For a while now I've been in a constant pursuit of the "best" sky textures for P3D, from REX Skyforce to freeware packages from Pascal and Lucas Cavatoni, however I've always ended up being somewhat dissatisfied with the result as I personally feel none of them are 'perfect' for me. They're all just very close.
At the minute my sky textures are Google Earth Sky Textures V2 from Lucas Cavatoni, and they're pretty good on the ground! But once you get to cruising altitude that's where the imperfections begin to seep in for me. Mostly about the grey band at the horizon which just feels too dark compared to the clouds, and more often than not ends up contrasting too much between each other and spoiling what would be a good image, as can be seen here -
Sure, it looks good to most people looking at it for the first time. But to me, I've seen this kind of picture so many times that a tiny thing like the colour of the horizon sets me off, and I just get a feeling of discontent with my sim, and it's these kinds of things that make it harder for me to start up and use nowadays.
Perhaps the worst offender is my clouds. Holy s**t I cannot figure out how to get them the way I want, sure ASCA can look great but in my experience that's only under specific conditions. Take this for example;
You can also see that 'grey horizon band' which I was talking about far more prominently here, but the clouds really put me off sometimes. Why are there just random ugly grey clouds littered throughout the overcast layer? Why aren't the clouds far off in the distance blending with the horizon properly? (to be fair, that's probably the sky textures problem, but my point stands).
"Okay then Chris, what other sky textures have you tried then? Surely there are some textures out there".
Oh I've tried many, namely the entire set provided by REX Skyforce before deciding that there were only about 3 presets in there which I would consider using, and all of them have one glaring issue (colour doesn't blend as it goes up the sky to the zenith, looks too washed out, doesn't look good at cruising altitude/on the ground) but the biggest problem I have with RSF is how it has blue shadows and not gray shadows, like Pascal's Real Atmospherics or GE sky textures (although GE shadows are slightly lighter)
Photoreal Sky Project by Pascal! It's like Real Atmospherics but it has different sunrise & sunset textures, and the daytime is a little bit darker. Should've been exactly what I wanted when I was looking for textures which were a fairly deep blue at cruising altitude, but not comically dark on the ground compared to real life images.
Looks almost the same as GE? I don't blame you. Most people I've spoke to don't really see much of a difference, but I personally see it instantly because I spent hours at a time switching between presets to see which ones I like best in a number of scenarios, and basically choosing them based off of "which ones are good in the scenarios where i like to take pictures" or "which ones look good in most scenarios, and not in just certain scenarios"
Look at that deep blue. Now photoreal looks great at cruising altitude, I think it's the best I have found for cruise. Granted these pictures will look different to you because of your monitor being different from mine. However, photoreal basically only looks great in this part of the flight - cruise.
On the ground it's a different story. Yeah it looks alright, but the problem for me is that washed out blue at the horizon. I can't explain precisely why it ticks me off, but it just does. Enough to send me straight into my downloads folder looking for the next preset to try. You can't see it because of the angle of the picture, but another issue I have with photoreal sky project is how the blue sky when you're down on the ground gets too dark too quickly, normally the sky isn't that dark when you look up. At least not when I'm looking outside during the daytime.
TL;DR - I'm upset with my simulator because of my sky textures never being perfect, and my clouds sometimes looking out of place or too dark.
So, what would I do here? Don't get me wrong, I do want to fly, but every time I load up my sim to get ready for a flight, I'm looking out the window and I always feel like the sky textures can be better, and that "this picture could look a lot better than it does right now", or maybe just "my sim doesn't look great" which can on it's own make me too annoyed to fly! I've been through so many sky textures and I've never found ones which I truly like, and it's waning my interest in my sim because I know I'll get word not allowed off with my sky textures somehow. I feel like I'm not flying because I like to fly anymore, and more that I'm flying just because I have nothing else to do.
Or maybe this is just a crazy rant which nobody would understand, but anyways. It's out there now. Perhaps I'm doomed to switch around sky textures and scour the caverns of the web (a.k.a forums) for another set which looks promising. Although, at least it would only need the daytime textures to look good, my sunrise and sunset ones are perfect at the moment, it's just daytime for me.