How to Add Clouds in Photoshop

So you’ve been on a gorgeous once in a lifetime trip and the weather was drab (story of my life) so the images you had in mind were not possible to achieve in the time you had but don’t fret because Photoshop is here to the rescue. Below I am going to talk you through replacing a sky step-by-step using Photoshop.

I was lucky enough on this day to have a beautiful blue sky but because this image was shot through a window of a moving car there is a huge dark area to the left and part of the car peaking in bottom right. I could see real potential for this image if these two things were corrected so here is the before and after. Unfortunately I did not have a cloudscape like the before shot so I went with a something completely different.


_DSC4639_Lightroom Retouch

Empty road on way to Monument Valley, Utah, USA

I started off by retouching my sooc image in Lightroom and tried to remove as much of the dark area in the top left as possible but knowing that if I lightened it anymore, the sky would become very grainy so I opted for replacing sky instead, slight shame as I do prefer the clouds in the original image.

Steps for replacing the sky in Photoshop

1. First off, open the image you would like to add the sky to and also an image of the sky, if you’re anything like me, a true cloud picture hoarder you will have plenty to choose from in your folder of skies.

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 13.26.46

2. Copy all of the sky image and paste onto the main image, it will appear on top of the main image.

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 13.28.12

3. Now move the sky so that it overlaps the area you would like to replace. Ideally where the horizons meet if your sky image includes a horizon (unfortunately my example doesn’t). Make sure you have the sky layer selected and click cmd+t or edit free transform to change the size of the sky image (*tip* holding down the shift key whilst  moving one of the image corners will constrain the proportions and prevent the image from distorting from its orignal shape). Once done, hit enter.

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 13.30.52

4. To blend the two images, create a layer mask (see blue arrow below) and then invert the layer by clicking cmd + I (*tip* you’ll notice the cloud image disappears and the layer mask is filled with black)

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 13.36.10

5. Now we need to select the original sky, by clicking on the background layer and then via the top menu, click Select > Color Range. Click the dropper on the sky and adjust the fuzziness so that it creates a black line between the horizon/landscape (*tip* if like my sky, there are many tonal ranges, you can select with the dropper in more than one place by using the dropper that includes the + sign). Hit ok when you’re happy with the results.

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 13.47.23

7. You’ll notice you now have marching ants around your selection. Click the layer mask, gradient tool and check your gradient is black to white, same for your foreground and background colours (see my settings below).

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 13.54.27

8.Draw a gradient in sky by dragging the cursor from top to bottom until you achieve the desired result. We are doing this because skies are usually lighter towards the horizon. When satisfied deselect all (ctrl + D)

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 13.56.54

9. As you can see there is still some of the old clouds visible and a little blue over parts of the rest of the image, by using a brush tool, with black as your foreground colour, select the layer mask and brush over the blue areas to remove them. If there are parts of the original image you would like to bring back, change the foreground colour to white.

Now you’re all done!
Empty road on way to Monument Valley, Utah, USA

Before and After


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