This is a very interesting subject, because we can’t define one certain process to create an explosion. As much as you will use your creativity and tools, you will find different types of explosions every time. So it very much depends on your own understanding of the tools and techniques.

In this tutorial, I'll show you how I createdthe explosion shown in the preview above using 3ds Max and the FumeFX plugin. There are differenttypes of techniques to achieve this effect in FumeFX, but we are going to useparticles to create this explosion.

For that purpose we are going to use three Particle Flow systems, a FumeFX Particle Source, three standard lights (a Target Spotand two Omni lights), and the default Scanline Renderer. So get ready for this exciting tutorial!

Editors Note: If you'd prefer to follow along using high resolution Images. You can download them below:

To create an explosion, particles are a very good option, because we cancontrol the particle's motion easily and particles will generate fire and smokebased on their birth timing. Also the particle count and speed will determine how big and fast the explosion is. So to create a proper Particle Flowsimulation follow these steps:

There are two ways to open the Particle Flowwindow:

  1. Press 6 on the keyboard.

  2. Go to Graph Editors > Particle View.

To create a Standard flow, follow these steps: Right Click on the center part of the Particle Flowwindow and go to New > Particle System > Standard Flow.

Position the first Particle Flow source (PF Source 01) at the following location:

Position: X : 0.0 | Y : 0.0 | Z : 6.543

Rotation: X : 0.0 | Y : -5.358 | Z : 0.0

Create a second Standard Flow (PF Source 02) following the above steps and position it as follows:

Position: X : 0.0 | Y : 0.0 | Z : 6.543

Rotation: X : 0.0 | Y : 0.0 | Z : 0.0

Finally create a third Standard Flow (PF Source 03) and position it:

Position: X : 0.0 | Y : 0.0 | Z : 6.543

Rotation: X : 0.0 | Y : 13.213 | Z : 0.0

 Now create the Gravity Space Warp. To create the Gravity Space Warp, go to the Create Panel > Space Warps > Forces, click on the Gravity button and generate it in viewport by clicking and dragging.

 And then position it as follows:

Position: X : 50.0 | Y : 0.0 | Z : 0.0

Rotation: X : -180.0 | Y : 0.0 | Z : 0.0

Select the Gravity space warp and go to the Modify panel and make the followingchanges to its parameters.

Under Force, set the Strength to 1.0 and the Decay to 0.0.

Now let’s modify each of the Particle Flow systems.

Select PF Source 01, go to the Modify panel and make the following changes to its parameters.


  • Logo Size: 10.0

  • Icon Type: Circle

  • Diameter: 20.0

Quantity Multiplier:

  • Viewport 100.0%

  • Render 100.0%

Tip: If you keep the Viewport value at 50.0%, it will only show 50% of the particles in the viewport and because of that FumefX, will only generate smoke from that 50% of Particles. So always keep it at 100%.


  • Upper Limit: Keep it at the Maximum.

  • Viewport (Integration Step): Frame

  • Render (Integration Step): Frame

Tip: A smaller integration step can improve accuracy, at the cost ofcalculation time. But I am not worried about it here, because ourparticle system is not very complicated.

Script: Keep as it is. (Frankly speaking, this is not my cup of tea.) ;)

Press 6 to open the Particle View window and make these changes.

Birth 01:

  • Emit Start: 2

  • Emit Stop: 3

  • Amount: 11

  • SubframeSampling: Keep it Ticked.

Position Icon 001: Keep it as is.


  • Speed: 300.0

  • Variation: 50.0

  • Direction: Along Icon Arrow

  • Reverse: Checked

  • Divergence: 21.0

Add a Force and Delete operator into the event by dragging and dropping them from the depot. Adjust the parameters as follows:

Force 01:

Under Force Space Warps, click the By List button and pick Gravity001 from the list. Set the Influence% value to 200.


  • Remove: By Particle Age

  • Life Span: 30

  • Variation: 35


  • Type: Ticks

Select PF Source 02, go to the Modify Panel and edit the parameters to match the settings we used for PF Source 01.

Now Press 6 to open the Particle View window and make the following changes:

Birth 02:

  • Emit Start: 2

  • Emit Stop: 3

  • Amount: 9

  • SubframeSampling: Keep it Ticked.

Position Icon 02: Keep it as is.


  • Speed: 320.0

  • Variation: 100.0

  • Direction: Along Icon Arrow

  • Reverse: Checked

  • Divergence: 16.0

Force 02:

  • Force Space Warps: Add the Gravity.

  • Influence: 200


  • Remove: By Particle Age

  • Life Span: 30

  • Variation: 50


  • Type – Ticks

Select PF Source 03, go to the Modify panel and again edit the parameters to be the same as PF Source 01.

Now press 6 to open the Particle View window, and make these changes:

Birth 03:

  • Emit Start: 2

  • Emit Stop: 3

  • Amount: 8

  • SubframeSampling: Keep it Ticked.

Position Icon 03: Keep it as is.

Speed 03:

  • Speed: 300.0

  • Variation: 200.0

  • Direction: Along Icon Arrow

  • Reverse: Checked

  • Divergence: 8.5

Force 03:

  • Force Space Warps: Add the Gravity.

  • Influence: 100


  • Remove: By Particle Age

  • Life Span: 30

  • Variation: 50


  • Type – Ticks

We are going to use a FumeFX Particle Source to create the Explosion.

ToCreate the FFX Particle Source, go to the Create panel, click on Helpers and select FumeFX from the dropdown list.

Clickon the Particle Src button and generate it in the viewport by clicking and dragging. And then rename it from FFX Particle Scr01 to "FFX Explosion Src".

Position it at the following location:

Position: X : 0.0 | Y : 0.0 | Z :0.0

Rotation: X : 0.0 | Y : 0.0 | Z :0.0

Now it’s time to make the Fumefx Container. To create the container go to the Create panel, click on the Geometry tab and select FumeFX from the dropdown menu.

Click on theFumeFX and generate the container by clicking and dragging in the viewport. Now rename the container from FumeFX01 to "Explosion-Container".

Position the Explosion-Container at this location:

  • X: -20.559

  • Y: -12.908

  • Z: 0.0

Thereare Five Important Sections in the FumeFX Container we are going tomodify.

  • A. Gen – General

  • B. Sim – Simulation

  • C. Rend – Rendering

  • D. Illum - Illumination

  • E. Obj/Src - Objects & Sources

Open FumeFX, go to the Gen taband set the following parameters for each section.


  • Spacing:0.7

  • Width:500.0

  • Length:500.0

  • Height:500.0

  • Adaptive:On


  • Start:0

  • EndFrame:100

  • ExportingChannels:Fuel,Smoke.

  • OutputPath:Click on the small button next to Outputpath,make a NewFolderon your StorageDriveand save your cache file (fxd)as "Explosion_test_"in that Folder.


  • PlayFrom:0

  • Playto:100

  • StartFrame:0

Go to the Sim tab and set the followingparameters for each section.


  • Quality:5

  • MaximumIteration:200

  • CFLConditions:5.0

  • MaximumSimulation Steps:1

  • AdvectionStride:0.5

  • TimeScale:1.0


  • Gravity:0.05

  • Vorticity:0.7

  • XTurbulence:Animated*

NOTE:Weare going to animate the Turbulencebecause we want to slow down the turbulence after Frame 20.So what we’ll do is keep the Turbulenceset at 2.0from Frame 0to 14,andon frame 17,we’ll set the Turbulenceto 0.5.And on frame 20,we’ll make the Turbulence0.1.

 Turbulence Noise:

  • Scale: 3.0

  • Frames: 2.0

  • Detail: 5.0

 Blocking Sides:

  • X : None | Y : None| Z : Both

 Simulate Fuel:

  • Fuel Buoyancy: -0.1

  • Ignition: 100

  • Burn Rate: 18.1

  • Burn Rate Variation: 1.0

  • Heat Production: 10.0

  • Expansion: 1.5

  • Fire Creates Smoke: Unchecked

Note: Don’tChange any Parameter from Smoke or Temperature, keep them Default.

Goto the Rend tab and set the following parameters.

Rendering Parameters:

Weare not changing anything under this tab.


  • Color: Gradient

  • Opacity: 1.0

 Editor Note: You can download the Color Gradient file from the Attachments section at the top of this page.


  • Ambient: R: 0 | G: 0 | B: 0

  • Smoke Color: R: 66 | G: 66 | B: 66

  • Opacity: 0.2

  • Cast Shadows: Checked

  • Receive Shadows: Checked

Note:Keepall other parameters at default.

Beforestarting work in the Illum tab, we need to add some lights to thescene. We will use the following three lights:

  1. Target Spot

  2. Omni

  3. Omni

Createa Target Spot by going to Create > Lights > StandardLights > Target Spot.Click and drag in theviewport to create the light, then position it at the followingcoordinates: 

Light Position: X: 642.252 | Y : -486.928 | Z: 932.155

Target Position: X: -13.825 | Y: 0.0 | Z: 200.066

Next,go to the Modifypanel and adjust the light's settings:

  • TurnOnShadows.

  • Go to the Shadow Parameters rollout and turn OnAtmosphere Shadows.

  • Multiplier:0.6

  • Light Color: R: 255 | G: 255 | B: 255

Note-Keepeverything else default.

Createan Omnilight by going to Create >Lights > Standard Lights > Omni,and click in the viewport to create the light, then position it atthe following coordinates: 

Position: X: 657.659 | Y: -557.434 | Z: 178.75

Next,go to the Modifypanel and adjust the light's settings:

  • TurnOnShadows.

  • Go to the Shadow Parameters rollout and turn OnAtmosphere Shadows.

  • Multiplier:0.3

  • Light Color: R: 255 | G: 255 | B: 255

Note-Keepeverything else default.

Createa second Omni light and position it at the followingcoordinates:

Position: X: 425.011 | Y: -677.873 | Z: 130.717

Again,go to the Modify panel and adjust the light's settings:

  • TurnOnShadows.

  • Go to the Shadow Parameters rollout and turn OnAtmosphere Shadows.

  • Multiplier:0.15

  • Light Color: R: 255 | G: 255 | B: 255

Note-Keepthe rest of the light's settings default.

Backin FumeFX, go to the Illumtaband add the lights to the Lightslist by picking them, then change the following values: 

  • TurnOnMultiple Scattering.

  • Maximum Depth: 6

  • Fire:1.0

  • Smoke Strength:1.0

  • Falloff:8.0

The final stepbefore we hit the simulation button is setting up the Obj/Src Tab.

Addthe FFXExplosion Srcto the Objectslist. When you select the FFXExplosion Src,another tab will appear called ParticleSource Parameters.Now add all the ParticleFlow Systemsinto the Particleslist. And change the parameters as follows:


  • Radius: 4.187

  • Variation: 643.572*

Youcan see the ParticleRadiusButton, exactly below the VarText. RightClickon it and choose Enable.Now you can see that the parameter text window has been Activated,change the parameter to 0.0

If you use this option, the particle radius will animateautomatically. You’ll see that from emission to deletion, theparticle radius size will animate from big to small.


  • Amount: 1.0

  • Variation: 10.0


  • Amount: 100.0

  • Variation: 10


  • Amount: 300.0

  • Variation: 10.0


  • Amount: 10.0

  • Variation: 10

Hit the Simulation Button. It will take around 10 to 12 Hoursfor the 100 frame simulation to complete.

I want to share one important thingwith you. If you want to work with plugins like FumeFX and RealFlow, you need a very high end machine, because ifyou are working on a big scene and you don't have such a machine, the softwarewill crash every time and you won't be able to deliver the project on time, or maybe not at all.

I'm using an Intel Core i7- 2700K CPU @ 3.50GHz and 16GBs of Ram, and it still takes 10 to 12 minutes to simulate a single frame of this explosion.

After the simulation finishes and you setup your scene, go to Render Setup (F10). Add the FumeFX Fire & FumeFX Smoke Elements in the Render Elements Section, and render the sequences at a HDresolution (1280 x 720).

OpenAfterEffects andload the image sequences you rendered from 3D Studio Max. 

Youcan addthe following effects to the Fire layer.

  1. Color Balance

  2. Sharpen

  3. Glow (Sapphire_Glow)

Addthe Smoke Layer and apply these effects to it.

  1. Brightness & Contrast

  2. Sharpen

So good luck… keep working.



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