July 20, 2010


Making Skies dramatic in GIMP

An easy way to make ordinary white cloud on blue skies into dramatic significant parts of your photographs. This is a very simple trick to do in GIMP and the results are great!

Dramatic Skies in GIMP

Dramatic Skies in GIMP

1. Starting

  • Open your image up in GIMP – preferably with plenty of sky!
  • Duplicate your Background Layer (set to multiply):
  • And go, Colors –> Components –> Channel Mixer:
Colors --> Components --> Channel Mixer

Colors –> Components –> Channel Mixer

2. Channel Mixer

  • To make your sky really dramatic with dark blue sky you need to really experiment here!
  • Firstly, select Monochrome, leave preserve luminosity unchecked:
  • In most cases moving the RED Channel to 200 will be fine, but if you have a mixture of colours than you will have to experiment a little:
  • The GREEN Channel will sit in between the Red and blue channels, and can be used to increase brightness if your image is lacking red.
  • The BLUE Channel is the most important here, decreasing the blue channel will make those dramatic dark skies, so keep this low as possible:
  • At the end set the blending mode to Multiply:
  • My image could be very different to yours and the settings will vary so you need to play around a bit to achieve that desirable effect:
Channel Mixer - Monochrome: 200, -25, -75

Channel Mixer – Monochrome: 200, -25, -75

3.a. Gradient Map – Black & White

  • A Gradient Map will increase contrast and better define the clouds from the dark blue sky.
  • Duplicate your original layer
  • Make sure your FG is Black and BG is White:
  • Go, Colors –> Map –> Gradient Map:
  • And set that layer to Overlay:
Gradient Map - Colors --> Map --> Gradient Map

Gradient Map – Colors –> Map –> Gradient Map

4. Adjusting Levels – White

  • To make your clouds perfect white go, Colors –> Levels:
  • Now, select the WHITE Selector (pipette) and click on the whitest part of your clouds:
Adjusting Levels - Colors --> Levels

Adjusting Levels – Colors –> Levels

5. Saturation (optional)

Sometimes, depending on the image, the colours are drained. So, in order to get back the colour we can:

  • Duplicate your original layer
  • To emphasis the colour go, Colors –> Hue-Saturation
  • Increase the saturation to maximum, may not be necessary but you can always go back and tweak things.
  • Drag this layer to the top of the layers, and set the mode to overlay


Here is the BEFORE and AFTER shot:

Before/After - Dramatic Skies in GIMP

Before/After – Dramatic Skies in GIMP

That’s It!

If you get stuck anywhere just comment below!

If you’d like to use these photographs please Contact Me!

Please comment below if you have any questions and I’ll answer them ASAP!

All images on this site are copyrighted© – All Rights Reserved.

Written by Mike

Michael Scott is the publisher and photographer behind Scott Photographics! He is very passionate about his photography and enjoys sharing the best of his experiences for others to enjoy too! Contact Mike via email!
Read more from Featured, Gimp, Tutorials
17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aman
    Jun 7 2017

    Could you please mail me a manipulation tutorial? I’m using gimp 2

  2. Andreas
    Aug 17 2013

    I did it, however my picture seemed to stay too dark… maybe I should be more careful with channel mixer

  3. Aug 11 2012

    Hi Megan,

    Yes, this is a bit of an issue with certain images where the dramatic sky effect compromises the overall image because it becomes too dark and the colour is drained.

    However, I experimented with your image, did all the steps except the levels, but added a very saturated duplicate of the original image, and set it to overlay. I also used a layer mask (gradient), so the bottom half of the image was not effected by the channel mixer layer.

    Layer Mask process, step 2b: https://www.scottphotographics.com/digital-blending-dynamic-range-gimp/

    I increased the overall exposure as well.


    This was a very quick edit, and with some more tweaking in the channel mixer I’m sure you’ll be able to get a great result!


  4. Megan
    Aug 9 2012

    Ok, So I think I am getting something wrong somewhere….. :( My color is also drained.. I don’t get it.

    Gimp 2.8





    Help me please… I do all the steps.. but this I don’t see where this is…

    ‘At the end set the blending mode to Multiply’

  5. Nov 30 2011

    Hi Paz,

    I think replacing a sky with another is possibly the best option, as it comes a bit time consuming creating clouds.

    Here are a few links for replacing skies in GIMP:



    Good Luck!


  6. paz
    Nov 26 2011

    Hi, Mike — Thanks for the tutorial. I’m often working with images that have a washed-out sky and would like to learn how to select just the sky and change it from just a near-white, washed-out, cloudless thing into a more rich-blue “classic” with some fleecy white stuff. Is that possible? I suspect I need to learn about working with channels… Thanks in advance.

  7. Oct 14 2011

    Thanks Leslie:)

  8. leslie
    Oct 14 2011

    Hi Michael, thank you so much for your wonderful tutorials. I shared the one for watermarks on G+. Wondering…are you on there? I’d love to connect with you, if you are. Thanks again! They are great!

  9. Apr 10 2011

    Hi Ken,

    You may experience your colour being drained if you don’t set the Gradient Map layer to mode: Overlay – you might like to experiment with the opacity of the layers to find the right look!

    Comment below if you are still having troubles.



  10. KenP
    Apr 7 2011

    When I follow this tutorial, most of the colour is drained from my image. I am assuming I should have a new layer for each step and the blending mode is as described.


  11. Jul 29 2010

    Hi Jacob,

    you are right in some cases, however HDR has become more of a surreal image manipulation recently. It is intended to create a better/realistic image by combining the different lit shots – that a camera can only capture with multiple photographs – unlike our eyes which are constantly adjusting and scanning with to varying conditions.

    So, I wouldn’t discount ‘dynamic range’ images, as you can have a whole spectrum of results.



  12. Jul 29 2010

    Nice, simple. I never understood what “dynamic range” really is. People talk about how you have to have a special kind of camera or image program to gain HDR images, but if it could be done in GIMP, I’m not really all that impressed. Don’t get me wrong, I love GIMP, but dynamic images just seem like another simple image manipulation that people are over hyping.

  13. Jul 29 2010

    Thanks! Nice, simple, effective.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Best of GIMP: 40 Professional Tutorials to Level Up your Skills | The JotForm Blog
  2. Making Skies dramatic - GHUJ – Gimp Tutorials
  3. Links: KDevelop 4.0.1, GNOME 3… | Techrights
  4. Tweets that mention Making Skies dramatic in GIMP | Scott Photographics | Free Photography, GIMP & Photoshop Tutorials -- Topsy.com

Share your thoughts, post a comment.


Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

35 queries 0.597secs