How to Use Photoshop's Sky Replacement Tool

Sky Replacement Photoshop

How to Use Photoshop's New Sky Replacement Tool

In an update for 2021, Photoshop included a brand new feature that will help you replace the sky in your photo more easily.  This new Photoshop tool pairs perfectly with our BRAND NEW Soulful SkiesPainted Skies Overlays and our Vivid Skies Overlays and we couldn't be more excited to share it with you.  Jump down to the video tutorial at the end of this post if you'd like to see in in action!

All of our Sky Overlay collections have included actions to help you place and customize your skies and we will continue to include those actions because some of those super handy adjustments are NOT available with the new Photoshop sky replacement tool (like our paint a sky and water reflection actions), so we want you to continue to have these valuable options.  They are also helpful for Photoshop Elements users who are using versions prior to 2021.  

Soulful Skies Photoshop Sky Overlays

Replacing a Sky in 3 Easy Steps

Adobe Sensei, Photoshop's powerful new artificial intelligence (AI) tool, has made replacing skies so simple and easy.  With three simple clicks, you can have a new sky on your image - and the entire process will only take a couple minutes, or LESS!

Lets walk through a sky swap using this new sky replacement tool.  I'll be using this image as an example:

Photoshop Sky Replacement 2021

Step 1: Open the Sky Replacement Tool

To begin, simply open an image in Photoshop that has a sky that you want to replace.  Then go to Edit in the top menu and click on the Sky Replacement option in the drop down menu.

Change Sky in Photoshop

Just like some of Photoshop's other filters, the sky replacement filter may take a minute to load.  While it's loading, Sensei is working hard in the background to detect the sky area and mask out any subjects.  It truly does an amazing job of finding even the smallest edges.

Step 2: Choose a New Sky

Once the Sky Replacement tool is open, you will want to choose your new sky.  Photoshop comes equipped with a few sky images, however the options are fairly limited. 

How to Change Sky in Photoshop

If you have any of our Pretty Presets & Actions Sky Overlay collections, you will have LOTS of sky options to choose from.  You can easily load these skies into the Photoshop tool by clicking the small "down arrow" next to the Sky box.

Initially you will only see Photoshop's minimal sky offerings there.  To add your own skies, click on the square with a "+" inside and navigate to the sky overlay you want to add to Photoshop.  The sky you add will automatically be applied to your image.

How to Change the Sky in Photoshop

Step 3: Adjust the Sky Replacement Settings

After choosing the sky that will best compliment your image, you will have access to several settings within the same panel that will help your sky look even more realistic.  I'll explain what these tools and sliders do below:

First, you will notice there are several tool icons on the left side of the Sky Replacement dialog box.  These tools will help you navigate and adjust your image.  From the top, the tools are:

  • Sky Move Tool: The Sky Move Tool will allow you to click on the sky in your image, move it around and place it exactly where you want it to be.
  • Refine Edge Brush Tool: Use this tool to make adjustments to the sky mask created by Adobe Sensei.  If it missed an area use the brush to add the sky where needed.  If you need to remove sky from an area, hold down the alt key and paint over the area where the sky needs to be removed. 
  • Hand Tool: The Hand Tools allows you to move the entire image around in your workspace.  This is especially helpful if you are zoomed in close on your image and you want to look at a different part of your image while still zoomed in.
  • Zoom Tool: Use the Zoom Tool to zoom in on your image.  Of course, you can still use the Photoshop keyboard shortcuts for zooming in and out as well.  Cmd/Ctrl + "+" to zoom in and Cmd/Ctrl + "-" to zoom out.

Photoshop Sky Replacement Tools

Now lets go over the the sliders in the Sky Replacement dialog box.

  • Shift Edge: This slider determines where the border between the sky and the original image begins. Moving the slider to the left will the fade the edge and make it more gradual.  Moving the slider to the right will harden the edge and make it more defined.
  • Fade Edge: This slider will set the amount of fading or feathering from the sky image to the original photo along the edges. This slider works together with the Shift Edge slider (above) so move one and then adjust the other to find the perfect balance between the two.

Sky Filter Photoshop

These next slider options are found under the Sky Adjustments section.  To see them, click on the arrow to the left of Sky Adjustments.  These adjustments will only be applied to the sky portion of the image.

  • Brightness: Adjusts the brightness of the sky.  Moving this slider to the right will brighten the sky and moving it to the left will darken it.
  • Temperature: Adjusts the temperature of the sky.  Moving the slider toward the yellow will warm it up and moving the slider toward the blue will bring out the cooler colors.
  • Scale: Resizes the sky image to be larger or smaller.  Moving the slider to left will make the sky smaller and moving it to the right will make it larger.
  • Flip: Checking this box will flip the sky image horizontally. This can be helpful when you are trying to make the lighting in the sky replacement match the lighting in your image.

How to Replace Sky in Photoshop

These next slider options are found under the Foreground Adjustments section.  To see them, click on the arrow to the left of Foreground Adjustments.  These adjustments will only be applied to the foreground portion of the image.

  • Lighting mode: Determines the blend mode used for adjustments.  There are only two options: multiply (darker) or screen (lighter).  Try them both to see which works best for your image.
  • Lighting Adjustment: This is an opacity slider that will lighten or darken the main part of your image where it blends with the sky.  A setting of zero will not make any adjustments.  If you are adding a sky to a portrait image, moving the slider to the right can add light and haziness to your subjects.
  • Color Adjustment: This is another opacity slider that will determine how strongly the foreground portion of your image is harmonized with the sky colors. Once again, a setting of zero will not make any adjustments.

Sky Replacement

This last option will determine HOW the adjustments you have made here will be added to your image.

  • Output: This will allow you to select whether the changes to the image are placed on "New Layers" (named layer group with masks) or on a "Duplicate Layer" (single flattened layer).  I prefer the "New Layers" option which will allow us to make additonal adjustments even after closing the Sky Replacement dialog box.

Sky Replacement Before/After

Replacing a sky can make all the difference between a good image and a GREAT image!  It will definitely add some "WOW" to your photography and now that doing the replacement is so EASY, why not give it a try TODAY!

How to Add a Sky to a Photo in Photoshop

Video Tutorial Using the Photoshop Sky Replacement Tool


Do you have any questions or comments about Photoshop's Sky Replacement Tool?  Just leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you!  And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!


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