Photoshop Rain Effect Tutorial

Photoshop Rain Effect – How To Add Rain To A Photo

This Photoshop tutorial shows you how to easily add rain to a photo, and how to keep the rain effect non-destructive and fully editable using Smart Filters and adjustment layers. For Photoshop CC and CS6.

Written by Steve Patterson.

Like the rain but not the thought of damaging your camera? In this tutorial, you'll learn how to add rain to your photos with Photoshop! This simple rain effect can be a great way to add mood and atmosphere to an image, and without getting your camera wet. You'll also learn how to keep the rain effect fully editable using Smart Filters and adjustment layers in Photoshop. That way, you'll be able to go back and adjust the amount of rain, the direction the rain is falling from, and the overall brightness and contrast of the effect.

I'll be using Photoshop CC but this tutorial is fully compatible with Photoshop CS6. If you're using Photoshop CS5 or earlier, you'll want to check out our original Adding Rain To A Photo tutorial.

Here's the image I'll be using. I downloaded this one from Adobe Stock:

Woman with umbrella. Image 156783833 licensed from Shutterstock
The original photo.

And here's what it will look after adding the rain:

A rain effect created in Photoshop CS6.
The final effect.

This tutorial is from our Photo Effects collection. Let's get started!

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How To Create A Rain Effect In Photoshop

Step 1: Add A New Blank Layer

If we look in the Layers panel, we see our newly-opened image sitting on the Background layer:

The Layers panel in Photoshop CC showing the Background layer.
The Layers panel showing the image on the Background layer.

Start by adding a new blank layer. Press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard and click the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:

Clicking the New Layer icon in the Layers panel.
Clicking the New Layer icon while pressing and holding Alt (Win) / Option (Mac).

Holding the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key tells Photoshop to pop open the New Layer dialog box where we can name the layer before it's added. Name the layer "Rain", and then click OK to close the dialog box:

Naming the layer in the New Layer dialog box.
Naming the new layer.

A new blank layer named "Rain" appears above the Background layer:

The Layers panel showing the new Rain layer.
The new layer is added.

Step 2: Fill The New Layer With Black

We need to fill our "Rain" layer with black, and we can do that using Photoshop's Fill command. Go up to the Edit menu in the Menu Bar and choose Fill:

Selecting the Fill command from the Edit menu in Photoshop.
Going to Edit > Fill.

This opens the Fill dialog box. Set the Contents option at the top to Black. Make sure Mode is set to Normal and Opacity is at 100%. Click OK to close the dialog box:

The Fill dialog box in Photoshop.
Changing the Contents option to Black.

Photoshop fills the "Rain" layer with black, temporarily hiding the image from view:

The document after filling the Rain layer with black.
The document after filling the "Rain" layer with black.

Step 3: Apply The Add Noise Filter

To create the rain effect, we'll use Photoshop's Add Noise filter to add a bunch of random dots (or "noise") to the layer. Go up to the Filter menu in the Menu Bar, choose Noise, and then choose Add Noise:

Selecting the Add Noise filter from the Filter menu in Photoshop.
Going to Filter > Noise > Add Noise.

In the Add Noise dialog box, set the Amount value to 25%. In the Distribution section, choose Gaussian, and then select Monochromatic at the bottom of the dialog box, which limits the color of the noise to black and white. Click OK when you're done:

The Add Noise dialog box
The Add Noise options.

Photoshop fills the layer with noise. It's not very bright at the moment, but we'll fix that in a bit:

The Rain layer after applying the Add Noise filter
The "Rain" layer after filling it with noise.

Step 4: Scale The Rain Layer To 400%

The dots are too small to look like rain, so let's make them bigger using Photoshop's Scale command. Go up to the Edit menu in the Menu Bar, choose Transform, and then choose Scale:

Selecting the Scale command in Photoshop.
Going to Edit > Transform > Scale.

In the Options Bar, click the link icon between the Width (W) and Height (H) values. This links them together so that changing one will automatically change the other:

Linking the Width and Height options in the Options Bar.
Linking the Width and Height options in the Options Bar.

Set the Width to 400%. Photoshop sets the Height to 400% to match:

Increasing the Width and Height tp 400%.
Increasing the Width and Height to 400%.

Click the checkmark in the Options Bar to accept the scaling:

Clicking the checkmark in the Options Bar.
Clicking the checkmark.

With the "Rain" layer scaled to 400% of its original size, the dots are now much bigger:

The image after scaling the Rain layer.
The effect after scaling the "Rain" layer by 400%.

Step 5: Change The Blend Mode To Screen

A big problem at the moment is that the noise is blocking our image from view. To fix that, change the blend mode of the "Rain" layer from Normal (the default blend mode) to Screen:

Changing the layer blend mode from Normal to Screen.
Changing the layer blend mode to Screen.

The Screen blend mode hides all the areas of black on the "Rain" layer, leaving only the white dots visible:

The effect after changing the blend mode to Screen.
The effect after changing the blend mode to Screen.

Related: Learn the 5 essential blend modes for photo editing.

Step 6: Convert The Rain Layer Into A Smart Object

We're going to change those white dots into falling rain using Photoshop's Motion Blur filter. But before we do, let's convert our "Rain" layer into a Smart Object. That way, the Motion Blur filter will be applied as a Smart Filter. This will let us experiment with the filter settings without making any permanent changes or losing image quality. With the "Rain" layer selected, click on the menu icon in the top right corner of the Layers panel:

Clicking the Layers panel menu icon.
Clicking the Layers panel menu icon.

Choose Convert to Smart Object from the menu:

Selecting the Convert to Smart Object command from the Layers panel menu.
Selecting "Convert to Smart Object".

Nothing will happen to the image itself, but if we look at the "Rain" layer's preview thumbnail in the Layers panel, we now see a Smart Object icon in the lower right corner. This is how Photoshop tells us that the layer is now a Smart Object:

The Smart Object icon in the preview thumbnail.
The Smart Object icon in the preview thumbnail.

Step 7: Apply The Motion Blur Filter

We're ready to add some motion to our rain effect with the Motion Blur filter. Go up to the Filter menu, choose Blur, and then choose Motion Blur:

Selecting the Motion Blur filter in Photoshop.
Going to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur.

This opens the Motion Blur dialog box. First, set the direction the rain is falling using the Angle option. You can enter a value directly into the box or turn the dial (it's more fun to turn the dial). I'll set my angle to 65°. Then, set the amount of motion blur using the Distance option. Drag the slider along the bottom to change the value and preview the results in your image. I'll set mine to 75 pixels but this will depend a lot on the size of your image. Don't worry about getting it exactly right for now because we can always change the value later if we need to. Click OK when you're done to close the dialog box:

The Motion Blur options.
The Motion Blur options.

Photoshop takes a few moments to apply the motion blur, and when it's done, the noise becomes falling rain:

The effect after applying the Motion Blur filter to the noise.
The rain effect after applying the Motion Blur filter to the noise.

And if we look again in the Layers panel, we see the Motion Blur filter listed as a Smart Filter below the "Rain" Smart Object:

The Layers panel showing the Motion Blur Smart Filter.
The Layers panel showing the Motion Blur Smart Filter.

Step 8: Add A Levels Adjustment Layer

To reduce the amount of rain, and add some brightness and contrast to the effect, we'll use a Levels adjustment layer. Press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard and click the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:

Clicking the New Adjustment Layer icon while holding Alt (Win) / Option (Mac).
Clicking the New Adjustment Layer icon while holding Alt (Win) / Option (Mac).

Choose a Levels adjustment layer from the list:

Adding a Levels adjustment layer
Adding a Levels adjustment layer.

Photoshop again opens the New Layer dialog box, this time for the Levels adjustment layer. Select Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. This will clip the Levels adjustment layer to the "Rain" layer below it, which means we'll only be affecting the rain itself. The adjustment layer won't have any effect on the original image. Click OK to close the dialog box:

Selecting the Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask option in the New Layer dialog box.
Selecting "Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask".

Looking in the Layers panel, we see the new Levels adjustment layer, named "Levels 1", above the "Rain" layer. The adjustment layer appears indented to the right with a small arrow pointing down at the "Rain" layer below it. This tells us that the adjustment layer is clipped to the "Rain" layer:

The Layers panel showing the Levels adjustment layer.
The Layers panel showing the Levels adjustment layer.

Related: How To Use Clipping Masks in Photoshop

Step 9: Drag The Black And White Point Sliders

The controls for the Levels adjustment layer appear in Photoshop's Properties panel. In the center of the panel is the histogram, a graph showing us the tonal range of the image (or in this case, of the "Rain" layer). If you look directly below the histogram, you'll see three sliders. There's a black slider on the left, a white slider on the right, and a gray slider in the middle. To adjust the rain effect, we only need the black and white sliders:

The Levels black point and white point sliders.
The black (left) and white (right) sliders below the histogram.

First, to reduce the amount of rain, click on the black slider and begin dragging it slowly towards the right. As you drag, you'll see the darkest areas of rain getting even darker, and eventually disappearing completely. Then, to brighten the rain that's still visible, click on the white slider and begin dragging it to the left.

You'll want to play around with the sliders a bit, going back and forth between them to find the settings that work best. But just like Smart Filters in Photoshop, adjustment layers are fully editable and non-destructive. This means you can always re-adjust the sliders later if you need to:

Dragging the Levels black point and white point sliders.
Adjusting the black and white sliders.

Here's my rain effect after dragging the sliders. There's now less rain overall, and the effect has more contrast:

The image after adjusting the rain effect with Levels.
The effect after enhancing the rain with Levels.

Step 10: Re-Adjust The Motion Blur Or Levels Settings If Needed

You may find, after moving the sliders, that there's no longer enough motion being applied to the rain. To adjust the motion blur amount, double-click on the Motion Blur Smart Filter in the Layers panel:

Double-clicking the Motion Blur Smart Filter.
Double-clicking the Motion Blur Smart Filter.

This re-opens the Motion Blur dialog box. To add more motion, increase the Distance value. In my case, I'll increase it from 75 pixels to 150 pixels, but again, this will depend on the size of your image. You can also adjust the angle while you're here, but I'll leave mine set to 65°. Click OK when you're done to close the dialog box:

Increasing the Distance value in the Motion Blue dialog box
Increasing the Distance value to add more motion to the rain.

If, after adding more motion, the rain is now looking too faint, click on the Levels adjustment layer to reselect it. To make sure you're selecting the layer itself, not its layer mask, click on the histogram icon:

Reselecting the Levels adjustment layer.
Reselecting the Levels adjustment layer.

Back in the Properties panel, adjust the black and white sliders as needed to lighten or darken the rain and adjust its overall contrast. In my case, I'll leave the black slider alone and just drag the white slider a little to the right to brighten the effect:

Making final adjustments to the black point and white point sliders.
Making final adjustments to the black and white sliders in Levels.

And with that, we're done! Here, after fine-tuning the sliders, is my final Photoshop rain effect:

A rain effect created in Photoshop CS6.
The final result.

And there we have it! That's how to add rain to a photo with Photoshop! Did you know that the same steps can be used for other Photoshop effects? Try adding snow to photo or even adding stars to a night sky and I think you'll be amazed at how similar the steps really are! Or visit our Photo Effects section for more Photoshop effects tutorials!

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