There was several way to simulate 2d "non-realistic" clouds to use as background, You can:
How about realistic 3d clouds? I can advise You to map (with flat color map and flat filter map) or to use textures (the ones above) on many planes or shapes one behind the other, it can be a little tip.
This may be a long shot, as I've only tried this technique for a cloud cover. That is, a blanket of clouds over a landscape I'm looking down on from only a couple of miles up--not from outer space.
For this effect, I use a plane, and two Essence Textures. But I see no reason why it might not work using a sphere, slightly larger than the diameter of your planet, to simulate an atmosphere.
(This idea for a cloudcover was first posted, BTW, back in Oct of 1994, and I hope the generous fellow who shared it with us will forgive my deleting his name from the end of his post. Who cares about the author, right? Just use him, suck him dry, and discard him, like TopGun Vampire).
Make your slightly larger sphere, make it a cloudy color, near white on all the color guns, and with transparency values all at about 40.
Apply the CLUSTERBUMP texture: clump scale: 5000 cluster scale: 3.3676 clump coverage: 1 edge color fade: 0.6 clump bump: 0.3 cluster bump: 0.6 cluster red: 200 cluster green: 200 cluster blue: 200 all other settings at 0, to make a nice puffy cloudcover.
To tear holes in this layer, so your planet's visible through the clouds, apply the BLOBF texture:
initial scale: 120 #of scales: 4 scale ratio: 0.4 amplitude ratio: 0.4 time ratio: 0.4 time: 0 T1 start: 0.2 T1 end: 0.4 T2 start: 0.8 T2 end: 0.96 Filter red: 255 Filter green: 255 Filter blue: 255
Raytrace (sorry) and shadows should be on, and the textures are animatable, for a nice kind of cyclonic disturbance effect.
This is all in my head for anything but planes over flat ground; I haven't tried it for spheres.
Again, thanks to that author who first posted this idea back in October. I've used it with great fun ever since, and can't wait to try it on a planetary scale.