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How to Create a Storm Photo Effect in Photoshop

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

Today we will be learning how to create a storm photo effect in Photoshop! We will be combining epic cloud effects and a quick and easy lightning effect in Photoshop to create a stormy atmosphere that can be used in both portrait and landscape photo manipulations. 

You can create an even quicker epic storm effect with this high-contrast storm dispersion Photoshop action found on Envato Elements! Create an instant cloud effect in Photoshop, giving your images the same stormy atmosphere in half the time. 

Storm Photoshop ActionStorm Photoshop ActionStorm Photoshop Action

What You'll Learn in This Adobe Photoshop Tutorial 

  • How to create lightning in Photoshop
  • How to make clouds in Photoshop
  • How to use brushes from a storm Photoshop action
  • How to add rain to a photo in Photoshop 

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

What You'll Need

To complete this project, you will need the following resources:

Find more resources on Envato Elements!

1. How to Create a Cloud Effect Background

First, we will be laying down a set of clouds as a base for our storm!

Step 1

We’ll be creating our storm composite on a new 2200 by 3200 px canvas. 

Let’s start by dragging and dropping a stock image of some grey stormy clouds onto the canvas. Enlarge and transform the clouds to where they best fit the canvas. 

Right Click > Convert to Smart Object if the layer is not already a smart object. This will make it so that we can adjust or remove the settings later if we need to. And we are going to need to!

place cloudy background place cloudy background place cloudy background

Step 2

Now, let's do some quick color correction, starting with Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. Set the Brightness to -60 and the Contrast to -50. 

And then go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation, setting the Saturation to -100.

color adjust clouds color adjust clouds color adjust clouds

Step 3

Let’s finish off the base with a new layer set to Overlay and paint some white right in the middle of the canvas with a soft round brush. You can lower the Opacity of the layer if the effect is too intense.

Go ahead and Group the base background layers together, naming the group “Background”

add lighting to clouds add lighting to clouds add lighting to clouds

2. How to Create a Stormy Color Grade

Now, we are going to create a new group called “Color Grade” that will stay above all of our current and future layers. This color grade will give our composition a high-contrast deep blue atmosphere!  

Step 1

Go ahead and place your subject if you have one, extracting using your preferred method. Mine is usually a combination of the Pen Tool and Select and Mask, though any method works! 

place subject place subject place subject

Step 2

Starting our color grade, we have a Color Lookup adjustment layer set to Multiply and a 38% Opacity. Also add a Blend If setting similar to what you see here:

blend if settings  blend if settings  blend if settings
blend if setting results  blend if setting results  blend if setting results

Step 3

Now, we are going to Duplicate the Color Lookup layer, bringing it above the original, and then Invert the layer mask using Control-I.

Now with a soft round Brush, we can mask some shadow onto the subject’s body. This layer will keep the same Blend If settings as its original! 

add shadow to body add shadow to body add shadow to body

Step 4

Third, we have a Color Lookup set to Foggy Night at 88% Opacity. 

foggy night foggy night foggy night

Step 5

Fourth, a Color Lookup set to Fuji f125 Kodak 2393 at 67% Opacity.

fuji color lookup fuji color lookup fuji color lookup

Step 6

Fifth, a Color Lookup layer set to Kodak 5218 Kodak 2383 at 27% Opacity. 

kodak kodak kodak

Step 7

Sixth, a Selective Color layer affecting the Yellows set to +62, +16, -100, and +41.

selective  color adjustments selective  color adjustments selective  color adjustments

Step 8

And finally, a Hue/Saturation layer set to a Saturation of +33.

Group all of your adjustment layers into a group named “Color Grade!” This group will remain at the top of your layer stack, with all future layers going below it. 

hue and saturation hue and saturation hue and saturation

3. How to Add Lightning in Photoshop

Step 1

Next, let’s create some lightning! Start by downloading and installing some Bold Lightning Photoshop Brushes.

However, if you'd like to learn how to make lightning in Photoshop yourself, you can easily make your very own lightning brushes! 

Step 2

With your lightning brushes installed, create a New Layer below your subject and then stamp one of the lightning brushes onto the canvas, making it fairly large.

 how to add lightning in photoshop how to add lightning in photoshop how to add lightning in photoshop

Step 3

We are then going to further enlarge the lightning significantly! Don’t worry about things like pixelation or blurriness—just focus on positioning your lightning bolt.

As this subject has a large lens flare on her chin, I made sure the brightest point of the bolt lined up in the general area. 

Feel free to add more than one lightning bolt; just make sure to create each bolt on its own layer. This will make positioning and editing the bolts using the Transform and Warp tools much easier if you end up needing to. 

enlarge lightning enlarge lightning enlarge lightning

Step 4

Once  you're happy with the placement of your bolt or bolts, add a Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur, setting the Blur to around 25 or so.

field blur field blur field blur

Step 5

To finish off the lightning, we are going to add an Outer Glow layer effect. Set the Blend Mode to Screen, the Color to a golden yellow#090804, and the Size to 27 px.

outer glow layer style outer glow layer style outer glow layer style

Step 6

You can repeat the same steps to add lightning above the subject as well!

add more lightning add more lightning add more lightning

Step 7

Now, we need to add some quick lighting to our subject!

First, clip a New Layer into the subject, setting it to Overlay.  Using a large soft round Brush, paint white on the edges of your subject.

Bring the Flow Rate of your brush down to 10% so that you can build this and the upcoming lighting up slowly. 

add overlay rim light add overlay rim light add overlay rim light

Step 8

Next, add a clipped layer set to Soft Light. Here we’re going to paint more white on the edges of the subject, slowly bringing the lighting slightly more inwards. 

add soft light rim light add soft light rim light add soft light rim light

Step 9

We can repeat this step with as many Soft Light layers as we need, until we get a bright rim light. 

If you need a harsher rim light, create and clip a New Layer, keeping it set to Normal, and then paint using a soft or hard brush depending on the area you are painting.

For the edges of the subject’s face, I used a hard round brush, while for the edges of the hair I used a soft round brush.  

I ended up with a total of three Soft Light layers and one layer set to Normal. However, you may need even more layers with different layer modes such as Overlay or Screen.

You can also adjust opacities and use different colors, bringing in light blues or golds! It’s all about layering and building the light up slowly!

continue  building up light continue  building up light continue  building up light

Step 10 

Create quick and easy backlit hair by Duplicating your extracted subject, filling the duplicate with white, and then moving the layer up and to the side 50 px or so. 

Add a Layer Mask and mask out any areas that do not need the rim light effect. 

backlit hair backlit hair backlit hair

4. How to Create Dynamic Rain 

Step 1

Next up, some fast-falling rain! I’ll be using these Rain Overlay textures, starting with the “medium rainfall” overlay. Drag and drop it below the subject and lightning layers, enlarge it, and then set the layer to Overlay. 

place rain overlay place rain overlay place rain overlay

Step 2 

Once it's enlarged, you can use the Move Tool to angle the rain so that it looks as if it’s blowing in from the side. This will help give the effect of wind!

angle rain angle rain angle rain

Step 3

Next, from the same pack, we are going to take the “Heavy Drizzle” overlay and once again, drag, drop, and angle it on our canvas. 

This rain, however, will be significantly smaller, and we will be keeping it set to Normal.

Try to place it over a bright portion of the lightning. Keep in mind that it shouldn’t be covering the whole canvas. 

place smaller rain place smaller rain place smaller rain

Step 4

Add a layer mask to the rain drizzle, and then Invert it to black using Control-I.

Now, we can use a soft round Brush to mask back in a portion of the rain, focusing on the rain falling directly over the light source. 

The lighter the area, the more rain will show, while it will fade out into the darker areas of the background. Try to keep the edges smooth and natural. 

mask out rain overlay mask out rain overlay mask out rain overlay

Step 5

Now, we have two options. We can either redo the previous steps over and over with a new rain overlay, or we can Duplicate this rain and place it over the main light source, which in this case is the lightning. 

I chose to duplicate the layer, placing it throughout the background, with the strongest concentration of rain being over the lightning, making sure there were no repeated patterns or noticeable edges. 

duplicate small rain duplicate small rain duplicate small rain

Step 6

We can make the rain even more intense by selecting all of our rain overlays, Duplicating them, Grouping them, and then adjusting the group’s Opacity. I ended up with an Opacity of 25%. The amount will depend on how intense you want the rain to look. 

Once you're happy, Group all of your rain overlays, and the duplicated overlays group, into their own group named “Rain.”

group and duplicate rain group and duplicate rain group and duplicate rain

5. How to Make Clouds in Photoshop

Step 1

Let’s finish up by adding a stormy foreground!

We are going to Duplicate the grey stormy clouds from the “Background” group, bringing the duplicate directly below the “Color Grade” group.

We are then going to hide the Brightness/Contrast layer adjustment by clicking the Eye icon under the layer’s Smart Filters. 

duplicate clouds duplicate clouds duplicate clouds

Step 2

Next, we are going to add a Layer Mask to the layer, if it doesn’t already have one, and then using the cloud brush from the Cloud Photoshop Action mask out the center of the stormy clouds. 

Use black to mask things out and white to mask things back in. You will want to adjust this as you go from here. So there's no need to get it perfect the first time! We just want a general foreground of clouds. 

mask out middle clouds mask out middle clouds mask out middle clouds

Step 3

Now, create a New Layer set to 50% Opacity, and then use the same set of cloud brushes to paint white clouds over the foreground clouds. This will give them more detail and form. 

pain in cloud effect pain in cloud effect pain in cloud effect

Step 4

Drag and drop the “Dense Rain Fall” overlay from the rain overlay pack. Enlarge and elongate it so that it fits the entire canvas, angling it in the same direction as the other rain.  

You can set the layer to Overlay, Soft Light, or keep it set to Normal, depending on what works best for your image and what kind of effect you’re going for. I set mine to Overlay this time around. 

place large rain overlay place large rain overlay place large rain overlay

Step 5 

Let’s finish up the rain by adding a Layer Mask and masking out the darker areas of the background, the rain around the face to keep her unobstructed, and some of the rain around the edges of the canvas. 

mask out large rain overlay mask out large rain overlay mask out large rain overlay

That's It! 

That is all there is to creating a stormy cloud effect in Photoshop! Clouds in Photoshop can be done in multiple different ways, from brushes to images or, as we did here today, a combination of both. Lightning in Photoshop is just as versatile, but using premium brushes or storm Photoshop actions is always a quick and easy way to instant stormy weather! 

how to add lightning in photoshophow to add lightning in photoshophow to add lightning in photoshop

Follow the whole process, without any talking as part of our Watch Me Work series, available on our YouTube channel:

Looking for More Storm Photoshop Actions? 

Check out these dramatic lightning effect Photoshop actions and stormy cloud Photoshop brushes!

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These 75 lightning overlays are even easier to use than brushes! Just drag and drop, and you have instant lightning in Photoshop! You can also try different layer modes, layering the lightning overlays on top of one another, creating the ultimate light storm.  

50 Lightning Photoshop Brushes

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If you are wondering how to add lightning in Photoshop in a way that looks natural, then this giant set of 50 lightning Photoshop brushes is for you! Lightning never looks the same, with each strike being different. So recreate the randomness of nature by never repeating the same lightning strike twice!  

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Storm Photoshop ActionStorm Photoshop ActionStorm Photoshop Action

Wondering how to make lightning in Photoshop even more epic-looking? Try adding some natural disasters! Tornados, tsunamis, and hurricanes can all be created within minutes thanks to this epic storm Photoshop action.   

Looking to learn even more? Check out some more tutorials below:  

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