Photoshop 2021’s Sky Replacement Described

There are many reasons why Photoshop offers so far managed to hold the ground as the undisputed king of the image processing globe. One of the primary reasons is it keeps evolving every year, since it has for thirty-one years.   It stays up-to-date in two main ways. First, it improves upon existing features like selection and healing tools. Plus second, it keeps developing new features every year or two. One of the key new features this year – as well as one of the most anticipated – is a sky replacement option. Let me demonstrate in this article how to use the new sky replacement feature and how effective it is.

Table associated with Contents

Sky Replacement

Despite all the hype around the sky replacement function, I was skeptical about it initially. Through the years, I have come across a lot of tools in Photoshop as well as other software that sounded great on paper but did not act as expected. Nevertheless, the sky replacement tool proved myself wrong.

Replacing a sky might cause an ethical debate. So I guess it is best to leave this to personal choice. I believe, replacing a sky which you did not see in the first place will be unethical. But as always, photography is an art form, and no one gets to point fingers at an artist’s choices.

Also, contrary to what you might think, it is also possible to utilize the sky replacement feature without triggering an ethical debate. For example , there are many situations where I go for a various exposure and white stability setting for the sky compared to the foreground. Previously, it could have taken a long time with layer masks or blend if to get a seamless result. But with the particular sky replacement feature, this gets a lot easier and quicker.

So , let me take you through a step-by-step process of replacing the sky effectively using Photoshop’s sky replacement option using the picture below:


With the image opened within Photoshop, simply go to the top menu option “Edit > Sky Replacement” and a new window pops up, as you can see below:

Sky Replacement options

Sky Replacement Home window

Whenever you click on the dropdown option, Photoshop lets you choose a new heavens for the image. There are 3 sources available for use like a new sky: a pre-installed sky in Photoshop, an image from your local hard drive, or an image from Adobe Stock if you’re subscribed to it.

You can also group the skies by type – as you can see in the image above, some of the defaults are “blue skies, ” “spectacular, ” and “sunsets. ” You are able to create custom groups by clicking on the folder star (shown in the image above with a lime green box about it). You can also add a stones from your hard drive with the search icon (directly next to it, with a blue box close to it in the image above). The trashcan icon that will follows is to remove the sky from the list. After which the purple slider is really a basic way to change the size of the sky’s thumbnail critique.

The moment you click on a sky, you could see that the sky will be automatically applied to your selected image. The rendering is unbelievably seamless, and even sets the foreground colors to match the particular chosen sky. I have labored on manually mixing composites prior to, and I know how long it can take to get a similar result to what you see below.

More Sky Replacement options

The particular sky replacement feature is certainly AI-based but allows an excellent degree of customization. Let me take you through some of the most helpful customizations one by one.

First, depending upon how much of the frame is filled with your foreground, you might want to reposition the sky to match the foreground. Make sure the “move” icon can be clicked (marked red in the screenshot above). Then click the sky and drag it to the position you prefer.

The sky replacement AI works by selecting plus masking your foreground. It works great most of the time, but if you really feel that the selection isn’t since it should be, you can use the skies brush option (marked green). After you’ve selected this, click/drag on any area of the sky you wish to add to the mask, or click/drag while pushing the Alt/Option button to remove from the mask. This will enable you to fine-tune Photoshop’s automatic foreground selection if it doesn’t appear quite right.

Even if the blend looks smooth, always make a habit of zooming into 100% plus looking at the edges. In some instances, there might be a halo across the extreme edges or portion of the foreground that Photoshop skipped, which is where the sky brush tool comes in handy.

Blending Downroad and Sky

Getting a seamless blend is the main challenge, as is true of most compositing inside Photoshop. If done incorrectly, it will be pretty obvious to some trained eye that the heavens is copy-pasted from somewhere else. That’s why Photoshop offers foreground and sky modification options with a series of sliders.

Foreground/Sky mixing options

Most of the options are self-explanatory and can be optimized quickly with some trial and error. You can alter the masking between the sky and foreground with the “shift edge” and “fade edge” sliders. You can adjust the tones in the sky with “brightness” and “temperature, ” and how large it is with the “scale” slider (though going too high here will reduce the sky’s resolution). You can also flip the particular sky horizontally if you thus choose.

And the foreground adjustments are helpful in cases where it is not possible to get a seamless appearance by altering the sky alone. The greater different the conditions were between foreground and skies, the more editing you may need to do here.

These types of sliders are also pretty user-friendly and easy to use in practice – just slide them unless you like how the photo appears – but I will create a quick note about the “lighting mode” dropdown. It  has only two options: Multiply and Display screen . To put it simply, Multiply darkens the area where the foreground blends with the background, whereas Display brightens the areas where the downroad and background overlap. The particular intensity by which the mix area needs to be brightened or even darkened can be adjusted using the Lighting adjustment slider.

Your goal with the sky replacement tool should be to make the transition from sky to foreground look since seamless as possible. You can do further editing later to the colors and contrast of the picture, so long as you’re starting from a great base.

Replace the tonality of the foreground that will matches the background using the Color Adjustment (marked red)

Outputting the Sky Replacement

The last option shown is the Output tabs. This gives us a couple choices: “Duplicate Layer” and “New Layers. ” If you choose “Duplicate Layer, ” Photoshop flattens all these edits into a single layer, which it locations above the layer you’ve been working on. On the other hand, if you select “New Layers” rather, Photoshop outputs each element of the sky replacement as its own layer. For example , you might end up with a “Sky” layer, a “Foreground Lighting” layer, and a “Foreground Color” level, all of which are automatically created by Photoshop.

As the end result looks the same regardless of which output you choose, it is always best to go with the particular “New Layers” selection when possible, because it lets you go back and re-adjust any edits instead of baking them into one coating. However , it does increase the image’s file size if you don’t flatten the particular layers later.

Here is what your layers may be like in Photoshop if you’ve chosen “New Layers” and clicked ok:

Photoshop creates a group of layers for the blend.

In the illustration above, observe how Photoshop has created individual layers for every slider above Adjustment and Foreground Adjustment tabs. You can edit the particular properties of each of these levels by double clicking on it, just like any other adjustment layer in Photoshop.

Here’s a diagram displaying the original slider that made each layer (on the left) and the adjustment that opens when you double click the layer (on the right):

Sky Substitute layers

You can also change the masks that will Photoshop created on levels like Foreground Lighting plus Sky, should you so select. And you can also change the opacity of each layer, or the entire group, in order to tone down any particular effect.


In this article, I use explained sky replacement, certainly one of Photoshop’s most anticipated brand new features this year, including how to use it for the best results. I personally find it very useful. It might not be an one-click solution for all those scenarios. But sure does make blending a lot easier, whether you’re after an easier approach to blending an HDR or even a full-on swapping the heavens for a composite image. You may be surprised at how often it’s useful even just for standard sky edits, so don’t avoid it simply because you’re averse to full-on sky replacement.

If you have any questions about how exactly this tool in Photoshop functions, let me know in the comments beneath. Happy clicking and mixing!

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