I have a black and white cloud in one Photoshop layer and I want to turn it into a transparent single-color cloud in another layer. Like this:

A black and white cloud.

The same cloud, but now transparent.

Easy enough so far, I can just use the original cloud as a layer mask on a layer of whatever color I want the transparent cloud to be. But for this project I really need to be able to do this dynamically, meaning that I can render a new cloud and immediately get the transparent cloud. It seems like there has to be a way of doing this via some combination of smart objects, groups, and blending options but I can't figure out how.

Any help would be appreciated.

2 Answers 2


I finally figured out how to do what I wanted! It's convoluted, and there might be a simpler way, but it works. I thought I would post an answer to my own question for the benefit of anyone else trying to do the same thing.

The breakthrough was realizing that you can split the "Blend If" sliders in half by holding down alt (option on mac). This allows for a smooth gradient, rather than a sharp cutoff. I have somehow been using Photoshop for like a decade without ever realizing this.

So the solution goes like this:

  1. Start with a black and white cloud.
  2. Stick a 100% Cyan solid color adjustment layer on top of the cloud.
  3. Open blending options for the adjustment layer, set "Blend If" to "Black" then hold down alt and drag the right half of the the black "Underlying Layer" slider all the way over to the other side.
  4. Now you just need to hide everything except that Cyan adjustment layer, so put both it and the cloud into a group, open blending options for the group, and then using the "Blend If: This Layer" sliders set half the white slider all the way to the left for "Cyan" and half the black slider all the way to the right for "Black."
  1. Finally put the whole group into another group and apply whatever layer styles, such as color overlay, you want. Viola! An opaque, two-color cloud is dynamically transformed into a transparent single color cloud.
  • Gad you figured it out.. I did mention the "blend if" options in my answer. I don't see how this method is any easier than merely copying and changing the fill color. But.. it may be very specific to your workflow. +1
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 4:20

I may not fully understand what the problem is. If you are seeking to make the Clouds filter use transparency as opposed to two colors, I don't think that is at all possible. The filter always uses two colors.

This could all be automated rather easily via an action.

Start recording...

  1. Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color (just click ok until the dialog closes.)
  2. Double click the newly created Fill Layer in the Layers Panel and select a color
  3. Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All
  4. Filter > Render > Clouds

.. Stop recording.

Assign an F key for the action and it's all just one keypress away. Simply set the second step to allow user input and you'd be asked to pick the color for the Fill Layer.

It's also possible to set the foreground/background colors and the filter will use those colors when rendered on layer, as opposed to rendered on a mask.

enter image description here

So, you could also render the clouds with a color for foreground and white or black for the background, then set the blending mode, or adjust blending options, of the Layer to hide one color. Although I don't think this would be nearly as versatile as using an action as described above.

  • Argh, I was writing a similar answer when you posted this. I just have one thing you could add. When you set the "Make fill layer" step to allow user input, you have to click past the "New Layer" dialogue every time you run the action. This can be avoided if you disable user input on the first step, add a second step where you double click the Solid Color layer thumbnail to "Set current fill layer" and just click OK and then enable user input on that second step.
    – Wolff
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 0:17
  • @Wolff All off the top of my head, without testing :) Good point. I edited to add that.
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 0:21
  • Thanks for replying! But this isn't quite what I'm looking for. The same cloud is being used at several different places in the comp (It's a map for a game project, the cloud is the topography of the map.) and I need a transparent version in one place, so what I was really hoping for is a set of blending options I can slap on a smart object copy of the cloud to turn it into a transparent cloud like in the example.I thought there might be some way to do that I'm not thinking of, but just making an action like you suggest may be the way to go.
    – Nick Baker
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 1:01
  • @NickBaker couldn't you simply copy the cloud mask to whatever Smart Object layer you need?
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 1:03
  • Yeah, but it would be muuuch more convenient to be able to do it dynamically via blending.
    – Nick Baker
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 1:17

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