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3.2 Clouds and Sky

Our scene doesn’t have much visible ground—instead there’s a vast field of puffy clouds. In this lesson we explore techniques for creating a field of clouds out of multiple images and layers to provide depth to our scene.

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3.2 Clouds and Sky

Hello everybody. Welcome back to Advanced Photoshop Techniques. Last lesson we established a sketch of our main project. In this lesson, lesson 3.2, we will add in some clouds and sky. Last lesson we finished up this sketch of our project here and this is the file that we created. I'm gonna take all these layers from this file and I'm gonna group them together. So click the top one all the way down to this bottom one. Press Ctrl or Cmd+G, and this is going to be our sketch group. And on this group I'm going to change the bunny mode to overlay, which means once we have something visible underneath this group, this gray area will be rendered invisible. So to that end, I will just add a empty layer underneath there and fill it with white. Don't be alarmed if the entire thing appears to be invisible at the moment. That's just a product of this being pure white in the overlay isn't really showing up well over that pure white. And once we add some more colors underneath here, you'll see that the sketch layer is actually being shown. In the course files for this lesson, there are three cloud stock images that we are going to use to establish sort of the ground area of clouds. This cloud cover that we are going to use within this project. I wanna use this one here. This clouds 431170 as the base. I like the way that this is a nice thick deep cloud cover that expands all the way out to the horizon, and the area above it is a nice pretty blue. So let's pull this over, deposit it right here within our image. And these clouds cover only a portion of our canvas, and instead of trying to just scale them up in which we would probably lose resolution and it's not the best solution. Let's use some other technologies within Photoshop to create something else to fill the rest of this expanse. We could create a copied layer of these clouds side. I do that by having the move tool active, and holding down the alter the option key, while just dragging another one over. I'll lock it right in over there. Now, let's hide that sketch layer and see what we can do with our Content-Aware Fill technology to fill in the rest of these gaps. But to use the Rectangular Marquee tool and grab this bottom area. I wanna make sure that the selection is overlapping just a little bit of the cloud layers that are already there. And I am on this top cloud layer and that should be okay for right now. So let's go to Edit > Fill > Content Aware and hit OK. I'm gonna let Photoshop do its work. I'm gonna hit Ctrl or Cmd+D to cancel out that selection, and it did a pretty decent job over here, but we still have some issues along these seams. So let's merge these two layers together by going to Layer > Merge Down which is Crtl or Cmd+E. And then we can make some quick selections around those portions that we are seeing that hard seam at, make sure we add to the selection here to select completely around it. And once again go to our Content-Aware Fill. Now I'm gonna use the keyboard shortcut of holding down Shift and tapping Backspace which brings up the fill dialogue box also. Hit OK, and let Photoshop remove those seams for us. It did an okay job. Doesn't necessarily look all that great, especially up in here in the sky but that's okay, because one of the things we can do is create a larger selection here, copy that to a new layer with Crtl or Cmd+J. Move that over to cover up that big seam, and then using the eraser tool with a very soft edge, knock out the edges of this one. These are all just really standard and really easy tricks to help use a single smaller layer to fill in an entire expanse of canvas. I'm gonna merge this one down also. And if you do find that some of these repeating areas are bothersome to you, the best solution there is use the patch tool. Where you can just grab one section of it, drag it over to have it sample in a different area and Photoshop will clean that up for you. So after working with those various tools, here's what my initial cloud layer ends up looking like. Now in looking at this image, it could be somewhat difficult to try to select all these clouds. We could try it with the Quick Selection Tool, or we could to try to maybe just paint in a selection of that. But I'm gonna show you a different technique that I like to use to mask out things like this, that I think works really, really well. First of all, I'm going to unlock that background layer and create a copy of that Layer 0 now. And on this copied layer, I'm going to desaturate it. So I'm gonna pull out all of the color information, through Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. And then I'm going to run a levels adjustment on this layer. I know I'm not using a levels adjustment layer. I'm simply running it directly right here, very destructively on this layer. And you'll see why that's going to work in just a moment. So I'm gonna pull in for some really nice contrast, especially in the blacks. Cuz we want the blacks to be nice and deep black. And then I'm going to Select > All > Edit > Copy. And the idea now is we're going to use this as its own mask. So I can actually throw away this copied layer that we created. And on this Layer 0 we'll add a mask here. And the point is, I want to paste those copied pixels into this mask file. The best way to do that is to look directly at it. That's holding down the Alt or the Option key while clicking on the mask thumbnail. So now, we're looking at that mask. And we can just go to Edit > Paste. And then we Alt+click again to stop looking at it, and cancel that selection with Select > Deselect. And what we're seeing here is that image is being used as its own mask. Now, it looks a little bit strange here, but watch what happens when we pull it over and deposit it onto our main project. Look how well that blends in. It works really, really well. We do get a little bit of a hard edge over here that's easy enough to take care of with a soft-edged, black brush. Not bad at all. If that entire process seemed somewhat intimidating you can always use a more direct approach that is actually more frequently seen and that is to go to a stock image like this of these clouds. Simply create a rough selection around it with the Polygonal Marquee Tool. Edit > Copy, go on back here, Edit > Paste. And now, we have this very roughly pasted cloud layer which can then be turned into something a little bit better using the eraser tool to knock out some of those soft edges. And it's even more effective if you use one of the brush tips on the eraser tool say perhaps, the chalk tip, very large. You're not gonna wanna do a full opacity on this, because if you do it creates a very strange looking outline. So you wanna pull that opacity down a little bit. In a series of multiple clicks to soften up and erase those hard edges that we see from that selection. Now, towards the bottom here you can see that that's not really looking to great. We might soften that up with the soft brush again which is really simple enough to do. Now at this point, I think these clouds are looking a little bit too bright and too large, so I'm going to scale them down a little bit. And there's just a huge discrepancy in tone between these clouds and the ones behind it. We can fix that to some extent with a blending mode. Soft Light or Overlay will work pretty well. A lot of times you just need to shop through and see what's going to work best for you. And if you can't find a blending mode that works well with the background, that's when you start making other adjustments to this layer, like we discussed before, with perhaps the Hue Saturation. Clip it in there, so we can see it better. We'll pull down on the Hue a little bit, and the Lightness. So that's gonna blend in a little better for us there. You do something similar with the other clouds but this time, let's use a curves adjustment layer to pull the brightness down ever so slightly. In any case, I wouldn't worry too much about this being exactly perfect for these clouds cuz we don't have anything else in here yet. We'll start adjusting these more once we have other elements for us to work with. So now, we have a vast field of clouds to serve as almost a type of fabric for our scene to reside in. Next lesson, lesson 3.3, we'll take a look at some mountain peaks and how to make it look like they're poking up through that blanket of clouds.

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