How to blend "SKY" into your images step-by-step

Hey everyone! Hope you're all having a fantastic day and welcome to my first ever blog post! My blog posts will revolve around giving you insight into how you can IMPROVE your images, whether you want to learn some Photoshop editing techniques or learn how to color your photos in Lightroom to get the result you were looking for! I'll also talk about various life topics that can apply to everyone whether you're an artist or not. I hope that I can provide as much value to you as possible!

Today's post will be about how you can blend a sky image into another image two different ways. A folder with the images I use will be linked right here for you to practice on. So lets get started!

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/14LkGay89AabjvM4hKdJrp335vJrj_GkT?usp=sharing

Skill level: Beginner

First, you're going to want to open up Photoshop with the images that you want to use. Place the sky image in the position that you feel is best. You'll notice a harsh line at first, but I'll show you how to blend it in accordingly. 

  1. Create a layer mask for the sky image by clicking the layer mask button on the bottom. A white layer mask means that the contents of the image are REVEALED. If the layer mask was black then the image would not be shown. "White reveals, black conceals". 
  2. Select your brush tool and reduce the "flow" percentage. I like to use a very low flow percentage to create a seamless blend. Also make sure you have BLACK as your foreground color before brushing. Black will remove the desired contents. With the layer mask selected, brush over the harsh line until you are content with where the two images begin to blend. Make sure you zoom in to make sure no harsh lines are left. 
  3. Voila! Now let's add in one more element. Repeat steps 1-2 for the second sky image. Only this time, we're going to set this image's blend mode to "Hard Light". Doing so will add in a harsh spotlight effect that will give us a brighter looking sky assuming that the underlying layer is of light color.

 

1. Layer masks are a great way to edit non-destructively.

2. Flow is the speed at which the color is applied to the image.

3. Add more depth by including another image and blending it in!

There you go! You turned an okay looking photo into something spectacular! Now let me show you the second method for blending sky into another image. 

This second method will include the use of "channels" as well as a layer mask. Open up the images, while keeping the sky image off visibility for now.

  1. Open up the channels window on the right. If you don't see the channels, go to Window > Channels. Three channels will be shown - Red, Green, and Blue. We want to use the channel that has the highest amount of contrast to make for a better selection. Go through the channels by clicking on the "eye" leaving one eye on the channel with the highest contrast. In this case, we will use the red channel.
  2. Create a copy of the red channel by dragging it down to the New Layer button. Now bring up the Levels adjustment by pressing ctrl/cmnd + L on the keyboard. Drag the middle and right point towards each other until the sky is as white as possible without destroying the foreground of the image. 
  3. Hold ctrl/cmnd down while clicking the red channel copy's thumbnail. You now have all of the whites and lighter shades selected in your image with the dotted lines you see. Go to your sky image making sure that it is visible, then create a layer mask with it. Brush over any parts with white/black that may need it. You have now blended these two images together perfectly!

1. Channels are a great way to create selections around objects such as plants that have very intricate outlines that are almost impossible to cut out with a brush.

2. Levels are a great way of creating contrast between shadows and highlights. 

3. Make sure you see the "marching ants" or dotted lines before creating a layer mask for your sky. Remember, cmnd/ctrl + click on the Red copy thumbnail to select it.

I hope you guys were able to follow easily. I encourage you to try these techniques on other images to practice and really nail your process. Once you master it, it will only take you a couple minutes to do this! Make sure to subscribe with your email to know when a new blog post goes up! Cheers!