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Sky Replacement and Adding Clouds to a Photo in Photoshop Tutorial

In this Photoshop Tutorial, you will learn how to replace boring skies, with nice cloudy skies. There are 2 rules that will give you very realistic sky replacements.

How to Replace skies in Photoshop

Today I’m going to show you how to do a sky replacement. We’re going to learn how to drop clouds into this clear sky.

One of the things I find living in Southern California, there’s almost no clouds. Now, you might think that’s a great thing, but a plain sky like this can be really boring for  photograph. What I want to do is show you how to add some clouds.

A couple of things to bear in mind. One of the things to consider is light direction and the other thing we’re going to think about is atmospheric perspective (haze). And those are the things that are going to make a difference between a very believable, realistic cloud replacement and a very fake one.

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Step 1.

So let’s jump in. The first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to cut out the sky.

Grab the Quick Select Tool.  Drag it across the sky to select the blue. Another way that you could do it is with Color range.

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Step 2.

We want to select the ground element rather than the sky, Hit Command Shift I, (Ctrl Shift I on Windows) or just go to Select>Inverse.

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Step 3.

Move the foreground to a new layer; Cmd/Ctrl+J,  that copies the selection to a new layer.

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Step 4.

Let’s grab our clouds. Now you can get clouds from wherever you want. I always carry a camera around with me, just shoot with an iPhone or whatever, or if I see some really amazing clouds, I pull out my DSLR and just shoot a ton of them, and then, I just save them in my library under Clouds, and just give them that keyword, so when you need them, you can find them. You can grab them from Adobe Stock or other places online too.

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We’re going to combine these images. Move tool (V). Click and hold in the clouds image. Drag it up to the window tab for the foreground image. Wait for the other window to open. I’m still holding down the cursor. Moving the cursor down into the foreground image and release, and it will copy the sky photo to a new document.

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Step 5.

All right, so now we can see we’ve got three layers here. We’ve got our clouds, we’ve got our mountains,and then our original image

What I want to do is put the clouds behind our mountain there. So we’re just going to click and drag in-between the two and notice that little line will appear, and then, drop it in.

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Step 6.

Remember I told you two things we need to do? Look at light direction and look at atmospheric perspective. Light direction; is the light coming straight down, from the left or to the right? The key to understanding this is shadows. Are they going from the left or from the right?  Notice these shadows on the mountains are on the left. You can see it in the trees and stuff as well. We can look in the ground, we can see the shadows are on the left, that means the light is coming from the right. The brightest part of the clouds are on the right, they are correct.

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If it wasn’t correct , you would hit Ctrl T, right click, and choose flip horizontal. That makes the light come from the other direction. But we not going to do that because it’s already correct.

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Step 7.

So the last thing we need to do is add a little bit of atmospheric perspective, or haze.

When you look at the existing sky, notice how dark it at the top versus lighter at the bottom. A lot of people forget to do that and the sky replacement looks fake.

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Create a new layer

Tap  the D key, and then, the X key, to reset foreground/background colors. We want white as our foreground color. We’re going to grab the Gradient Tool.

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Go up to the Gradient options, we’re going to choose the second option, which is Foreground to Transparent. Make sure the transparency button is turned on. Then we want to make sure this first option is on, which is linear, and we’re in Normal and 100%.

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Add a little bit of white gradient, so we’re going to start way beneath the sky and drag up on the canvas with the gradient tool. If you drag a long way, it’s going to be a gradual gradient. If you drag a short distance, it’s going to be a more abrupt gradient.

Hold down shift as you drag and notice that constrains it to a vertical line.

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You can see it added a little bit of haze near the horizon!

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So, anyway, I hope you enjoyed this sky replacement tutorial. Add a comment. Let’s get a conversation going.

Check out all out other free tutorials here!

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5 responses to “Sky Replacement and Adding Clouds to a Photo in Photoshop Tutorial”

  1. Hey, Colin,

    This tutorial is fantastic! Thank you. Can I ask you a question. I have been going into a few competitions and there was one called Neon and we had to dress our model or somehow show a neon effect. What I did was find a city-scape that had a lot of neon lights going on and fitted a neon-coloured dress. Others, however did some amazing things and I was wondering if you could explain to me the effect that they may have used to get this. I’ll upload an image for you to see.

  2. what if you cant cut out the sky for instance a beam and wires is in the sky and it is a busy foreground the clouds goes over the foreground and wires .you want to bring the wires and beam and foreground back as is was not just white

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