This tutorial will explain how to create an effect involving gigantic twisters (as seen in the film, “The Day After Tomorrow”), and a dissolve effect that goes along with it. You will learn to take a normal city on a nice day and turn it into a havoc and wreaked scene with terrible storms and destroyed buildings.
Create Twister in the City Photoshop Tutorial
This tutorial is very customizable, and you can end up with totally different results from what you see here. This tutorial is to show you how to achieve the effect, and perhaps to give you an idea of how it can look, but you should think of the final image that I will create as more of an inspiration than a rule. In other words, learn the concepts, but experiment and try to make it your own as well. Secondly, because this is my first tutorial ever written, it may be a bit different from what you are used to. The steps for example, are quite thorough (sometimes multiple tasks per step) so they are kind of like chapters. Also, this tutorial might be geared more towards intermediate/advanced photoshoppers, but even if you are brand new to the software, you should be able to follow along (I have tried to be as detailed as possible in the procedure. For example: mapping out how to create a new layer).
Preview of Final Results

Create Twister in the City Photoshop Tutorial
Create Twister in the City Photoshop Tutorial

Stock Photos
Here is the stock photo used for this tutorial. You can download the image through Dreamstime by clicking on the image below. We used the highest resolution  (unscaled) images available to write this tutorial. If you would like to follow this tutorial using the same settings we used, download the highest resolution (unscaled) images available.
Create Twister in the City Photoshop Tutorial
When working with any image in Photoshop, always play things on the cautious side and make new layers for everything. This way, if you make a mistake, you won’t have to start all over, but you might just have to re-do one layer, possibly saving you hours of work. Everything in this tutorial should be done on separate layers.
Step 1 – Open the image of the city
Lets get started! Load the image of the model into Photoshop. To do this, choose File > Open, browse for the file, then click OK. For this tutorial, I just decided that I wanted to leave out some of the city, because it was a really big image. So, in the picture below, you can see that I selected a portion of the city to use in the rest of the tutorial using the marquee tool.
Create Twister in the City Photoshop Tutorial
Step 2 – Scale the image selection that you chose in step 1
Alright, so with that selected, copy it (control/command + C) and paste it into a new document (File > New). The default settings will be fine, and click OK. At this point, you will want to resize the document to a smaller scale (or keep it huge, but the tutorial will work with smaller units, so you will have to adjust everything if you keep the image really big). I rescaled the image to a width of 1200 px (Image > Image Size…) put 1200 in for the width, and the height will scale appropriately, automatically. Before you go any further, name this layer “city”.
Create Twister in the City Photoshop Tutorial
Step 3 – Select the sky
The next thing to do is to select the sky. There are lots of ways to do this, but for this tutorial, I wanted to be quick, so I just grabbed the quick selection (or magic wand) tool “w”, and painted the sky until I had it selected. The pen tool will give you more exact results, but you probably won’t notice small mistakes further on because of the clouds that we will add later. Just try to get a good selection.
Create Twister in the City Photoshop Tutorial
Step 4 – Isolate your buildings
Now you get to choose which buildings you want to apply the effect to. First, you are going to want to select the city instead of the sky, so go to Select > Inverse, and then take the marquee tool “m” and choose the buildings that you want. Hold down option when you click and drag (this will get rid of the selected city on either side of your buildings. You should arrive at something that looks like the following image.
Create Twister in the City Photoshop Tutorial
Step 5 – Prepping for a new sky
With these buildings selected, copy them (control/command + c) and paste them into a new layer, right where they were before (nothing should look different, you’ve only moved the buildings to a different layer). Name this layer “buildings”.
Now, in the layers palette, select the layer “buildings” (control/command + click on the layer “buildings”), and then turn of the visibility of the “buildings” layer, so you can see what you’re doing.
Now go back to the “city” layer (which now is without the buildings that you moved). Then, fill the selection with the color of the sky (use the eye dropper tool “i” to select a blue color somewhere in the sky, and then, fill the selection with the paint bucket/fill tool “g”). You should come up with something like this.
Note: If you cannot seem to select the layer by clicking on it, you are probably clicking the wrong thing. To the left of the layer name, there is a small icon of the layer. You should control/command + click on that image, not the text itself.
Create Twister in the City Photoshop Tutorial
Step 6 – Add a new sky (part 1)
Now, select all the blue like you did before with the wand/quick select “w” tool. With this new selection, create a new layer (Layer > New > Layer) and fill it “g” with a brown (I used #5e5139). You should now see something like this.
Create Twister in the City Photoshop Tutorial
Step 7 – Add a new sky (part 2)
Now we are going to add clouds. In a new layer, using a brown foreground and a black background, go to Filter > Render > Clouds. Once you’ve done that, hit control/command + T, and drag out the sides of the box so that the clouds get a little flatter, and stretched out looking. At this point, you should only see clouds. Take the eraser (using a brush size of about 300px, hardness of 0) and start erasing the bottom of the clouds layer, so that you can begin to see your city again. Customize this as much as you’d like. You probably want to see most of the buildings though. This is what my result looked like.
Don’t worry if your colors are a little off, we will fix that in the last step.
Create Twister in the City Photoshop Tutorial