Transform a Daylight Photo into a Realistic Lightning Storm Scene

In this tutorial, I will show you the processes I used to transform an average daylight photo into a realistic lightning storm scene in photoshop.

Along the way, we will take about interesting ways of darken your image and reduce noise non-destructively, and also a simple way of rendering rain effect and making. water splashes. Have a try :)

Here is a before and after preview:





Ok let’s get started!

Step 1

Download a copy of this image and load it into Photoshop.

Because we’re creating a rainy image, so firstly we can make the image a bit darker.

To do this, duplicate the background layer once and change it the blending option of the duplicated layer to “Multiply”. This will darken the whole image and the effect is shown blew:


Step 2

Then we can tackle the sky area and make it darker. Hide the “Background copy” layer for now and Press “L” to select the Lasso Tool.  Draw a selection around the sky area.


Hit Ctrl + J to make a layer via Copy, name the new layer as “sky” and drag it on top of all other layers.

Then hit Ctrl + Alt + Shift + B and bring up the Black and White image adjustment Tool, apply the following settings:


Then hit Ctrl + M to bring up the Curve Adjustment Tool, apply the following settings:


You can also use the Blur/Smudge Tool to patch up the “sky” layer so it blending more seamlessly to the houses and trees below:


Once you’re happy with the result, change the blending option of this “sky” layer to “Multiply”, and the effect will look like this:


Step 3

Now you will notice that we have quite  a few noise on the “Sky” layer, which you may want to get rid of. So to do this, duplicate the “Sky” layer once. On the duplicated layer, go to Filter > Blur > Surface Blur and apply the following settings:


Then change the layer blending of the duplicated layer to “Hard Light” and you will have the following effect:


Step 4

Now we will add some lightning effect to image. As you may know the previous image I used for this part was removed due to copyright issue (a lesson learnt). Also thanks to the copyright owner for accepting my apology. Also if you guys are interested, you can check out his work at

So i used an alternative image from instead. Download a copy of this lightning image and load it into Photoshop. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select a portion, copy and paste the selection back to our document. Put this layer on top of all other layers and name it “Lightning”:


Then use the Eraser Tool to gently erase the unnecessary portion of the image and leave only the lightning bits:


Step 5

Still on the “lightning” layer, go to Image > Adjustment > Channel Mixer and apply te following settings:


Then change the layer blending option of this lightning layer to “Screen”, duplicate this layer a couple of times and you shoud have the following effect:


Step 6

Still on the “lightning” layer, use the Clone Stamp Tool (S) to clone a few portion from the existing lighning and create some dynamic lightning effect:

Tip: use a big soft brush and adjust the flow and opacity to make lightning more dynamic.


Step 7

Now we can render some rainy effect on the image. Create a new layer called “Rain” on top of all other layers, grab a small White brush (3px) and apply the following brush options:

Shape Dynamics




Once you set the brush, simply paint over the sky area, then apply the following motion blur settings:


After that, change the layer blending option to “Overlay” and you will have the following effect:


Step 8

To add a bit of water splashes on the lake so it look a bit more realistic, we can duplicate the background layer once more and put the duplicated layer just above the background layer, go to Filter > Distort > Ocean Ripple and apply the following settings:


And the effect should look like the following image:


Ok that’s it for this tutorial! Hope you find it useful and inspirational :)

Here is my final image for this tutorial: (I adjusted the Hue/Saturation of the image a bit) – Click to Enlarge


If you have any questions, just drop me a comment :)

Cheers and have a nice day!


  • My name is James and I have been using Photoshop since version 5.0 (long time ago!). PSD Vault is my spare time hobby and I write majority of the Photoshop tutorials and articles here. I hope you enjoy my blog, and feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

  • Show Comments

  • paylasimtime


  • psaddict
  • jessie


  • admin

    @jessie: yeah, a lesson learnt :)

  • YonG

    I very like your tutorial…
    How i could design my own picture as done by professional?
    is it need to attend more about photoshop classes or i refer more tutorials istead of attend class?

  • Alexander

    Very good. Thanks a lot i learnd pretty much stuff in this tut! thanks again

  • SBL image process outsourcing

    Stunning tutorial…

  • Gardien

    Wow great!!!!!! hello from Russia))))))))

  • Awesome effect! You seamlessly blended the lightning with the sky, its amazing. Your tutorials are always an enjoyable learning experience. Nice work! I love the final artwork!

  • Jason Anderson

    Great tutorial. I saved this site on a couple social bookmarking sites and voted for it on Digg.

  • Anonymouse user

    this is preatty shitty

  • Is the multiply thing really the technique on how to make the image dark?

  • photo retouching

    A great result! Your tutorials are always a very high quality.

  • Gt

    Once i do step two, the image i have is totally different(alot darker) from the one i am sposed to have…and from there, it just goes downhill…im following it step by step but can’t seem to get it right.

    Any tips?

  • Tori

    this was awesome! I did this tutorial using my own images and it turned out fantastic thanks!

  • WoW :) Awesome tutorial. Well explained. Thanks for sharing this nice tutorial.

  • taryarL

    very great :)

  • HAL

    Duplication of layers and changing the blending mode of the upper to darken a scene is a very bad habbit. Learn the correction tools. Also, the compositing needs work. The shot looks ULTRA unrealistic because the water surface is not reflecting any highlights from the adjusted sky or more importantly the lightning bolts. Also, a real shot like this would have been exposed longer than would be possible for rain to show up. Instead of being streaks the rain would have an over all softening effect in the entire image.


  • E.P


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