Creating a Realistic Rainbow in Photoshop
Since I am doing a post on rainbows, I thought I would first pass on a little trivia about them. Did you know that there are usually seven colors in a rainbow, but most people do not see the indigo layer between the lighter blue and purple arcs? The stronger the sunlight and rain, the more intense the rainbow. This is actually a pretty complicated weather effect. The image of my miniature mums was just plain fun to do and is not exactly a very realistic rainbow representation. I started by adding French Kiss Artiste Promenade texture and painting out the mums in a layer mask. Next a rainbow was created following Deke McClelland‘s Creating a Synthetic Rainbow Effect from his Photoshop Masking and Compositing Fundamentals DVDs. (He is coming out with his new Photoshop book shortly that should be great!). The Gradient Tool was selected to create a rainbow. Below are the basic steps for creating a rainbow effect:
1. Add a New Layer. An optional step is to restrain the actual size of the rainbow – select the Rectangular Marquee Tool and in the Options Bar set t0 Style -> Fixed Size and enter Width the settings I used above were 1000 and Height 337 pixels while Deke used 1840 width by 187 height.
2. If using a selection, keep it active and set up a gradient using settings as shown in the screenshot or download my gradient below. The Rainbow gradient provided by Photoshop has some issues – mainly rainbows do not contain any orange colors, the reds are too squished, and a cyan color is included which is not in a rainbow. Deke suggested these basic gradient settings to make a more realistic rainbow gradient.
The lower color tab locations could be adjusted to get more or less of a specific color in the rainbow. Save your new Gradient as a preset so it can be used again or click to download my SJ Rainbow Gradient and resulting rainbow PNG files that contain these settings.
3.Using the Gradient Tool with the Options Bar set with the new rainbow gradient and Linear, drag out to create a horizontal line rainbow. If using an active selection from Step 1, drag exactly between the top Rectangular Marquee line and bottom while holding the SHIFT key to get a straight across effect. Be sure you drag top to bottom or your rainbow will be backwards. (I know because I did this.) Deselect (CTRL+D) the selection.
4. Now go to Edit -> Transform -> Warp and in the Options Bar select Warp Arc and Bend 90% to get a large semi-circle rainbow. To switch back to the other Free Transform settings, just click the Warp icon in Options Bar. To make size of rainbow smaller to fit in your image, set bend and click on the little chain icon (Maintain Aspect Ratio icon) in the Options Bar between W: and H: and change 100% to 70% (or whatever size works on your image). If scaling manually, be sure to hold the SHIFT button while dragging on the corners or the perspective of the rainbow will change. To get a more stylized rainbow look or one that fits around an object, the corners can actually be pulled to adjust the transform lines to make the rainbow line up any way you want by right clicking in the rainbow and selecting Distort or Skew. Then click on the check mark to set the total transformation.
5. Add a layer mask and with a soft low opacity black brush, adjust the rainbow into your image.
6. Set rainbow layer blend mode to Linear Light and change the Fill value to 15%
7. To reduce the edges of the colors in your rainbow, go to Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set a Radius to 8 (or whatever setting you think looks good).
You now have a beautiful rainbow in your image! I actually added a sketch on top of my flower and a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer using the rainbow gradient again and set the layer to 31% opacity to get the rainbow effect on the petals.
Here is another image that uses the same rainbow created for the first image. The PNG rainbow blurred from my rainbow download was brought into the image. The image was first processed in Lightroom starting with David duChemin’s Iceland Split Greens preset (from his newest book The Print and the Process: Taking Compelling Photographs from Vision to Expression) and using an Adjustment Brush to add sharpening and clarity to the houses. In Photoshop Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and the Detail Extractor and Graduated Neutral Density filters were added to enhance the clouds and give them a brighter look on the right side of the image. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to darken down the area behind the houses to give more of a stormy effect, which is needed to get a realistic looking rainbow. Next the rainbow was placed in the image and Free Transform (CTRL+T) to get the right size and location. The rainbow layer was set to 51% opacity and a layer mask was added – the upper right corner of the rainbow was gently painted out. My SJ Painter Oil Frame was applied and a Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers so change only effect the layer below) to the frame – the color was changed to a matching light color in the image. To get the painted edges, a layer mask was added and using a 12% soft brush, the edges were painted out lightly to get more of a painted canvas look. French Kiss Artiste Breeze texture was added on top. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to it and the Saturation set to -100. The texture layer was set to Vivid Light blend mode at 22% opacity. This is an image I probably would not have processed if a texture had not been applied to it and the rainbow really opened up the sky. Now I really like it – it looks like the English countryside that I saw while traveling to Bath.
Just having fun here. Was not sure where this was going and this is what I ended up with. This is actually made up of three groups – Rainbow, Shamrock Pot and Flower Pot. French Kiss Artiste Flower Garden texture was used as a backdrop. It took a lot of manipulation to get the main components set up correctly. The Rainbow was warped to fit into the pots. The flowers were created from an image of a pin I had taken and turned into a brush. All the clip-art is from the wonderful Obsidian Dawn St. Patricks Day brushes. Various layer styles were applied to the different layers and the Cosmi font is called 36 – you might find it on an old CD of fonts.
There are a few other tutorials out there on how to make a rainbow. One in an older book called Photoshop Photo Effects Cookbook has a fairly easy tutorial to follow – I just did not like the gradient effect and final rainbow quite as much. I hope you download my rainbow and give this a try. This was really a fun thing to try….Digital Lady Syd