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Photoshop Sky Effects, Part 1

Creating clouds and basic atmospheric features By Dave Nagel
This week we kick off a new series of tutorials for Adobe Photoshop: sky effects. There comes a time in every designer's life when he or she needs to create skies with a photographic quality. Maybe you're compositing a masked out image onto a moody, moonlit scene. Maybe you need to create a sky for a backdrop for an animation. Whatever the reason, here's a simple, step by step guide for creating your basic sky with clouds and haze using just the tools available in Photoshop.

For our first installment in this series, we're going to go through the process of creating the sky and haze, as well as a moon and clouds. The clouds, of course, are the tricky part, but not too tricky. In fact, using this method, you'll be able to create any variety of wispy or puffy clouds with very simple, quick modifications.

All set? OK. Here's a look at the effect we're going to create today.

Your results will vary, but you should be able to produce something very similar with little effort.

The basic setup
To begin, create a new Photoshop document at any size or resolution. Make sure your foreground color is black, and your background color is white. Then follow these beginning steps.

1. On your first layer, apply the Clouds filter (Filter > Render > Clouds).

2. Apply a Gradient Fill Layer (Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient). Make the gradient go from black to transparent, and set the scale to an appropriate value for your scene. I'l leaving mine at 100 percent.

3. Insert a new, blank layer in your Layers palette by clicking the New Layer button. Don't do anything with it just yet except to rename it "Moon" (for future reference).

4. Now add a new Curves Adjustment Layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves). Again, don't do anything with it just yet.

5. Finally, add one more Gradient Fill Layer to your composition. This time, the gradient should go from tan to blue. Here's an example of the gradient I'm using. It has three stops: light tan (R 212, G 212, B 193); a medium tan (R 191, G 186, B 175); and a grayish blue (R 43, G 80, B 101).

And so your composition should look like this.

And that's our basic setup. Now we can go in and fill in the blanks to create our sky effect.

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