Photoshop: Replace the sky – that's how it works

Photoshop: Replace the sky – that's how it works

With artificial intelligence, you can swap a sky with just a few clicks in Photoshop. In this guide, we'll tell you exactly how this works and what details you have to pay attention to in order to create realistic masterpieces.

The old method: laborious manual labor

The ability to swap out a sky in Photoshop has actually been around for a long time. In the past, however, this was associated with an enormous amount of work: you first had to painstakingly separate the sky from the motif in the foreground with the magnetic lasso and then insert the desired sky over a new layer.

But that was not the end of the job. In order for the new sky to look realistic, you had to carry out extensive color corrections and, if necessary, rework the edges between the subject and the sky. Since the Photoshop update to version 22.0, however, you can save yourself a lot of work with the "Sky Exchange" function.

The new method: swap the sky in Photoshop using AI

Over the years Photoshop has learned a few tricks and is increasingly supporting users with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. So also with the exchange of the sky. The cropping of the motif, the color correction and the post-processing of the edges are now carried out by an AI.

To swap the sky for a photo in Photoshop, simply use the "Sky Swap" function and with just a few clicks the AI will create a perfect new sky for you in the picture. We will now explain to you how it all works in detail.

"Sky Exchange": Swap the sky with just a few clicks in Photoshop

To swap the sky for another in a photo, first open the image to be edited in Photoshop. Then proceed as follows:

  1. Select "Sky Exchange" in the "Edit" menu. If you use the English version of Photoshop you can find the feature under "Edit> Sky Replacement".
  2. A new window will now open. Via the item "Sky" you can now choose between saved sky templates in Photoshop. You can choose from the categories "Blue Sky", "Spectacular" and "Sunsets".
  3. After you have decided on a new sky, you can use various controls to carry out minor post-processing. You can find out what effects the different settings have in the next paragraph.
  4. If you are satisfied with the new sky in the photo, press the "OK" button at the bottom of the window. Then save the photo under "File> Save as".

Swap skies in Photoshop: This is what the controls for fine-tuning do

photoshop-sky-exchange-fine-tuning

You can use the different controls to coordinate the motif and sky even better. Image: © YouTube / Adobe Photoshop 2021

Before you insert the new sky as a new layer in your picture, you can make fine adjustments using the various controls. In the following, we will explain to you what exactly which option does:

  • Move edge : Specifies where the edge between the sky and the original image begins. With this slider you can reduce seams that are left over from the old sky.
  • Fade Edge : Specifies the softness of the edges and how much the sky image fades along the edges compared to the original image.
  • Brightness : Adjusts the brightness of the sky. You can use this slider, for example, to adapt skies that are too bright from the "Spectacular" category to a darker main motif.
  • Temperature : Adjusts the temperature of the sky to be warmer or cooler. This option is also useful for matching the color of the sky with the rest of the image.
  • Scale : Changes the size of the sky image. By enlarging and repositioning you can, for example, bring a certain part of the sky template into focus.
  • Mirror : Mirror the image of the sky horizontally.
  • Lighting Mode: Sets the blending mode used to make adjustments to lighting.
  • Lighting Correction : The slider brightens or darkens the original image where it merges into the sky. If the value is zero, no adjustments are made.
  • Color adjustment : The Reger determines how strongly the foreground is harmonized with the sky colors. If the value is zero, no adjustments are made.
  • Output : Here you can decide whether the changes to the image should be placed on new layers (with the name "Group 'Sky Exchange'") or on a duplicated layer (single flattened layer).

Download additional sky templates or add them yourself

If there is no suitable template for your photo in the sky selection, you also have the option of downloading additional sky templates from the Adobe Discover website or adding skies from your own images to the templates. We'll now explain how both options work.

photoshop-sky-swap-sky-template-download

Various Sky Packs are available for download on the Adobe Discover website. Image: © Screenshot 2021

Download new sky templates

  1. First open the picture for which you want to exchange the sky and then navigate to "Edit> Sky Exchange".
  2. Click on the arrow next to the thumbnail to open the management of the sky templates. In the selection window you will find a small gear in the upper right corner. Click on it to open another menu.
  3. Scroll all the way down in the new menu and select the option "Even more sky …".
  4. The Adobe Discover website will now open in your browser and you will be automatically logged in if you were logged out before.
  5. Now select one or more packages with sky templates to download.
  6. You can then either add the downloaded .sky files to the selection via the path "Edit> Sky Exchange> Settings (gear)> Import sky> From sky template" or by drag and drop on an empty Photoshop work surface.

Add your own skies to the templates

  1. Open the picture for which you want to exchange the sky and then navigate to "Edit> Sky Exchange".
  2. Click on the arrow next to the thumbnail to open the management of the sky templates.
  3. Click the folder icon at the bottom of the window to create a new folder for your own skies. Then select the folder so that your templates are saved there.
  4. Press the + icon, which is right next to the folder icon. An Explorer window will now open. Navigate to the folder where your own sky photos are located. Click on the photo you want and then press "Open".
  5. Now all you have to do is give the photo a name and it is now available as a sky template in Photoshop.

Note

If there is still some landscape in your photos with its own sky, this is completely unproblematic. Photoshop automatically detects the sky in the image and ignores everything else. So it is not necessary to cut out the new sky in your photo first.

Can I swap the sky in any picture as I want?

Technically, it is entirely possible to swap the sky in a photo with any other sky using Photoshop. The artificial intelligence is so good that it clears even the smallest areas such as gaps in a network of branches of a tree and fills them with the new sky. But if you place a lot of value on realism in your pictures, you should pay attention to a few important points.

This includes, for example, the position of the light source. For example, if the sun was behind the photographer when the picture was taken, it would be unrealistic to choose a sunset for the sky exchange. After all, there cannot be two suns at the same time. We have purposely chosen an extreme example here to illustrate the problem. Basically, you should always keep the exposure in the original photo in mind and choose a suitable sky template.

Another sticking point can be reflections. If the original photo shows a lake in which a cloudy sky is reflected, it would be unrealistic to choose a cloudless, blue sky when replacing it. The clear sky with the reflection of a cloudy sky would look strange.

summary

  • With artificial intelligence, you can swap the sky for another in Photoshop with just a few clicks in photos.
  • To do this, simply open a photo, navigate to "Edit> Sky Exchange" and select the desired sky from several templates.
  • You can use different controls to refine the transitions between sky and landscape or to adjust the brightness of the main subject to the sky.
  • If you need additional sky templates, you can either download them from the Adobe Discover website or import them from your own photos.
  • Basically you can swap every sky in a photo for another.
  • However, if you attach great importance to realism, you should pay attention to things like the position of the light source or reflections in the original photo.

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