How to Change/Replace Sky in Photoshop (3 Examples)

December 7, 2022By 0

Without a doubt, much of the beauty of a landscape photograph is in the sky. But we are not always lucky enough to get a spectacular sky for our landscapes. If we have the location close to home we can return another day in better conditions, but many times we are traveling somewhere incredible and the photos do not look what they should because of an unattractive sky .

However, with Photoshop we can make our skies stand out much more. Do you want me to tell you what my technique is?

If you have made a photographic trip, surely more than once you will have felt disappointed in one of the most well-known and photographed locations of the place, because of the weather.

And it is that if you live near the place you can always return one day with better weather, but if you have traveled hundreds or thousands of kilometers on purpose to be able to get some dream photos, it makes you very angry to find an ugly day that takes away its charm to those photos.

I experienced a situation like this a few months ago when I traveled to Iceland. I had some good days, but many others were very gray, overcast or foggy. The skies of many of my photos were flat and without any grace.

So I started messing around in Photoshop until I found a way to give them the strength they needed. I also didn’t want to change them for a different sky , I just wanted to make the most of what was there, so I started playing around with various adjustments until I turned that flat sky into a much more attractive sky.

Sky Change in Photoshop (Video Tutorial)

Thanks to these adjustments you will make any dull sky become a spectacular sky. Let’s see 3 different examples:

> An example of a Gray and Overcast sky.

> An example of a misty sky, partly cloudy but with some blue.

> And one last example of a dull sunset, without force.


Example 1: Gray and Overcast Sky

The first example that we are going to see is the typical very cloudy sky that has become flat, whitish and without any force. With a few adjustments in Photoshop we are going to turn it into a much more powerful and dramatic sky.

1. Reveal the RAW:

The first thing you will have to do is develop the RAW file to your liking, in any development program.

I am going to do it in Adobe Camera Raw in order to open the photo directly in Photoshop, since later I am going to use that program to enhance the sky.

The first thing we will do is give it a flat or neutral profile to gain more information both in the shadows and in the highlights of the photograph. This way we will have as much information as possible about the clouds in the sky, to enhance them later.

Next we’ll give it a subtle touch up, lightening the shadows and correcting the color temperature to make it a bit warmer. Above all try not to lose information in the sky in this step.

Even if the photo is not to your liking in this step, do not worry, we will correct that later, now just focus on leaving the sky flat enough so that information is not lost in the highlights .

2. Select Sky:

Now that we have our RAW file developed, the next step is to open our photo in Photoshop.

The first thing we must do is duplicate the layer by clicking on it with the right mouse button and selecting the Duplicate layer option or by using the keyboard shortcut Control+J (or Command+J on Mac).

Next we are going to perfectly select the sky for our photograph. We can find many tools to do it as we have already seen in the article ” Discover What Are Selections in Photoshop and How to Use the Basics “. In this case I am going to use the Quick Selection tool  which will allow me to easily select the sky.

Once you have perfectly selected the sky of your photograph, you must create a layer mask by pressing the quick button that you will find below the layers window . So all the adjustments that we apply will only affect the sky, because otherwise we would spoil the ground.

3. Give Contrast:

The most important thing to “get chicha” out of that bland sky is to give it a lot of contrast. Don’t worry if the color is ugly or if a lot of noise starts to appear, since we will correct that later. Now just focus on making those slight reliefs of the sky stand out as much as possible .

To contrast the sky as much as possible, the easiest thing will be to go to the Filter/Filter menu of Camera Raw , since here we have collected all the necessary tools to give contrast to the photo. We are going to increase the sliders for Contrast, Clarity and Dehaze , which are the 3 key settings to make the clouds much more marked.

Lower the Shadows and Blacks sliders to darken the darkest tones further, and increase the Exposure, Highlights, and Whites sliders so the sky isn’t so dull. You can also play with the Tone Curve to further contrast the image.

4. Color Correct:

Surely with the adjustments of the previous step the sky will have acquired quite exaggerated and unreal tones . As you can see, in my photograph the sky has been contaminated with magenta in the center and cyan on the edges. In this step what we will do is desaturate the sky and give it a uniform and much more beautiful tone.

First of all we will go to the Image/Adjustments/Desaturate menu so that our sky loses those strange colors that it has gained with so much contrast.

Then we will go to the Image / Adjustments / Color Balance menu to give the sky a little tone, so that it is not so pure gray. I have given it a slight cyan tone.

5. Reduce Noise:

By contrasting our sky so much we will also have added an incredible amount of noise to it. The good thing is that precisely the clouds do not have a marked texture, so we can reduce the noise a lot without making them ugly and unreal. On the contrary, we are going to give them a very attractive smoothness .

I personally like Camera Raw’s noise reduction better than Photoshop’s original, so we’ll go to the Camera Raw Filter/Filter menu again, and go to the Detail tab .

Here, in the Noise Reduction section, turn the Luminance slider all the way up and bring back a bit of detail by increasing the Detail slider . Don’t increase it too much or you’ll re-include all the noise you’re trying to remove; turn it up just enough so the clouds don’t get too flat.

6. Evens the Ground:

We have already finished the retouching of the sky! But of course now it clashes a lot with the rest of the photograph. So, what you have to do now is correct the color of the floor. You can do this with any of the color adjustments you’ll find in the Image/Adjustments menu , but it will be much easier to use the Camera Raw Filter, since you have all those adjustments collected together here.

So, select the Background layer and go to the Camera RAW Filter/Filter menu . Here you can give your floor the adjustments you want. I’ve contrasted it a bit so it doesn’t clash so much with the sky, and I’ve increased the Whites slider to give it a little more light. Also with the Clarity slider I have given more strength to the textures. I have also increased the Intensity a bit to enhance those greens so characteristic of Iceland.

7. Make Final Adjustments:

Finally we are going to give a general color adjustment to the entire photograph to finish integrating the sky and the ground. You can do it in multiple ways: by adding some color correction adjustment such as Color Balance or Hue/Saturation or for example also from the Camera Raw Filter color adjustments.

I’ve done this by adding several Color Lookup adjustment layers , to give it a color filter that emulates the famous orange teal effect .

Discover the Photoshop Color Lookup Adjustment

Specifically, I have used 4 Color Query filters:

  • Filmstock_50 at 40% opacity
  • Foggy Night at 20% Opacity
  • Teal Orange Plus Contrast at 20% Opacity
  • Fall Colors at 30% Opacity

And ready! We already have our photo retouched. We have managed to give much more strength to that gray and bland sky, right?


Example 2: Foggy Sky

The following example is sure that you have also seen it more than once. A partly cloudy sky but with a very desaturated blue due to the mist in the environment. By enhancing the blues we will be able to give that sky a much greater strength.

We are going to use this photograph. As you can see, since there is so much fog, the shapes of the clouds are blurred and the blue of the sky is very little perceived.

1. First Steps:

As in the previous example, the first steps are going to be the same: develop the RAW with a flat profile, so that we gain details in both the shadows and the highlights, and then duplicate the layer and select the sky to be able to adjust it without affecting the rest of the photograph.

This example also helps us to see a problem that can occur when selecting the sky. Since there is so much fog , we do not have a clear line that separates the ground from the sky , so it is impossible to select it well. At the moment we are not going to worry about this, we will simply make a straight line with the selection in this area and later when we have retouched the sky we will merge it better.

In the same way as before, create a layer mask by pressing the quick button below the layers window , to have the sky separated on a separate layer and affect only him.

2. Enhance the Blue of the Sky:

Now that we have the sky in a separate layer, we are going to enhance the blue of the sky, not only so that it draws more attention but also to mark the shapes of the clouds much more, thus making that mist that is in the environment disappear.

To do this we will go to the Filter/Filter menu of Camera Raw and we will go to the HSL Settings tab . Here you will find 3 tabs: Hue, Saturation and Luminance, and sliders with the basic colors. In this case we will raise the saturation and lower the luminance of the blues and cyans, to give more strength to the sky.

Then you can add a little contrast to the sky with the tools that we have seen in the previous example (contrast, clarity and erase haze) but without going overboard, because now if strange colors appear we will not be able to desaturate the sky to fix them.

3. Evens the Ground:

Now it is the turn of the ground. Although this time the change in the sky has not been so brutal that it clashes as much as in the previous example, it will be interesting if you adjust the ground a bit to give it the tone and contrast you want. I have retouched it again with the Camera Raw Filter .

In addition, we are also going to correct the fusion between the sky and the ground that we have commented on at the beginning of the example, to integrate them correctly, since if we zoom in you will see that a straight line is noticeable right where it cuts the sky layer mask.

You simply have to paint with a thick and diffuse brush in white along this line, so that the cut is not so hard and both parts merge better.

4. Make Final Adjustments:

To finish we can give a general color correction to the entire photograph to finish integrating sky and ground. I, as before, have used several adjustment layers with the Color Lookup filters :

  • Filmstock_50 at 40% opacity
  • Foggy Night at 20% Opacity
  • Teal Orange Plus Contrast at 20% Opacity
  • Fall Colors at 30% Opacity

Much better now, right??


Example 3: Dusk Off

I wish all sunsets were spectacular, with those reds and oranges so high , but unfortunately most are not like that. Many times, even when the clouds light up, you find yourself with duller sunsets. The clouds take on a slight orange or yellowish hue, but nothing spectacular. However, with a few simple adjustments in Photoshop we can give them much more life.

Let’s use this photo as an example. As you can see, there are areas where the clouds have been slightly illuminated in a more orange tone, but it is practically not noticeable.

1. First Steps:

As we have done in the two previous examples, the first thing we must do is reveal the RAW so that we gain details in both the shadows and the highlights. I have also given it a somewhat warmer white balance , to start enhancing the sunset.

We will then duplicate the layer and select the sky to apply a layer mask to it. This way we can adjust it without affecting the rest of the photograph.

2. Boost Warm Tones:

Now we are going to enhance the orange and yellow tones, in the same way that in the previous example we enhanced the blue ones.

We’re going to go to the Filter/ Camera Raw Filter menu and go to the HSL Settings tab . Here we are going to touch the warm tone sliders in the 3 tabs:

  • In Hue we are going to make the yellow tones more orange.
  • In Saturation we are going to increase the saturation of the reds, oranges and yellows considerably.
  • In Luminance we are going to darken the yellow tones and lighten the orange tones, to make the illuminated clouds stand out more.

3. Empower the Sunset:

Do not leave the Adobe Camera Raw filter because now we are going to enhance the sunset by putting a slightly warmer Color Temperature . We’ve also shifted the Hue slightly towards magenta to make the yellows more orange.

Then we have given a little Intensity in general to all the tones.

4. Add a Little Contrast:

We are now going to contrast the sky a bit to give more presence to the clouds. We’ll stick with the Adobe Camera Raw filter and increase the Contrast , Clarity and Dehaze sliders a bit .

By contrasting the sky so much, the colors will be quite saturated, so if you think they are too strong, you can always lower the Intensity a bit to compensate.

I’ve also lowered the Highlights slider a bit to bring back the background highlights, and the Blacks slider to bring out the clouds even more.

5. Reduce Noise:

By contrasting the sky so much we have generated a lot of noise, so now it’s time to reduce it. We will continue with the Adobe Camera Raw Filter .

Go to the Detail tab and in the Noise Reduction section increase the Luminance slider to the maximum . Then increase the Detail a little to recover some texture in the clouds, but without going too far so that the noise does not appear again.

6. Evens the Ground:

We already have the sky ready, now it’s time to touch up the ground so that it doesn’t clash so much. We have given a lot of warmth to the sky and that has to go in line with the tones of the ground.

From the Camera Raw Filter I’ve lightened the ground a bit, contrasted it slightly, and given it some warmer tones.

To better integrate both areas we are going to mix them a little. To do this, double-click on the sky layer mask to bring up the Mask Properties .

Density: Lower the density a bit so that the retouch we have made to the sky slightly affects the ground. This will take on a bit of the tones and contrast of the sky and they will look more alike.

Feather: Feather the mask so the cut isn’t too harsh and the sky and ground blend smoothly. This way the passage from one part to the other will not be so abrupt and it will be better.

7. Make Final Adjustments:

You can finally give the entire photo a color consistency by adding some general color correction adjustment. As in the previous examples, I’ve used the Color Lookup filters to add a touch of color to the entire photo and finish unifying the sky and ground. This time I used the following:

And ready! We have managed to turn a dull sunset into a dreamy sunset. The difference is remarkable, isn’t it?

Now it's your turn!

You have already seen how easy it is to enhance the sky in any type of photography. With these simple adjustments you will make a photograph that initially did not attract too much attention become a magnet for looks.