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Replacing Sky Part 2

This post was previously seen yesterday at Wetzel and Company. Find out why at the end of this post.


Something happens to old photos of a certain age: The sky disappears. Just completely up and disappears, like all that was ever there was a solid yellow sky.

You know there had to have been clouds in at least some of the sky’s, in some of the photos, because clouds weren’t just invented after 1930, but there’s no sign. So how do you go about replacing a a solid yellow sky with a nice, natural looking sky with, perhaps, a cloud or two, just to give the composition a bit of texture? Up to a point, exactly the same way you’d replace the sky in a modern photo. It all begins with the mask…

Duplicate your original layer (Ctrl + J on PC, Cmd + J on Mac). Using your preferred masking method, mask out the area you want to replace. When finding the image you’ll use as your replacement, you don’t need to find anything special, or even old. A nice blue cloudy sky is fine, but the image still needs to come from purchased stock images, your own photography or photos in the public domain.

Select (Alt or Opt +A) and copy (Alt or Opt +C) the replacement image and move to the image you’ll be placing it into. Select the mask (mouse click over mask while holding down Ctrl on the keyboard if on PC, Cmd on a Mac). Make sure the area you’re going to insert the image into is selected. You may need to invert the selection (Ctrl or Cmd + I). Go to Edit > Paste Special > Paste Into. Use keyboard shortcut Ctrl (or Cmd on a Mac) + T to transform the selection and adjust it to fit within the selected area.

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Now you need to match the old color of the photograph to the new color in the sky. There are a number ways to do this, including the Match Color feature.

With the replacement element, in this case the sky, as the active layer, in the Match Color dialog you need to be sure the source is the original photo and the layer is one that has the actual old photo in it, so it can pick up that color.

Even after adjusting the sliders to get the best match I’m not liking this result much, so I’ll move on to another matching technique using the Tint feature inside the Black & White Adjustment Layer.  But before we do that, you’ll need to go to a layer with the original photo in it, take your Eyedropper tool and sample a color from it. Make note of that colors Hex Value, as you’re going to need it, shortly.

Next, go to the Adjustments Panel and choose the Black & White option. In the Black & White dialog box, check the Tint option and click on the color box next to it. When the color picker comes up, enter the Hex Value you noted previously.

The sky will still be a bit on the bright side, so you need to lower the opacity of that layer until you get a got match. Since you still have your original layer at the bottom of the stack, lowering the opacity will fade the new sky into the old, so if your color match is close, the integration should be seamless. I lowered the Opacity down to 25%, just enough for the clouds to show, but faded enough to perfectly match the faded tones of the original photo.

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Now you can go on to restore the photo and do any tonal corrections you need to do. Since you matched all your elements first, your photo will look completely natural at the end!

Of course, we know that you should never just take a photo off the internet to use, no matter what, unless of course, it’s in the Public Domain. With that in mind, it’s a great idea to start your own collection of “stock photography” that you can take images from to replace or repair objects in photos.

You can gather these from the previously mentioned Public Domain photographs, take photos yourself and buy photos from stock photography sites. To help you start, or add to, your collection, Rick Wetzel and TipSquirrel is offering 25% off on all products, CD’s and downloads, at Wetzel & Company, all Photoshop backgrounds, patterns, textures and stock photography for the entire month of June, 2010! Simply use the code TipSquirrel at checkout!

About Janine Smith (114 Articles)
Janine Smith is the owner of Landailyn Research and Restoration, a Fort Worth, Texas based company whose services include family history research and photo restoration. Janine honed her skills in restoring badly damaged photos as a volunteer with Operation Photo Rescue, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair photographs damaged by unforeseen circumstances such as house fires and natural disasters. <br> Janine’s work is well-known in the world of genealogical and historical societies, museums, libraries, university archives, and non-profit organizations; appearing on the board of directors for several organizations and institutions. She is a sought-after lecturer on photo restoration and preservation to libraries, genealogical and historical societies. <br> In addition to being a Lynda.com author, Janine is the author of many articles on research and restoration appearing in newspapers and magazines, both on and offline. Janine's history and photo restoration columns appear regularly on TipSquirrel.com and in the popular Shades Of The Departed Digital Magazine. <br> Janine is the winner of the 2010 “Photoshop User Award” in the photo-restoration category.

3 Comments on Replacing Sky Part 2

  1. If there was one thing I could wish, for all restoration artists to know is this! I know we are all on a learning curve but if only everyone knew this, i would no longer wince at and sometimes cry out “no” when i see really badly matched skies! Great one Janine. If the sky is completely destroyed of course there will be some matching of the grain to do as well.

  2. That’s the great thing about lowering the Opacity so far, other than helping make the match seamless, it let’s the texture of the original come through! Thanks for your comment!

  3. You are really talented. The sky looks so real. I cannot thank you enough for the post.

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