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Transform Cloudy Skies Into A Fierce Lightning Storm

See the image below? Transform this cloudy country side picture into a stormy and dramatic evening by adding simple lightning effects!

Start off by duplicating the default layer (CTRL+J) as Layer 1.

Reduce brightness of duplicate image by dragging center point of the Curves tool (CTRL+M).

Duplicate Layer 1 as Layer 1 copy. Go to Filter > Radial Blur > Zoom : 80. Set the blend mode for Layer 1 copy as ‘Multiply‘.

You should get something like this:

Now, create a new layer (Shift+Ctrl+N) and name it as “storm”. Go to Filter > Render > Clouds.

Next up, select Filter > Render > Difference Clouds. Apply the same filter (Ctrl+F) several times (preferably 5 times or above).

Bring out the Levels Window (Ctrl+L) and apply settings until you see lumps of clouds appearing (Input Levels: 30/0.75/175).

NOTE: Results/settings may vary as each clouds/difference clouds rendered may differ.

Once done, set storm’s blend mode to ‘Color Dodge‘.

Transform (CTRL+T) and scale the image. You can also adjust the perspective a little, based on the nature of your chosen image. Press Enter to apply the transformation.

Next, we should remove areas which are too bright. Follow these sub-steps: 1) Go to Windows > Channel (to bring out the channels window). 2) Hold CTRL and click on Red channel (to make a selection). 3) Go to Select > Inverse (or press Shift+CTRL+I) to invert the selection. 4) Go to Select > Feather (or press CTRL+ALT+D) and set radius : 10 pixels.

Click on the masking tool to hide the brighter parts of the layer.

Select layer mask of ‘storm’ layer and further adjust the levels (CTRL+L) until you have something like this (Input Levels: 0/1.70/180):

NOTE: Again, results/settings may vary as each clouds/difference clouds rendered from previous steps may differ.

I’ve decided to remove some bright areas of the storm by brushing over the layer mask with a soft black brush.

Now that we have got the storm going, lets add a few bolts of lightning.

First, create a new layer (Shift+CTRL+N) and name it as ‘lightning’. Using the Rectangular Marquee tool (M), select a square box (holding down the Shift key while dragging will create a perfect square). Bring out the Gradient tool (G) when you are done.

Create a gradient by dragging through the center of the selection.

The gradient should look like this, preferably.

With the selection still active, go to Filter > Render > Difference Clouds (or just press CTRL+F as it is your last applied filter).

NOTE: Difference Clouds rendered differs as it is randomly generated.

Press CTRL+I to invert it.

And adjust the level (CTRL+L).

Apply the lightning’s blend mode to ‘Screen’.

Next, use the eraser tool to remove any hard edges. Make sure the hardness is set to 0%.

Transform (CTRL+T) the bolt of lightning to which ever way you like.

I’ve tweaked mine a little bit more; adding glows, reducing brightness, and etc. This is my final image.

Before & After

If you liked our tutorial, feel free to share it with your friends or even bookmark it!

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