Make it Rain – Photoshop Tutorial

Article by Bill Fritz

If you have read my previous articles on HDR One you will know that I am really into photo manipulation.  I feel that the use of Photoshop to further enhance your photo is not a sin, but rather an opportunity to create the artwork you envision.

Here we have a HDR photo I took a while back on a cloudy day right before a storm.  I recall this day quite clearly. Here is how I remember that day…

It was a windy and dark April afternoon.  I used my psychic powers to determine the future forecast of rain. (lol) Being the pussy cat I am I quickly took my brackets and scurried back to the comforts of my home.  No sooner did I pop the SD card into my computer, rain started to POUR down.  There I sat, at my computer desk with a smile upon my face.  I made it home just in time to avoid myself and my camera from becoming drenched.  I then processed the photo and came up with the result pictured above.  I looked at it for a while.  Then I looked out the window at the storm outside.  I began to wonder to myself “What would this photo look like if I had waited and took this photo during the rain?”

If you guessed that this article is about creating rain in your images, you are correct.   Although I do not have a prize to give you for guessing correctly, I do have the tutorial for you instead.

(This tutorial works with any kind of image. HDR or not)

Step 1 – Open your image in Photoshop
Step 2 – Create a new layer (CTRL+SHIFT+N) and name that layer “Rain”.
Step 3 – Now we need to fill this layer with black.  You can use the keyboard shortcut (CTRL+BACKSPACE) to bring up the “Fill” dialogue box.  Under Contents choose BLACK.  Leave the Blending options to the default, which should be MODE: Normal, OPACITY: 100%, and preserve transparency unchecked. After you have done that, click OK.  Now that we have our black layer, it’s time to make it rain!
Step 4 – With the “Rain” layer selected go to the Filter drop down menu, select “Noise”, then “Add Noise”.  A new box will appear with some options.  The amount I usually give it a value of 100% but you can always change this after playing around with this tutorial.  But for now, leave it at 100%.  The Distribution you definitely want to choose “Uniform” and check off the “monochromatic” box. Once you have done that click OK.
Step 5 – Now we have a bunch of white dots.  Doesn’t look like much, but believe me… it is rain.  Change the blend mode of the “Rain” layer to “Screen”.  This will make all the black pixels of that layer transparent and leave only the non-pure black pixels visible.  You will now see the white dots overlaid the original image.

Step 6 – Go up to the filter menu again, select “Blur”, then select “Motion Blur”.  Now you should see what looks like rain.  Using the “Distance” slider and the angle degree you can change the direction of the falling rain and the motion blur it.  Click ok.

Step 7 – You will probably notice that around the edges the rain layer may look a little inconsistent.  This is an easy fix.  With the “Rain” layer selected, press CTRL+T to Free Transform the layer.  Then hold down ALT+SHIFT and drag one of the corners to make the layer slightly larger until the inconsistency is out of frame.
Step 8 – The rain effect is a bit much at this point so we will change that now.  Using the opacity slider will work, but not very well.  We need to create a Levels Adjustment Layer for the rain layer.  There are a couple ways to make this adjustment layer, one them is going up to the Layer drop down menu, choose New Adjustment Layer, and select Levels.  Make sure this levels adjustment layer is directly on top of the rain layer and hold down the ALT key and hover your mouse between the “Rain” layer and the Adjustment layer.  A little arrow and square will appear as your curser.  Left Click when you see this and it will tell the adjustment layer to ONLY affect the Rain layer.
Step 9 – In the levels histogram, you will see a tiny little spike.  Using the levels sliders, push the shadows to the right of that spike, move the highlights to the left a bit, and the mid tones to the right a bit.  This isn’t an exact science, so please feel free to choose the settings that you find visually pleasing. Also, since this is an adjustment layer, you can change your settings at any time.  It is not set in stone so no worries!  Conveniently we can see the changes in real time. Here is what my final levels adjustment looks like.

Step 10 – Select both the Rain and Adjustment layer by holding down CTRL and clicking on each one and put them into a group by pressing CTRL+G.  Name this group “Rain 1”.
Step 11 – Duplicate this group (CTRL+J) and name it “Rain 2”.  This rain layer will help “sell the fake” even further by creating a sense of DOF (Depth of Field).  With the “Rain 2” group selected press CTRL+T to Free Transform it.  We want to make it around 300% larger.  After you enlarged this group, open up the group folder and select the Rain layer.  In the filter menu, select Blur, Gaussian Blur.  Give it a radius of about 4.5 or so and click ok.  This will blur the rain and trick the viewer’s eye to make it appear closer to the camera.  You can then adjust the levels adjustment layer in that group to reduce or exaggerate the effect.  I chose to reduce it a bit and lower the opacity of the group.
Step 12 – Using the opacities of the layers and the levels adjustment layers you can change the effect to your liking.  ALSO!  Since we have the rain in groups, we can add layer masks to the groups and paint away or paint in the rain where we want or don’t want it.  Here is what my image looks like after messing with the settings.

And after a bit of color correction and custom water drop brushes we get the final image…

The color was adjusted using a Gradient Map in “Soft Light” Blend Mode.  I will get into that further in another tutorial!

So that’s it!  A little more involved than a rain dance but seems to work a little better ;)


One of my previous tutorials on HDR One was “Turning Day into Night”.  To add onto that tutorial you can use this tutorial to create rain at night!  Or even better, add stars to the sky!  All you have to do is follow this tutorial the same way, except do not apply the motion blur filter.  This will leave the layer as dots, which can be used as stars!  Adjust them using the same adjustment layer technique and use a layer mask to isolate them to the sky in your scene!

I hope you found this tutorial informative and useful.  I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

-Bill Fritz
Fritz Photography

  • Karen Comber-Ceraldi

    Fantastic! Thanks :)


    Amazing creation!I

    That’s what Photography is all about….
    Thank you.