In this tutorial I'm going to show a very nice and easy way for creating realistic clouds using Photoshop. However, the end result for you may not be exactly the same as mine. I'll try to be detailed and provide you with all the information that will help you create a very realistic cloud!
So, let’s begin.
The first thing we need to do is create our cloud brush. Go to File, New and create a new 600x600 document. And make the foreground color black and the background color white.
Now go to Filter, then Render and select Clouds. It will change your background to a white and gray cloud.
Using the Lasso Tool, select a part from the cloud. Make sure that you select a part with dark and light gray.
With that part selected go to Select, then Modify, choose Feather and set the radius to about 10 to make the edge of the shape softer.
Now press Ctrl + C to copy the selection and the Ctrl + V to paste it a new layer. Now make the background layer invisible by clicking the eye icon beside it.
Select the layer with the cloud we just pasted and go to Image and select Trim and Click OK. Trim removes all the areas that are 100% transparent and contains no pixels.
Go to Image, Adjustments and select Brightness/Contrast to edit the brush.
Now we have to save the brush. Go to Edit and select Define Brush Preset. Name your brush and click OK.
Now select the Brush Tool and click F5 to show the Brush Palette. Select your brush. If you hover over a brush, the name of it will appear. Leave these settings the way they are.
Go to Shape Dynamics and apply the settings shown below.
Go to Color Dynamics and apply the settings shown below too.
Make sure that all the other options are unchecked. We only changed the Shape and Color Dynamics.
Go to Brush Preset, select your brush and choose Create new brush in the bottom. Give it a name and click OK. Then go to the previous brush you created, right click on it and then choose Delete.
Now let's save the brush for further use. Click F5 to hide the Brush Palette. Go to Edit and choose Preset Manager. Select your brush and click on Save Set. Give it a name and then click OK. Click Done when you're finished.
Now we're done with creating the brush. Next thing is, USE IT!
Create a new document 640x480. If you want larger or smaller, you're free to do so.
Set the Foreground to a dark blue and set the background to a lighter blue. The values I chose are as follows:
Now select the gradient tool and select the Foreground to Background Option and make it linear.
Now, place your mouse at the top of the page and drag it all the way down to create a gradient color in the background. Press Shift as you drag to make the line straight.
Now press D to reset the foreground and background to black and white. Then Click X to switch the colors, making the foreground white and the background white.
Now create a new layer and select the Brush Tool and choose the clouds brush that we created. Now adjust the brush settings as below.
Now let's start drawing!
Now add another new layer, make the brush size smaller about 50px and start painting a small part inside the other cloud.
I just made the background black for a second to show where I painted.
Now, add another layer and decrease the size of the brush again to about 32 and start painting around the edge of the cloud from the top as shown below.
Now, we'll merge the cloud layer. Make the background layer invisible and then create a new layer. Make sure that the new layer is selected and press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E to merge the visible layers into the layer that we created. Rename it to clouds. Now make all the other layers invisible and bring back the background.
Create a new layer, go to Edit and choose Fill. Make it 50% gray.
Now press Ctrl + Alt + G to clip this layer to the Clouds layer and set the Mode to Overlay.
Now select the burn Tool and in the options select the size of 60 px and no hardness. This will increase the contrast.
With layer 4 selected, paint over the edge of the cloud.
Now we have to add some shadow to the cloud to make it look even more realistic.
Set the foreground color to a dark blue. Color value: #25477d
Now click on the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer (At the bottom of the Layer Palette) and choose Gradient. Set it to the values as below. Make sure that you select the “Foreground to Transparent” option from the menu.
Now you should clip this layer with the layer below it pressing Ctrl + Alt + G.
Your cloud should look something like this.
Now click once on the masked part of the layer and click D to set the Foreground to black.
Select the brush tool and adjust the settings as shown below.
Now paint at the edges from the top and left side of the cloud where it needs to be brighter. If you need more or less opacity change it from the menu shown above considering that higher opacity places will be brighter. Use the blur tool to ease the transition between the darker and lighter parts. You should have something like shown below.
Create a new layer and then click on the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer (At the bottom of the Layer Palette) as we did before and choose Solid. Select dark/blue color. I selected #5d6f8f. Set the mode of this layer to color and clip it to the layers below it by pressing on Ctrl + Alt + G.
You should have something like this now.
Now we're going to create a new layer to merge all the other layers to create many clouds. These are the layers that should be visible.
After you create a new layer, set the background to invisible. And while standing on the new layer click Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E to merge visible layers. After they’re merged bring the background back.
Now let's make several copies of the cloud by dragging it to the "Create New Layer" icon. The Select the Move Tool and move the clouds around and spread them in the picture.
Now select the brush tool, select our cloud brush and set it to 5px or a very small size. Make sure the opacity is 100%. Select the background layer and then create a new layer. Set the foreground color to a very light blue and the background to a bit darker one.
The values I used:
Now start making random lines in the picture as shown below.
Now go to Filter, choose Blur and select Motion Blur.
Adjust it till you start seeing getting a realistic motion effect. I used the values below.
There you go, add some birds or planes and you've got yourself a realistic image of the sky! The plane image is a photo. I just decreased the opacity of the cloud in the back to appear as if it's in the back.