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).
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):
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).
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
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