If you photograph landscapes, or anything with a sky, you’re very much aware that the weather does not always cooperate. Whether (no pun intended) it’s a bright blue sky with no clouds, an overcast day, or a sunset when the sky did not cooperate, it’s frustrating when you create a photo with a dull sky. Thankfully, with the use of post-processing, we can easily replace skies in our photos and make them look better than the original.

There are several photography software applications that you can use to replace skies. In this article, I will share three that I am most familiar with—Photoshop CC, Luminar AI, and ON1 Photo RAW—and I will discuss the pros and cons of each of them, along with some tips on using the software to replace skies in your photos. I will also show each application using the same photo and sky so you can see how each program handles the sky replacement.

Want some skies to play with on your own images? Click here or scroll to the bottom of the page to download them for FREE.

Photoshop CC

In October 2020, Photoshop added a Sky Replacement tool to easily change out a sky in a photograph. Before that, a photo needed to be masked manually, but the new tool works very well and does a good job of creating a realistic sky replacement and blend in a photograph.

View the full-res Photoshop image
BEFORE

Here’s how to use the Photoshop CC Sky Replacement tool:

Open the photo you want to work on in Photoshop CC. Then, go to Edit > Sky Replacement.

Note: If your photo does not have an obvious sky area, then this option may be greyed out.

Using the drop-down, select a sky that works well for your scene. You can choose from the default skies that are included in Photoshop, or you can import your own.

Now, change the settings as needed to fine tune your sky replacement. If you need help with these settings, head over to the Adobe help page.

Photoshop Pros:

Photoshop Cons:

  • Adapts lighting of scene to the new sky (color and light).

  • Does a really good job without having to make too many modifications.

  • Sky replacement can be output to a new layer, so you can further modify and customize the mask and blend as you like.

  • Settings in the Sky Replacement tool are limited (however, further settings can be added manually after using the tool with standard Photoshop adjustments).

  • Requires an Adobe subscription to use Photoshop CC.

My Thoughts:

The sky replacement tool in Photoshop works really well and very quickly, and makes it easy to further edit and stylize the sky replacement while already inside of Photoshop.

Luminar AI

Skylum is a game-changer when it comes to AI photo-processing software. Their sky replacement tool is easy to use and has seen several updates since its initial release.

View the full-res Luminar image

Here’s how to use Luminar’s Sky AI tool:

Open the photo you want to work on in Luminar AI. Then, access the Edit tab and scroll down until you have located the Sky AI tool.

Note: If your photo does not have an obvious sky area, then this tool may be greyed out.

Using the drop-down, select a sky that works well for your scene. You can choose from the default skies that are included in Luminar, or you can import your own.

Now, change the settings as needed to fine-tune your sky replacement.

Luminar AI Pros:

Luminar AI Cons:

  • Adapts lighting of scene to the new sky (color and light).

  • Easy to use with many customizable options.

  • Fully re-editable (non-destructive interface).

  • You have the ability to save a Template (preset) with your sky replacement options.

  • Works with landscape images that have water reflections in them (lakes, ponds, etc.).

  • The mask cannot be manually edited or fixed if the AI options do not work.

  • Small areas of sky in photos can sometimes make the tool greyed out and unusable.

My Thoughts:

I’m a big fan of Luminar AI and the Sky AI tool is extremely easy to use. One added feature that was not shown here is that it works really well with photos that have water reflections in them, so you don’t need to go back in and add it manually. The masking also seems to be a little cleaner in some areas of this example photo (look at the small branches in the tree on the right) which is nice to see.

ON1 Photo RAW 2021

ON1 Photo RAW does not have an automatic sky replacement feature like many other apps currently do, but it does have the advantage of a great set of masking tools so you can do it manually. If you’re more of a DIY-er then this app might be for you.

View the full-res ON1 2021 image

Before and after in ON1 Photo RAW 2021

Note: The new version of ON1 Photo RAW (version 2022) includes a sky replacement filter. However, the masking on it is really poor and it does not include things like adapting the foreground area to the color/tone of the new sky. Because of this, I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND using ON1’s new “Sky Swap AI” for sky replacement.

View the full-res ON1 2022 image

Before and after in ON1 Photo RAW 2022

Here’s how to use ON1 Photo RAW 2021 to replace a sky:

Open a photo in ON1 Photo RAW and bring it into the Edit module.

Click the + icon in the Layers panel and navigate to the sky you want to add.

Then, drag and drop this layer to the bottom of the Layers panel.

In the Layers panel, click the landscape photo to activate it. Then, choose the Mask tool in the toolbar on the left.

In the options at the top, click the AI Quick Mask tool:

  • With the Mode set to Drop, brush (with red) over the area you want to remove (the sky)
  • With the Mode set to Keep, brush (with green) over the area you do not want to mask away (foreground area)

With the Refine Brush tool active, brush over the areas that are not masked properly (you will see gaps of sky or edges of the original image). Continue using the Refine tools until the mask is to your liking.

If you would like to reposition the sky, activate the sky layer and choose the Transform tool on the left. Resize and relocate the sky as needed.

You can also use the tools in the Develop or Effects panels to stylize and post-process both the landscape image and sky however you see fit.

ON1 Photo RAW 2021 — Pros:

ON1 Photo RAW 2021 — Cons:

  • Complete customizability with your mask.

  • Does not work automatically (no auto sky replacement filter or tool).

  • Refining a mask after its original creation can sometimes be difficult and time-consuming.

  • Sky and foreground edits need to be made manually (the app does not balance the light in the foreground with the sky).

My Thoughts:

For sky replacement, ON1 Photo RAW would be my last choice, especially since I also use Photoshop CC and Luminar AI. However, it is still possible and if sky replacement is something you do not do regularly then it might work for you.

Free Sky Overlays

Use the form below to access three high-resolution sky overlays:

If you photograph landscapes, or anything with a sky, you’re very much aware that the weather does not always cooperate. Whether (no pun intended) it’s a bright blue sky with no clouds, an overcast day, or a sunset when the sky did not cooperate, it’s frustrating when you create a photo with a dull sky. Thankfully, with the use of post-processing, we can easily replace skies in our photos and make them look better than the original.

There are several photography software applications that you can use to replace skies. In this article, I will share three that I am most familiar with—Photoshop CC, Luminar AI, and ON1 Photo RAW—and I will discuss the pros and cons of each of them, along with some tips on using the software to replace skies in your photos. I will also show each application using the same photo and sky so you can see how each program handles the sky replacement.

Want some skies to play with on your own images? Click here or scroll to the bottom of the page to download them for FREE.

Photoshop CC

In October 2020, Photoshop added a Sky Replacement tool to easily change out a sky in a photograph. Before that, a photo needed to be masked manually, but the new tool works very well and does a good job of creating a realistic sky replacement and blend in a photograph.

View the full-res Photoshop image
BEFORE

Here’s how to use the Photoshop CC Sky Replacement tool:

Open the photo you want to work on in Photoshop CC. Then, go to Edit > Sky Replacement.

Note: If your photo does not have an obvious sky area, then this option may be greyed out.

Using the drop-down, select a sky that works well for your scene. You can choose from the default skies that are included in Photoshop, or you can import your own.

Now, change the settings as needed to fine tune your sky replacement. If you need help with these settings, head over to the Adobe help page.

Photoshop Pros:

Photoshop Cons:

  • Adapts lighting of scene to the new sky (color and light).

  • Does a really good job without having to make too many modifications.

  • Sky replacement can be output to a new layer, so you can further modify and customize the mask and blend as you like.

  • Settings in the Sky Replacement tool are limited (however, further settings can be added manually after using the tool with standard Photoshop adjustments).

  • Requires an Adobe subscription to use Photoshop CC.

My Thoughts:

The sky replacement tool in Photoshop works really well and very quickly, and makes it easy to further edit and stylize the sky replacement while already inside of Photoshop.

Luminar AI

Skylum is a game-changer when it comes to AI photo-processing software. Their sky replacement tool is easy to use and has seen several updates since its initial release.

View the full-res Luminar image

Here’s how to use Luminar’s Sky AI tool:

Open the photo you want to work on in Luminar AI. Then, access the Edit tab and scroll down until you have located the Sky AI tool.

Note: If your photo does not have an obvious sky area, then this tool may be greyed out.

Using the drop-down, select a sky that works well for your scene. You can choose from the default skies that are included in Luminar, or you can import your own.

Now, change the settings as needed to fine-tune your sky replacement.

Luminar AI Pros:

Luminar AI Cons:

  • Adapts lighting of scene to the new sky (color and light).

  • Easy to use with many customizable options.

  • Fully re-editable (non-destructive interface).

  • You have the ability to save a Template (preset) with your sky replacement options.

  • Works with landscape images that have water reflections in them (lakes, ponds, etc.).

  • The mask cannot be manually edited or fixed if the AI options do not work.

  • Small areas of sky in photos can sometimes make the tool greyed out and unusable.

My Thoughts:

I’m a big fan of Luminar AI and the Sky AI tool is extremely easy to use. One added feature that was not shown here is that it works really well with photos that have water reflections in them, so you don’t need to go back in and add it manually. The masking also seems to be a little cleaner in some areas of this example photo (look at the small branches in the tree on the right) which is nice to see.

ON1 Photo RAW 2021

ON1 Photo RAW does not have an automatic sky replacement feature like many other apps currently do, but it does have the advantage of a great set of masking tools so you can do it manually. If you’re more of a DIY-er then this app might be for you.

View the full-res ON1 2021 image

Before and after in ON1 Photo RAW 2021

Note: The new version of ON1 Photo RAW (version 2022) includes a sky replacement filter. However, the masking on it is really poor and it does not include things like adapting the foreground area to the color/tone of the new sky. Because of this, I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND using ON1’s new “Sky Swap AI” for sky replacement.

View the full-res ON1 2022 image

Before and after in ON1 Photo RAW 2022

Here’s how to use ON1 Photo RAW 2021 to replace a sky:

Open a photo in ON1 Photo RAW and bring it into the Edit module.

Click the + icon in the Layers panel and navigate to the sky you want to add.

Then, drag and drop this layer to the bottom of the Layers panel.

In the Layers panel, click the landscape photo to activate it. Then, choose the Mask tool in the toolbar on the left.

In the options at the top, click the AI Quick Mask tool:

  • With the Mode set to Drop, brush (with red) over the area you want to remove (the sky)
  • With the Mode set to Keep, brush (with green) over the area you do not want to mask away (foreground area)

With the Refine Brush tool active, brush over the areas that are not masked properly (you will see gaps of sky or edges of the original image). Continue using the Refine tools until the mask is to your liking.

If you would like to reposition the sky, activate the sky layer and choose the Transform tool on the left. Resize and relocate the sky as needed.

You can also use the tools in the Develop or Effects panels to stylize and post-process both the landscape image and sky however you see fit.

ON1 Photo RAW 2021 — Pros:

ON1 Photo RAW 2021 — Cons:

  • Complete customizability with your mask.

  • Does not work automatically (no auto sky replacement filter or tool).

  • Refining a mask after its original creation can sometimes be difficult and time-consuming.

  • Sky and foreground edits need to be made manually (the app does not balance the light in the foreground with the sky).

My Thoughts:

For sky replacement, ON1 Photo RAW would be my last choice, especially since I also use Photoshop CC and Luminar AI. However, it is still possible and if sky replacement is something you do not do regularly then it might work for you.

Free Sky Overlays

Use the form below to access three high-resolution sky overlays:

Nicole S. Young is a photographer, published author, and educator specializing in Lightroom, Photoshop, and photography. She is best known for her books on food photography but is widely versed in various photographic genres, including landscape, nature, stock, travel, and lifestyle.

7 Comments

  1. Reid Northrup August 10, 2021 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    I’ve purchased some of your sky packs before. I presently have Photoshop and Luminar 4. Both seem to work very well with basic sky replacements. The problem I’m having comes when trying to use the sky in a water reflection. Only a few skies work cleanly. Others have some odd opacity layer around the edges only. I’m using techniques I’ve found from some pros but they don’t work consistently. I’ve asked for help in figuring out what’s wrong but they want a ridiculous sum of money to provide help. Do you have a surefire way of producing sky replacements in a reflection? What would be your charge for following my process in a Zoom call? Thanks very much. Reid

    • Nicole S. Young August 10, 2021 at 1:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Reid, I have a video tutorial that shows how to add a sky with a water reflection using Luminar 4. A similar method should also work well in Photoshop. If you still have questions please feel free to use my contact form and get in touch directly.

      Here’s the Luminar 4 article I mentioned: https://nicolesy.com/2020/02/06/l4-sky-replace-reflection/

  2. Gordon Banks August 10, 2021 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    I have not found the Luminar AI sky reflection mode to work very well. It will work in cases where the water is easy to mask, but often I’ve found a total failure or else the reflection doesn’t match up with the sky in a natural way. It really needs work.

  3. Luis Castellon August 10, 2021 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    I use luminar AI and you can edit the mask manually,, it allows you to paint in and delete from areas you don’t want it.

  4. Harold Mancusi-Ungaro August 10, 2021 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    Thank you for a thoughtful review. Although I rarely replace skies, I started with Luminar AI and switched to PS when Adobe added that option, especially because of the layering options. I have used ON1 Photo Raw a couple of times when I was already using that app for my editing but found that it tended to have a ghost especially in B&W that takes a lot of work to refine. Thank you for the bonus skies.

  5. Richard Venneman August 11, 2021 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    I have both Photoshop and Luminar ai and find Luminar ai much easier and cleaner. Plus I really like the reflection and the options to edit the sky once placed.
    Thanks for the great comparison and instructions to use sky replacement.

  6. John Porter August 11, 2021 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    I have used the older manual sky replacement in Photoshop several times and thought it was great. The new,fairly automatic and fast is a great tool. Makes me want to replace every sky.

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