Photoshop Sky Replacement: The Definitive Guide

Photography 16/10/2022 4 min read

One thing photographers can’t control is the weather, and however much you plan your shoots, a dull day can ruin the best of shots. Fortunately, Adobe Photoshop’s Sky Replacement tools make swapping out those gray backgrounds for fluffy white clouds quick and easy. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how you can replace the Sky in your photographs.

Part 1: Top 3 Sky Replacement Tips

While the Photoshop Sky Replacement tool does a lot of the hard work for you, you can help to program out by planning the images you want to work with. Check out our top 3 tips for successful sky replacements.

Clean Edges

Having a clean and contrasting edge is super helpful for any form of rotoscoping. While Photoshop’s AI can do a pretty good job replacing difficult skylines, the more realistic the effect will look, the more crisp the line between your foreground and sky.

If your sky is too similar to your foreground, such as a grey sky over concrete buildings, Photoshop may have difficulty separating them. If you want to discover more about shooting landscape photography, check out our 16 Fail-Safe Landscape Photography Tips & Techniques.

Take your Time

While the Photoshop Sky Replacement tool makes editing your images super easy, getting them right can still take a little time. Photoshop will replace the sky, but you’ll need to spend time adjusting the colors and curves of your layers to make them match.

Photo editing is a process; you’ll need to correct the base images before adding effects to the overall composition. Work through each process until you are happy with the result, and try not to rush a step.

The Sky is your Light

When shooting outside, the Sky becomes your light source; the Sky will create all the lights, shadows and colors in your shot. So when replacing a sky in an image, you must try to replicate the light source as naturally as possible.

If, for example, the original image has the sun shining from the left, you can’t replace it with a sky with a right-sided sun; the shadows would be in the wrong direction. Similarly, the time of day will affect the colors and tones in your shot; it is difficult to replace a midday sky with a sunset.

Part 2: How to Replace the Sky in Photoshop

Photoshop is a powerful program, and the Sky Replacement tool is a fantastic example of an AI-powered editing tool. In the past, sky replacement was a tedious task, but now it can be done in a few clicks.

Step 1: Removing the Original Sky

The first step of any Sky Replacement is to swap out the old sky for the new one; fortunately, Photoshop will do this for you. We’re using the Rocky Mountains photo from Motion Array’s fantastic stock library.

  1. Open Photoshop with your chosen image.
  2. Select the Photo in the Layers panel and go to Edit > Sky Replacement.
  3. Photoshop will open the Sky Replacement panel.
  4. Click through the Sky options to find an image that suits your foreground.

Step 2: Adding Your Own Sky

If none of the Photoshop skies work for your shot, you can upload your own to use. We’re going to try a few from the Sky collection at Motion Array.

  1. Download a selection of sky images for your replacement.
  2. In the Photoshop Sky Replacement panel, click on Sky Selection, followed by the Folder icon at the bottom of the panel.
  3. Name the folder to create a new Custom Selection.
  4. With the New Folder selected, hit the + button at the bottom of the panel.
  5. Navigate to your Sky Downloads and select all the images you want to import while holding Shift.
  6. When ready, hit Open; you can now select from your downloaded skies.

Step 3: Sky Replacement Color Adjustment

The Photoshop Sky Replacement tools offer several color correction settings, allowing you to adjust the background and foreground separately.

  1. In the Sky Replacement panel, adjust the Shift Edge and Fade Edge settings as needed to blend the edges of your foreground and background.
  2. Adjust the Brightness and Temperature settings to match your new sky to the foreground.
  3. If needed, you can adjust the Scale of your sky images to better fit the composition.
  4. Below the sky settings, you can make minor adjustments to the foreground. 
  5. Play around with the available settings to match the new sky to the foreground.
  6. When you are happy with the look, choose New Layers from the Output menu and hit Okay; The color correction effects will be added as new layers in the Layers panel.

Step 4: Adding Levels Adjustment

Once you’ve finished with the Photoshop Sky Replacement panel, you can add other adjustment layers to match the overall tone.

  1. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels.
  2. On the new layer, right-click and choose Create Clipping Mask.
  3. To turn off the Sky Replacement Layer, use the Eye icon, then compare the 2 skies to see the differences in light, brightness and tone.
  4. With the Sky Replacement Layer visible, select the new Levels effect and go to the Properties tab.
  5. Choose a color you’d like to increase/decrease in your image from the drop-down menu.
  6. Drag the arrows at the bottom of the Graph to adjust the overall amount of your chosen color in the image.
  7. Go through each color option and adjust their amounts to match the original image.
  8. Next, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation.
  9. Right-click on the layer and choose to Create Clipping Mask.
  10. In the Properties panel, adjust the Saturation of the layer.

Whether you’re looking to create a realistic landscape or compose a fantastical scene, the Photoshop Sky Replacement tools make editing your images quick and easy. If you’re looking for more Photoshop Effects tutorials, why not check out these incredible Sparkle Effects.