In this tutorial, I'll demonstrate how to add a dramatic rain effect to a photo in Photoshop. While rain effects are not new to Photoshop, I will go a step further and show you how to make the image more photo-realistic by adding reflections and small puddles. Let's get started!
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial. Please download them before you begin or find alternatives if they are not available.
1. How to Set Up the Base
Open the Walk on pier image in Photoshop. Double-click the layer to unlock it and name it "Base."
The first step to add realistic rain is to have convincing clouds. Go to File > Place... and place Cloudy Scotland at the top of your canvas. You will need to stretch the image a bit so that the clouds fully cover the sky. To do so, hit Command/Control-T to enter Free Transform mode and input 120% for the height. Hit Enter to confirm, name the layer "Sky", and place it below your "Base" layer.
Using your favourite tool, create a selection of the sky (I used the Quick Selection Tool). Select your "Base" layer, hit Command/Control-G to group it, and create a mask from the selection in order to hide the sky.
I suggest you take the time to refine your mask. This will help achieve a photo-realistic result in the end. To do so, select your group's mask and use a black or white Brush (B) to paint in and out the parts you desire.
Since the sky still has a little bit of color, create a Black & White adjustment layer to make sure it fits your base layer.
When it rains, the air gets really humid, resulting in fog that hides faraway elements. To create this effect, use a soft large Brush with a gray color (
#C3C3C3 in this case) and draw a straight line on the horizon (hold Shift when painting to draw in a straight line). Set the layer Opacity to 50%. You can then duplicate the layer (Command/Control-J) and stretch it vertically to soften the fog even more. Name both layers "Fog" and place them below the group.
Finally, create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the image. Place it above everything else.
2. How to Generate the Rain
The usual method to generate rain is to combine the Add Noise and the Motion Blur filter. Start by creating a new layer (Command/Control-Shift-N) and filling it with black (D, then Alt-Backspace), and then go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Scale the noise up to 400%.
Then go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and give the noise a slanted motion blur. Hit Command/Control-M to bring up the Curves adjustment panel and add contrast to your layer. Finally, switch your layer to Screen and name it "Rain."
Now the key to get a more realistic and more interesting is randomness. You see, rain doesn't usually fall in a perfectly straight line because of the wind. To get this randomness, we will have to repeat the process a few times with a varying size of grain and angle of motion blur. In this case, I did the process with noise scaled to 250% and with a 79° blur.
And once again, this time with a 600% scale and 60° blur.
Finally, I simply generated noise and darkened it a lot. Name this layer "Noise."
Set all your "Rain" layers to Screen, and unhide them.
Now this is a bit too much. To fix this, give each of the rain layers a mask, select it, and go to Filter > Render > Clouds. This will reduce the effect and give the rain a bit more randomness. Also, set the "Noise" layer to 20% Opacity.
3. How to Create Water Puddles and Reflections
We managed to create the falling rain. However, our image doesn't look realistic yet. Why is that? Well, when you look at rain photos, you realise that the raindrops are usually barely visible. What is visible, however, is the darker, soaked and reflective ground, which is the most important and the hardest part of the process.
The first step is to isolate our image's floor. Using your favorite tool, create and fill the floor with a thick color on a new layer.
Once you are satisfied with your work, Command/Control-Click on the layer thumbnail to retrieve its selection, create a new empty group, and create a mask out of the selection. Name the group "Floor Mask."
Duplicate your "Base" layer and place it in your "Floor Mask" folder. Go to Filter > Filter Gallery and select Bas Relief. Give it the values indicated in the example below and press Enter. Give it a Curves adjustment to darken it a little bit (you can clip it by holding Alt and clicking between the two layers). Set the layer to Color Dodge.
Once again, we'll give the layer a cloudy mask in order to add randomness. Let's start by creating a new layer filled with clouds. Hit Command/Control-T and scale it down below the horizon.
Still in Free Transform mode, right-click and select Perspective. Move the bottom corner handles to roughly match the perspective of the planks. Hit Command/Control-A to select everything, and Command/Control-X to cut it. Give the layer you created in the last step a mask, select the mask in the Channels panel, and paste the clouds in.
Since our floor is soaked, it should reflect the things above it, including the sky. To achieve this, duplicate your "Sky" layer and place it inside the "Floor Mask" folder. Flip it vertically (Command/Control-T, right-click, and select Flip-Vertical) and set it to 15% Opacity. Notice that in this step I brought back the previous Black & White filter above the "Pier" group.
Now we'll need to retrieve the selection from the area between the sky and the floor. To do so, retrieve the selection from the "Floor Mask" group's mask (Command/Control-Click). Then, invert the mask (Select > Inverse), and Command/Control-Alt-Click on the "Pier" group's mask. With the selection active, duplicate (Command/Control-J) your base layer in order to get a copy of this particular area. Name the new layer "Reflection."
Now the next step is a little bit tricky. In order to help yourself, you should hide all effects. You can also create a new layer below "Reflection", fill it with red (Edit > Fill), and set it to 50% Opacity.
Flip your layer vertically and place it so the feet of the couple on the left match. Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), create a selection of the wall to the left and bring it up. With the selection still active, use the Skew transformation mode (Command/Control-T, right-click > Skew) to make the reflection mirror the wall's perspective.
Repeat the process for the following wall.
Using the Lasso Tool (L), create a selection of the man and the child. Move them down so the feet match.
Keep going until you get the following result.
You can now delete the red layer and place the "Reflection" layer inside "Floor Mask", above the "Sky" layer, and set it to Multiply.
Now you will notice there are a few places we need to work on a bit more.
Using the Smudge Tool (located under the Blur Tool), you can smudge back the parts of the reflections that are missing. For the area between the legs of the couple on the left, you can simply paint with a gray brush.
In this case, I also gave the layer a mask and softly painted out parts of the reflection. When you are done, you can bring back the effects and lower the layer Opacity to 35%.
We can enhance the floor a bit more. Select every layer below the "Black & White" layer, duplicate, and merge them. Apply the Reticulation Filter (from the Filter Gallery) and give it the values as shown in the example. Hit Command/Control-M to bring up the Curves panel and increase the layer's contrast a bit. Finally, place the layer inside the "Floor Mask" group and name it "Reticulation."
Voilà! We're done! In case you missed anything, here is what your final layer setup should look like.
You can also compare the final image with the base template and appreciate the formidable work you've done!
In this tutorial, we showed you how to quickly add a dramatic rain effect to your photos. In addition, we also showed you how to add reflections and puddles to make the effect more realistic.
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