Tutorial #1 – Retouching a RAW image and replacing a dull sky (part 2)

Hello everyone once again.

Hope everything is well with you all and that you enjoyed the first part of our very first tutorial! In this second part we’ll show you one way to change a sky in Photoshop.


If you haven’t, please check the first part of our tutorial where we explain how to convert a raw file: https://bokehimaging.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/tutorial-1-retouching-a-raw-image-and-replacing-a-dull-sky-part-1/

You’ll also have access to the files needed to make the image we’ve shown.

So in the previous tutorial I showed you some tweaking through Adobe Photoshop’s Camera Raw in order to improve the appearance of the file, now we’ll take it one step further in order to give it a “WOW” factor.

First you’ll need to open the image we’ve edited before and on the Camera Raw window click Open Image:

This will open it in Photoshop. You should have one layer only, named Background.

As we said in the 1st part of the tutorial, making the sky brighter would help us in our purpose, this is because it becomes more separated from the remaining image, in the sense that it’s almost “pure white” whereas the remaining image is composed of different colors and darker tones. The tool we’ll use works very well when you have a white sky, and a flat white sky makes up for at least 70% of the times we want to change it, in order to give a more dramatic feel to the image.

In this tutorial we’ll use one of the most important features of Photoshop, Layers and Layer Masks along with a powerful selection tool.

First we’ll need to import the sky into this image. We can do so by many means, either by opening the sky image (provided in the first part of the tutorial) , and then pressing simultaneously CTRL + A (cmd + A in MAC), which selects all the canvas, then CTRL + C (cmd + C), copies all that is selected, and finally switching back to our original image and hitting CTRL + V (cmd + C), which pasts what we have copied into a new layer over the background image.

Another way of doing it is by dragging the sky image from Windows Explorer into photoshop. To do this, click the image once and without releasing it drag it first into the Photoshop Icon on your taskbar and release it inside the image in Photoshop (hit Enter after doing it). This creates a smart photoshop object, but both methods will work the same for our objective

Now we have to position the image where we want it to be, so choose the Move Tool movetool (or hit V on your keybord) and position the sky so that its top matches the top of the image. It should look like this:

skytopNow we’ll make the selection, and to do this we should first take off the visibility for the sky layer, by clicking the Eye icon near to the layer thumbnail.

layer visibilityAnd after that we shall make the selection that we will use as a mask for the sky image. Click on the Background layer so that it is selected (or make sure it’s selected – it should be in blue), navigate to the top menu of photoshop and go to Select > Color Range.

This shall open you a new window:

color-range1Make sure Localized Color Clusters is unchecked and the fuzziness is around 30. Now click somewhere in the sky. After that, choose the Eyedropper icon with a little plus around it and click on parts of the sky that you see are somehow grey (and not white). Do it until you reach more or less the same result as shown below.


Now that we’ve selected the sky (everything that is white in that window means it’s selected) hit OK.

You should see a selection around the sky. Activate once again the visibility for the sky layer, select it by clicking it once and then click on the create mask icon below on your layer panel.create-mask
You should now have something like this on your layer panel:

maskcreatedThat white and black rectangle near the layer thumbnail means the layer is masked.

Masks work like if you had erased part of the layer, the black part that you see is actually “hiding” that part of the layer so you don’t see it over the remaining ones. The white parts indicate that the mask lets that area be seen. You can actually paint a mask in white or black (or any other in between gray tones) with the regular brush to show or hide in different opacities the layer that is masked.

If you look into your image the new sky should now only be seen where the true sky was, even though you should be able to see some imperfections, which means the mask is not yet perfect for our purposes. Right now it seems like it has been pasted on top of the image, not blending that well at all. You maybe also caught the white parts of the building when doing the Color Range step, so we’ll need to change that.

To do so it would be great to see the mask in real size, instead of that tiny thumbnail, so just press (and keep pressed) ALT while clicking once over the mask. You should be seeing this in your main window of photoshop.

maskviewNow select the brush tool (hit B) or click brushtool . Make sure you have the mask selected (it should look like this, a white boarder around the mask thumbnail) maskselected choose Black as your color and paint over the building where you see small parts of white. Everything but the sky area should be black.

After you’ve done this press ALT (and keep pressed) and click over the mask thumbnail once again. This should take you back to your original view.

Now if it happened as it happened with me, you’ll still have some imperfections on your mask, quite visible where the sky meets the roof. To take care of this you could paint with the brush using white instead of black, in the same method we used previously, but there’s a method that works charms for dealing with mask edges and that’s Mask Edge tool.

If you don’t have the panel for Adjustments and Masks visible, go to the on top menu of photoshop and click “Windows > Masks”. Once you have this panel click Mask Edge

mask-edgeAnd on the new window adjust it so that the settings are as follows:

refine-mask(NOTE: this settings will probably work well with your selection as well, but if the step you’ve done in “Color Range” was very different they may not yield the expected results, if so, revert back to that step and make sure you make the best possible selection before proceeding).

In “Output To:” I always use “New Layer with Layer Mask”, because if something that I didn’t notice goes wrong, I’ll always have the original layer and its mask to work with. In the end, if the image is fine, I erase the original mask layer and leave only this new one, in order to spare disk space when saving.

At this point your sky should look much more real, but there’s two details we can look into to make it blend even better. First is the layer opacity mode. We’re going to change the sky layer blending mode to Multiply and decrease its opacity to 85%/90%.

blendmodeNow, I feel the original image is a little colder than I would want, specially after we’ve replaced the sky for one that has such rich and warm tones.

Photoshop offers a lot of tools that could achieve what I’ll be doing, but one that is powerful and allows me to give you exact values is Color Balance. To use it we have to create a new Adjustment Layer, which you can do by clicking this icon adjustmentlayer and then selecting Color Balance. After doing this you should see a new layer on top of the other ones. On the Adjustment Panel choose the settings as follow (or try and tweak them more to your liking or just to see what effect it creates)colorbalanceAs you might have thought of, the Tone setting indicates to which luminance the color balance is applied. This is a very strong tool that can help you create the specific tones you’re searching for in an image, equilibrate, get crazy or just tweak them a bit, offering control over what range of luminance you affect and in which way.

For finishing this tutorial, we’ll apply a level adjustment layer in order to give the image a bit more of contrast.

For that click the Adjustment Layer icon once again and choose Levels. Then on the Adjustment panel use this settingslevelsadjustmentNow we’re done, the only thing that’s left to do is saving our work. I usually save one file as a .PSD, with all the layers, and another as a JPG. To do this press simultaneously CTRL + SHIFT + S (choose the title for your file, choose the Format PSD, check the Layers and ICC Profile checkboxes) and press OK. Then do the same once again but choose JPG as the format and press OK. In the new window that opens choose 12 as quality and hit OK (the other settings don’t interest you that much now).

And we’re done, you should now have done something like this:

Before and After image

by Micael Nussbaumer – you can contact me either through comments or through bokeh.imaging@gmail.com


1 thought on “Tutorial #1 – Retouching a RAW image and replacing a dull sky (part 2)

  1. Pingback: Tutorial #1 – Retouching a RAW image and replacing a dull sky (part 1) | Bokeh Imaging Lisbon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s