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April 28, 2011 / arthill

More sky tricks


In yesterday’s post Fix up washed out skies I showed you some simple techniques for adding some blue to gray or white skies. But sometimes even when you have a blue sky it’s still boring.  Clouds would be nice but it’s tricky to add clouds and have them look real.  What better way to punch up a picture that to add a real sky from another picture.  When you see a cool sky take a few pictures of just the sky and save them for another time.

I shot this sky picture in 2002

So, if I have a picture that needs a better sky, I have one handy.  Consider this

There are two ways to combine these pictures.  Open them both in PSE or you favorite photo editor.  Use the magic wand or lasso tool to select just the sky.  Then choose Select Inverse so you now have the skyline selected.  Right click and choose Layer via Cut.  You’ll end up with something like this

separate sky and skyline layers

Now you can go one of two ways.  You can paste the sky into the background of this picture.  Switch to the sky picture, Select All, then copy.  Come back to the skyline picture, make sure the Background layer is highlighted and Choose Edit, Paste. Your layer palette will look like this.  You can delete the Background Layer.

sky pasted behind skyline layers

Your picture will be like this

Or, you can go the other way – pasting the skyline into the sky picture. Highlight the the top layer with the skyline and choose Select All, then Copy. Go to the sky picture and Paste. Your layer palette will look like this.

skyline pasted onto sky layers

After the Paste you can use the Move tool to move the skyline around a bit.  Your photo should look like this

Pretty much the same result but if you look closely at the top of the Sears Tower you’ll see that in the second picture the cloud line is a little higher than in the first example.

Or maybe you’ve got a picture of a helicopter or plane in a neat sky that you want to add to a picture such as this one.  I shot a helicopter downtown last year while they were filming transformers.  It’s not very interesting all by itself.

But using the same techniques we just covered I got this

So that’s it for today.  Remember to shoot a few cool sky pictures when you get the chance and use them later when Mother Nature has dealt you boring skies.

And do me a favor, leave a comment here and use the link on the right to subscribe to that you get an email when I post something new.  I’d appreciate it.

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5 Comments

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  1. Ed Spadoni / Apr 28 2011 7:30 am

    Another helpful post, thanks Art. I’ve used another method to accomplish the same result. In this case, I’d copy the skyline and paste it as a new layer over the sky image, and then erase the original (plain) sky, allowing the new (better) sky to appear. It works pretty well and is fast. Ed

  2. Maryann Goldman / Apr 28 2011 8:35 am

    i tried to comment once already and lost power:-(

    Great technique. I really like how you used multiple images to improve the sky on your skyline shot. I tend to use a the Move tool to drag layers between opened images in PSE vs. Copy and Paste. I also do not have as good a luck as you do with just the right things being grabbed. I’m sure I would have lost antennas on the bldgs. or something. Thanks for sharing this helpful informaiton.

  3. Susan Wilde / Apr 28 2011 10:05 am

    Excellent tutorial. Another thing I do when replacing a sky in CS4 is apply a layer mask to the sky layer and erase the effect on the buildings.

  4. sharkbayte / Apr 28 2011 11:48 am

    This is what I have been looking to do. I’ll have to give it a try as I never figured it out. Great post and instructions!

  5. Howard Hull / Apr 28 2011 5:30 pm

    Great tutorial, Art. Thanks!

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