How to change sky in Photoshop 2021

We are not lucky all the time to have perfect sky when making a photo outside. It can be a profile shot, a landscape or a real estate, architecture photograph. Changing the sky on a photo can be really time-wasting, hard, or maybe impossible in many cases. We really needed a reliable software to do the hard job instead of us. Adobe Photoshop has just added the “Sky Replacement” option to the Photoshop 2021 (v.22.0.0). Read this article to know more about how reliable and how easy to use I think it is. I will also try to give you a tutorial on how to use it, explaining its main features.

Photoshop 2021

Until this time there was only one software to handle the sky swapping problem quite well. That software was made by Skylum, called Luminar. Luminar has been updated many times from year to year and gave a really good alternative for photographers to be able to change the sky on a photo easily. The main problem with Luminar is that it is not implemented into Photoshop at all. Why is it so important? Because anything the software decides where the sky begins and ends, you cannot change or customize it easily.

Photoshop 2021 has the first and only in-built sky replacing option which works INSIDE the Photoshop itself, supporting all the tools and all the customisation you can do after changing the sky. Why is it so important? Because for a Sky replacement the software needs to set up hard edges where the sky begins. It is not easy so they make a bit of “fading”. By that there can be minor problems which you can easily overwrite by masking manually.

But let’s go through the Sky Replacement tool in Photoshop 2021 and you will understand everything much better.

Please note that basic understanding of Photoshop is needed to understand everything well as I am not going too low in explanation of Photoshop tools and working methods.

How to turn it on?

After selecting and opening up the photo you want to change the sky on in Photoshop you have to go to the Menu – Edit – Sky Replacement option. As you can see on the screenshot I have already made a shortkey command for that. You can also make your keyboard shortcuts by going to the Menu – Edit – Keyboard Shortcuts. It is easier to call the tool whenever you need if you will surely need it more often. I decided to do so.


After calling the option you will see a floating window with the Sky Replacment options. Let us go through the options to understand how they work. Do not be afraid, Adobe did a really very good job and the Sky Replacement is a fun after the update of version 22.0.0.

The “Sky Replacement Panel”

A bit detailed but not too sophisticated Sky Replacement panel is opening up where you can have some extra options to make any personalised customisation by your needs. Let us go through them quickly

  • Sky – you can change the best sky fitting your needs or you can use any photo from your computer

  • Shift edge – this slider will change how the edges where the new sky will be cut into its place is shifted

  • Fade edge – you can fade (make the boarder smoother or harder) the edges by this slider

  • Brightness – it is very important as you can increase or decrease the brightness of the new sky to match your exposure

  • Temperature – moving this slider you can change the color temperature of the sky to match your normal photo exposure, it is essential to reach a real, believable look

  • Scale – you can zoom the sky image if you need or want to

  • Flip checkbox – flips the sky image horizontally (to match the sun direction for example)

  • Lighting adjustment – you can increase or decrease the automatic lighting adjustment on the normal photo

  • Color adjutment – you can add or decrease the automatically gained coloring on the normal (original) photo

  • Preview checkbox gives you an option to see the changes in real-time at the background when you make any change on the panel

Choosing the right sky

What is our major goal? To achieve a better photo. Better must mean realistic. I would never want to make a photo not being realistic. So that choosing the right sky to be changed on a photo is essential. If the sun angle, weather conditions, color temperature (can be changed a bit afterwards as well) if not matching the layer under (the original photo) it will result in a silly looking image.

The Sky Replacement add-on in Photoshop 2021 has some default skies. You can find your matching sky usually from them but in case you want to use the sky from your own photo, you can do that simply just selecting it from your computer.

Tip: I often make sky shots and organise them in a “Skies” folder so that I will have options in the future if I have to find a perfect match.

Correcting the edges

Having the sky to fit your original photo is very important to have the right brightness and temperature (we talk about it later) but the way it is cut in is also crucial.

By using the “Shift Edge” and “Fade Edge” sliders you will be able to customise the cutting of the sky onto the original photo. There is no thumb rule here, you have to try and find the best settings for your eyes and the actual photo with the actual sky.

For me it is not always a problem if there is a bite of the clouds on the original photo close to the edges of the cut. It can make the photo not too perfect but more realistic. Have a look here: the faded shadows will not ruin the perfect look of the sky on the photo below.

On the top left of the Sky Replacement Panel there is a brush icon. By this you can add or erase any part of the layer to be included in the sky swapping. This is one of the options why I think that Photoshop Sky Replacement is a brutal winner and game changer. You can add and deselect anything inside the Photoshop perfectly, just like the Photoshop works itself.

Make it more realistic

If you want to achieve an artistic image, you can play with the colors and all the settings. But to achieve a really realistic look you will almost surely need the “Temperature” and the “Brightness” sliders. By using them the sky can easily reach the temperature and the brightness of the original photo to make a perfect match.

If you look on a photo and you can tell that the sky was surely changed, that is not okay. We must try to achieve a wonderful look.


Layer mask brush-in

+1 from me: The reason why I really love the Photoshop Sky Replacement tool and why I do not think that any software can be better than this is that it makes the job inside the Photoshop without affecting your original photo. What I do is, after making a sky replacement I make a layer mask on the sky swapped photo before saving in Photoshop and I blend in the sky with the edges manually. So that I can be sure that only the needed parts are copied on the final image and only by my needs.

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