Custom Doppler Radar Storm in Photoshop

By May 2, 2017Tutorials

In the process of creating a vehicle wrap for my employer, I was wanting to place bits of a doppler radar in my design. I could have taken a screenshot of a storm system on a map, but I was limited to a resolution of 1920×1080. The problem with that is when it is sized up for print graphics, it loses quality and becomes blurry and pixelated. So I wanted to create my own¬†doppler radar storm system on the vehicle. This is all possible in Photoshop using a Gradient Map.

For reference, I found this radar system on Google. Notice how it also includes a gradient on the left side to indicate the storm’s severity:
Radar Storm Map

We’ll use this gradient as a main reference in our file.

Create a New Document

Start by creating a new document in Photoshop. It can be any size you want. I chose a standard letter size for the purpose of this tutorial. For now, choose a white background:
Photoshop New Document

Create a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer

With the Adjustments panel open, click the Gradient Map adjustment layer:
Adjustments Panel

Edit the gradient to match that of the reference radar from above. Use a black color stop for the leftmost side. When I created mine, I did it backwards, and had to check the “Reverse” option in the layer properties. Make sure this is selected if using the same gradient as I used:

Gradient Editor

Your document should now be all black.

Paint your Custom Radar

To paint the storm system, I used a free brush that I found online called “Particles n’ Stars”. You can download it here:
Custom Brushes

Once you have installed the brush, select the Brush Tool, then click the down arrow on the main toolbar next to the brush. Click the small gear, then choose the Particles n’ Stars brush to replace your current set. Then choose the “684” size as I have highlighted here:
Custom Brush

Change the brush’s opacity to about 20%, then make sure the original, white layer is selected. Also make sure the foreground color is black and background is white. Start painting on the layer to get your desired effect. You can swap the foreground and background colors using the X key to add/subtract more radar.

You could even add Curves and Posterize adjustment layers to further control the look you’re going for. The only issue I ran into is that Gradient Maps do not support opacity (that I know of). So in order to get rid of the black, you could use the¬†Color Range… function in Photoshop. Then use that selection to create a layer mask on a layer group folder. Here’s the layer breakdown:

In the end, you might end up with something close to this:
Weather Storm Radar

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me! Hope this helps!

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