Beyond The Wanderlust » Inspirational Photography Blog for Storytellers Worldwide

How to Use Sky Overlays

How to Use Sky Overlays Beyond the Wanderlust

Have you ever captured the most amazing image and everything you wanted to achieve is in this photo, but the sky appears to be pale or just not quite right, making the whole image just a bit ‘average?’ Once upon a time you would have had to run with that image anyway, choose another one that you weren’t as happy with but the colors were more acceptable, or re-shoot the session.

This is where gorgeous sky overlays can bring that “wow” factor to your images!

You can blend a sky overlay with the current sky in your image, or replace the sky altogether, to add a touch of perfection to your images. Regardless of the effect you prefer, sky overlays are a great tool to enhance your images.  As with anything in Photoshop there are a million ways to do the same thing. I, personally, only use two particular methods to add my sky overlays to my images.

First method is where I use the selective tool to select the sky I want to work on. TIP: This method works best with clear horizon or beach images. I then feather that selection between 2 & 5 and create a layer via copy. I then drop the sky in, create a clipping mask, reduce the opacity and use a big soft brush at about 40% opacity to brush over the horizon.

Sky OneSky TwoSky Three

After I do a few final hand edits, then “wow” – the finished image!


The second method is where I use the gradient tool. I first drop in the sky that I want to use, move it into the position I want it and then create a layer mask and invert it so I can no longer see it. Click on the background layer, go to color range and put the dropper in the white part of the sky with the setting that are shown below. I then use the gradient tool and drag it from the top down into the sky, in brush stroke movements. TIP: Make sure when applying the mask layer to the sky, that the gradient tool is white to transparent and that the foreground color is white/background color black.

Sky Five

Sky SixSky Seven

Again after I do a few final hand edits, the final image.


Watch the full video tutorial on how to implement the above two methods.

Learn how to apply sky overlays with this easy step by step video – Tweet this!

Why not try a couple of the overlays on some of your images, to see how much they can enhance your shots? With the advent of smartphones and a multitude of portable cameras, you will want your images to stand out from any shots that your clients can take themselves. By making sure you experiment a little with sky overlays, and other techniques, you will be amazed at how much you can improve your finished product.

Here are some more of my before and afters:

Sky Nine

Connie Lawson of Connie’s Magic Moments – Custom Portrait Photography

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Connie is a natural & studio light photographer in Brisbane/Gold Coast, Australia. She is a mum to two crazy teenage girls, loves live music and is a sucker for red wine and dark chocolate! Creating and capturing moments in time that loved ones can treasure for a lifetime is what inspires Connie to create her magic. Shop Connie’s sky overlays HERE