How to Replace a Boring Sky

Sometimes even though your subject is interesting, the weather is against you, giving you a boring gray sky. So let’s see how to replace skies easily in ZPS X.


1. Choosing the Right Picture

Your first step is to pick a picture where you want to replace the sky, and a picture whose sky you’ll be using as the replacement. Ideally the first picture will have a light, gray sky with no clear cloud contours. You’ll want to find two pictures with the same focal length if you can. That way the believability of your montage won’t be reduced by differing shot widths.

A typical photo you’d like to enliven.

An inferior sibling with a superior sky.

2. Editing the Source Photo

The first example photo has the faded colors typical for gloomy weather. The second one was taken on a sunny day. You’ll be using a similar pair of photos in your own work. So first you’ll color the original photo a little, add some contrast, and make other needed edits. Once you’re satisfied with its colors, open a second Editor tab for the photo with the better sky. Select the whole image (Ctrl+A) and then copy it (Ctrl+C). Click the tab for the original photo, and then paste the copied image (Ctrl+V). It will be pasted as a new layer.

3. Setting How the Photos Blend

The original sky is whitish, and so the light part of it is taken care of. You just need to get a little blue in there. So set the Mode for the pasted layer to Darken. This way, the new sky will cover over the non-white parts of the photo.

Covering the old sky with the new one, which has been set to Darken mode.
To mask the pasted image, use the bottom part of the right panel.

Now you need to hide the bottom part of the pasted photo—the skyless part. Use layer masking for this. Click the mask icon at the bottom right of the right panel’s Layers section, and then click Reveal All. The layer’s line in the list now has a new icon—its mask icon. Click it and then activate the Paintbrush tool (B). Use the Paintbrush to draw the mask, which you’ll use to hide the unwanted part of this layer. Specifically, you’ll hide the bottom part of it. Set the brush color to black and run it over the parts of the layer you want to erase. If you overdo things, there’s no need to click “Undo.” Just switch the brush color to white; painting black areas white will unmask them again. And you’ve done!

Hiding the bottom part using a mask.

The final image and the original. To see what’s changed, move the divider between the two illustrations.


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