How to Make a Dramatic Beautiful Sky on a Photo in Photoshop

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How to Make a Dramatic Beautiful Sky on a Photo in Photoshop

Sometimes you take a portrait, picture of a landscape, or city and you realize your sky looks dull. It happens when the sky is clear without clouds, or it’s overexposed. But don’t hurry to delete this photo, you can replace the washed out sky in a few simple steps using Photoshop.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through the process of replacing the sky in Photoshop, two ways. The first way is quite simple, and you will need Layer Mask and a few adjustments to implement two images together.

If you already have a photo of your subject, you have to choose a picture with the sky which you will use. It’s important to remember that time of the day, the direction of the sun, and level of the sky should be almost the same on both images. I know, this is photo manipulation and a Photoshop tutorial, but you need to follow composition rules.

Here is the photo I’m going to use for this tutorial. You see a beautiful sea sunset image with a girl on a pier, but I don’t like the boring empty sky in here. Let’s change the sky with entirely different picture.



Method 1

Let’s start with a quick and simple technique. I found a nice image on Unsplash with pink sunset and empty sky.



Open a photo you want to change in Photoshop.



Then you should find a proper photo with sunset sky (in this case) which will perfectly fit the subject. I choose sunset photo because apparently it’s almost sunset on the original photo. The colors are warm and yellow.



It took a while to find a suitable image on Unsplash. 

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Open your sunset photo in Photoshop as well. And then you need to paste it over the original picture. Click Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C to select and copy it, and then click Ctrl+V to paste it on the same window with a girl image.



Choose Transformation Tool to resize the sunset image to fit the original one, and click Enter.



Low the transparency so you can see the horizon and the line where the sky starts on the image.

Add a Layer Mask using the panel in the lower right corner.



Press G for the Gradient Mask and paint the foreground from transparent to black.



Then hold Shift and go from the bottom of the image up to replace the sky. If you want to cancel some action in Photoshop, press Ctrl+Z (or Ctrl+Alt+Z to cancel numerous actions). Here is what I got:



If the replaced sky goes over your subject (a girl in my case), choose Brush tool and black color to erase her.



Keep the horizon just like on the original image, but add detail to the top of the photo it’s going to look realistic. Even if the sky is a little lighter on the skyline, it’s even better.



Images go linked with Layer Mask by default; you can unlink them to move your gradient up and down. Just click on the chain icon. If these layers are linked, they are going to move together. Now you can move your sky up and down.

I want to make these two images fit a little bit more. So, I’m going to light the sky to make this image more believable. I will do it with Curves.

Make sure to click Alt+Ctrl+G to make your Curves adjustments implement only the image with the sky. If you don’t do that, you will change the colors of the whole image.



If you have a contrast intensive sky image, it’s essential to make it brighter. For those of you who want to leave this photo realistic. It just wouldn’t work with the dark sky in there.

Now I want to combine these two images even more by applying the same color correction.

Pick Color Balance and drag the slider to achieve the effect you like. I decided to make this photo more red and yellow since it’s sunset and these colors are going to look fantastic.



There are tons of ways to achieve this exact look in Photoshop, but this one is one of the easiest. This technique will help you when you want to replace the sky.

Here is my result image.



Method 2

Open a photo you want to use in Adobe Photoshop.

I choose a nice city skyline on a sunset time with warm sunny colors, water, and almost wholly blank sky.

Select the buildings on horizon using Quick Selection Tool.



The tool works automatically, but if it captured large area then you need, you can use the same Quick Selection Tool, but holding the Alt key.



Then, choose Layer Mask again in the right corner.



Click Ctrl+I to invert the Clipping Mask. You will get the following result:



Then, open an image with the sky you want to use for this original image in Photoshop. Copy and paste it to the window with the image. Transform it to fit the photo, if needed.

Click Ctrl+[ (open bracket) to change the layers in places, just like here.



As I mentioned before, you need to keep image realistic and try to see where the sunlight is coming from. On my image, I know the sun goes from the left top corner because the buildings reflect the light. But on the picture with the sunset, I found the sun comes from the right, so I need to flip it horizontally. I did it with Transformation tool.



Then Transform and adjust the sky image to fit better the original one.

Choose Brush Tool and erase the background on the original image to avoid those white blanks. Lower the Opacity of your brush to 70% to be more accurate.



It looks almost perfect, but to implement sunset image more, I want to make a few more little adjustments.

Choose Curves tool and place the layer right above the sunset image. Your settings should not impact the original image.



Then play around with Brightness and Contrast to make these images blend.

Take a look at the result I have:


It’s Up to You

I hope you enjoyed these tutorials. Which technique do you like the most and why? Don’t hesitate to share your photo with the replaced sky in the comment field below.

Try our Best-Selling Sky and Sunshine overlays:

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How to Make a Dramatic Beautiful Sky on a Photo in Photoshop