Blue Skies to Blood Red Apocalypse Photo Edit

Introduction: Blue Skies to Blood Red Apocalypse Photo Edit

About: Always making something....

Sometimes you need a picture of a world being swallowed by red clouds in the middle of the night, but it’s just not practical to stage the photo for real (especially if you’re including something real/iconic, like this well worn water tower on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.) Easy enough, take a sunny day picture and apply a few layer and filter techniques to give it a sense of doom.

Original photo credit: Antibromide, used with very gracious permission.

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Step 1: Layer Edits

I used Pixlr Editor for most of my editing (apart from one filter at the end.) Open your image in Pixlr. I show all of the things I clicked and adjustments I made in the screen shots, so if you can’t find something in the menus you can probably find it by referring to the images.

Duplicate the layer.
Change the mode to “Multiply,” leave it at 100%.
Merge the layer down.
Duplicate the layer.
Change the mode to “Screen,” adjust it to be the highest contrast you can before it starts to look fake.
Merge the layer down.

Step 2: Change the Sky

Use the magic wand to select the sky. There was no other significant blue in my image, so I un-selected “contiguous” in the options bar for the magic wand to save time.

When the whole sky is selected, use the brightness/contrast tool to increase the sky contrast. This will help the sky look more dramatic later.

Select “color lookup.”

Choose a color or gradient to apply to the sky. I used the red to black gradient and increased the amount of black by adjusting the sliders.

Step 3: Make the Buildings Match the Sky

Invert the selection.

The sky is red so the ambient light would be red. Choose the “color balance” and increase the red offset.

Use the “curves” menu to tweak the buildings a bit more.


Deselect all. I noticed that some blue pixels had escaped my magic wand, so I fixed it.

Select the “lasso” tool and increase the feathering amount - I chose 41.

Make a loose loop around the water tower with it’s wayward blue pixels.

Adjust the blue and green offsets in the color balance menu until the problem disappears.

Deselect all.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

It was still a little too cheery looking to be an apocalypse, so I added a little vignetting around the edges. This really pulled it from “stop and look at the sky to access to situation” into a full scale “run for your life” look.

I saved the image and opened it with Pixlr-o-matic and applied the “Fullon” overlay, because it’s only a matter of time until the panic stricken townsfolk stop looting and start setting things on fire anyway.

Halloween Photo Editing Contest with Pixlr

Participated in the
Halloween Photo Editing Contest with Pixlr

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    very cool, were you doing all these adjustments directly to the image layer, or in separate layers?