Dramatic Clouds

with 12 Comments


Clouds are really interesting to me. There have been many times when I have taken a photo and was surprised to see how fascinating the clouds were. They really can give a dramatic feel to a photo.

I am going to show you how to boost those clouds just a bit and give them a little more contrast. This tutorial features one of the great tools that can only be found in Photoshop Elements, in the Enhance section of tools. So this time around, I will be providing a work around for Photoshop users.

Here is a photo that surprised me when I looked at it. I was focused on my son and his son walking down the path, but the dramatic clouds pulled me into the photo.


Step One: Open and Duplicate the Photo

  • Open a photo with some gray clouds (File < Open).
  • In the Menu Bar, choose File > Duplicate and click OK. (Photoshop: Choose Image > Duplicate.)
  • Close the original photo.

Step Two: Select the Clouds and Adjust the Levels

Photoshop Elements: (Adobe Photoshop instructions are below.)

  • Get the Smart Brush tool.
  • In the Tool Options, open the Preset Picker, open the drop-down menu, and choose Nature. Choose the Cloud Contrast preset.
  • Set the Size to 200 px or whatever works best for your photo. (Earlier versions of PSE, open the Brush Picker and set the Diameter to 200 px.)
  • On the document, click and drag over the clouds to select that part of the photo.

Note: If you selected more than you wanted, hold down the Alt key (Mac: Opt key) and carefully click and drag over any parts that you don’t want selected. Because this is a “smart” brush, the more you use it, the more it will learn what you want it to do.

  • Press Ctrl D (Mac : Cmd D) to deselect.

If you like what you see, you’re done! If you think the clouds could use a bit more drama, continue with the following steps.

  • In the Layers panel, double click on the Levels thumbnail of the Adjustment layer that you just created to open the Levels panel.
  • In the Levels panel, click on the Shadow Input slider and drag it to the right until the contrast looks good to you.


Photoshop: (Instructions for Photoshop Elements are above.)

  • Get the Quick Selection tool.
  •  In the Options Bar, click on the New Selection icon, uncheck Sample All Layers, and check Auto-Enhance. Open the Brush Picker. Set the size to 30 px, the Hardness to 100%, and the Spacing 25%.
  • On the document, click and drag over the clouds to select that part of the photo.

Note: If you selected more than you wanted, hold down the Alt key (Mac: Opt key) and carefully click and drag over any parts that you don’t want selected.

  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels, and click OK.
  • In the Properties panel or Adjustment panel, drag the Shadow Input slider to the right until the contrast looks good to you.

Step Three: Save the Photo

  • In the Menu Bar, Choose Layer > Flatten Image.
  • Save the photo with a unique name (File > Save).

Here is my layout with my dramatic clouds. I love how it makes the photo look a little stormy, which works well with my title and pulls me right in.


Digi Scrap Tutorial: Dramatic Clouds by Nannette Dalton
Software: Photoshop Elements 12, Adobe Photoshop CC 2014
Scrapbook page: Walk Beside Me by Nannette Dalton
Papers and embellishments: Outdoor Dad by Brandy Murry
Chevron from Chevron Wave Video Tutorial by Jen White
Fonts: Castellar Regular, Calibri Light Italic

Download this Digi Scrap Tutorial

12 Responses

  1. Jenifer
    | Reply

    This is an awesome tut – I didn’t know PSE had that tool so I might have to give it a try!! Thanks so much for this! 🙂

  2. Janine
    | Reply

    Thank you for that wonderful tutorial. I absolutely love your layout. The clouds are stunning and really focus the eye on your son and little grandson. Parents really need to lead and guide their little ones when faced with so many clouds of adversity.

    • Nann
      | Reply

      Thank you for your kind words Janine. I totally agree with your comment about parents and I for me, Grandparents.

  3. donnal
    | Reply

    Nann, I love your clouds!!! I am going to try this one out real soon. Thanks for the tutorial.

  4. Cathy (britnkaysmemaw2)
    | Reply

    Loved this tutorial. Had never used the Smart Brush before.
    Thanks for always giving us such great tutorials!

  5. Mary Turner
    | Reply

    Doggone, what a difference that made. It was kind of shocking. When I went back to the original I thought I had damaged it, but no, it was just so blah before. This technique really brought my photo to life.

  6. Sharronn
    | Reply

    Thank you for a very nice tutorial! I didn’t know about the Preset Picker, etc.

  7. zita B
    | Reply

    Thanks! great tutorial…

  8. Luisa
    | Reply

    Great tutorial Nann. I have never used the smart brush either.
    Thanks a lot.

  9. Jessie Trotter
    | Reply

    Wow… I can’t believe I haven’t used this tool before! Thanks for bringing this quick and easy fix to our attention!

    • Nann
      | Reply

      I’m so glad you find it useful Jessie.

  10. Tammy Graf
    | Reply

    Wow, this really adds drama to the clouds and photo. I love how you used it to accentuate your message in the scrapbook page. Thanks for the great tutorial.

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