How to Add Sky Overlays into the Sky Replacement Panel in Photoshop CC 2021
It’s no secret I love a good sky overlay. They’ve been a huge part of my editing workflow for years, and fittingly, have been one of the main topics of conversation in my tutorials and posts here on the site. So it goes without saying that I was super pumped to see Photoshop release the Sky Replacement feature in the 2021 Creative Cloud update.
Replacing a sky in Photoshop is seriously as easy as clicking a button now.
In the new Sky Replacement panel, you just load in your Sky Overlays, click the one you want to see on your photo, and it’s instantly applied. (Even if your image ALREADY HAS A SKY!)
Now, I have to admit it’s not always a perfect, seamless addition. But they’ve also included a ton of awesome features to customize your chosen sky (and the way it’s reacting with your photo) right inside the panel. There are options to adjust the sky’s brightness, temperature, and even play with the colors in the foreground of your photo to make it match the sky.
So easy and so much fun!
Intro to the Sky Replacement Panel
In this post, I’ll explain how to add Sky Overlays into the Sky Replacement panel in Photoshop CC 2021. For a full demonstration of the Sky Replacement panel, and to see all its settings put to use, check out this free video lesson from my VIP Membership.
You’ll notice if you watch the lesson I just mentioned, that when the Sky Replacement feature first launched there was a glitch in the program that wouldn’t allow you to easily add multiple Sky Overlays to the panel. Luckily, it’s fixed now! So this post is to show you how easy it is to add your skies to the Sky Replacement panel.
1. Open the Sky Replacement Panel
First things first, in order to use this new Photoshop feature, you’ll need to be using at least the 2021 version of Photoshop CC. Earlier versions won’t have this feature yet, so be sure to do an update before following these steps. (Or check out my other Sky Overlay tutorials for methods that work in earlier Photoshop versions.)
Once you’ve got Photoshop CC 2021 open, simply go up to Edit > Sky Replacement to open the panel.
2. Click the downward pointing arrow to open the “Sky Picker Panel”
Once the Sky Replacement panel pops up, Photoshop automatically applies a sky to your photo. Usually, this is the last sky you used. (Which is super helpful when editing multiple images, as it saves you time having to find and select the same sky for each photo.) But, if you’re using the Sky Replacement panel for the first time, Photoshop will populate one of its own default skies for you to try.
To change the chosen sky, and to add your own skies to this panel, simply click the downward pointing arrow next to the currently selected sky.
This will open what I call the “Sky Picker Panel.” (It’s a totally made-up name, but roll with me. It’ll help us refer to the correct panel as we continue.)
3. Create a new group or folder for your skies
Once the Sky Picker panel opens, you’ll notice Photoshop has preloaded some Sky options for to use. (Score! Free sky overlays for you!) Feel free to click one and give it a try.
If you’d like more sky options, or just want to have something you can install to practice these steps, you can find some free sky overlays here on my site, too. Just be sure you extract or unzip your Sky Overlays before installing.
Oh! Real quick: if you need to resize your panel to get a better view of all the skies, click the bottom right-hand corner of the panel and drag it outward to adjust the size. You can also use the slider at the very bottom of this panel to make the sky images larger and easier to see.
Now, before adding your skies, I recommend creating a new folder, or “Group” for them in this panel. To do this, simply click the folder icon at the bottom of the panel.
As soon as you click the folder icon, it will ask you to name your new group. Here, I chose to name it after the collection I’m installing: ‘MB Scenic Skies Pack 2‘.
Arranging your folders/groups
Sometimes after creating a new folder, Photoshop will place it in a weird spot. (Often right in the middle of another group.) You can click and drag to move a folder where you’d like at any time.
For organization purposes, you can even choose to nest folders underneath other ones on purpose by dragging them there as well.
As a quick example, my Cinematic Skies collection is a large set that comes with the skies organized into three folders: Blue Skies, Stormy Skies, and Sunset Skies. So, in my own Sky Picker panel, I created a main folder for the collection called “MB Cinematic skies.” Then, nested just below that, I created three separate folders called “Cinematic Blue Skies”, “Cinematic Stormy Skies”, and “Cinematic Sunset Skies.” That way I can keep all the skies organized the same way they come.
You can get as intricate and organized in this panel by creating as many folders as you’d like. Or keep it simple and toss all your faves in one spot — totally up to you! You can also hover your mouse over a sky to read its file name.
Once you have your folder named and placed where you’d like, it’s time to add your skies.
5. Add your Skies
To load your Sky Overlays, first click on the folder you just created to highlight it. Then, click the square icon with the plus sign inside at the bottom of the panel.
A window will pop up where you can navigate on your computer to the folder of skies you’d like to install. Once there, click to select the skies you want. Or click and drag with your mouse to quickly select them all at once. When you’re done selecting, click ‘Open’.
Photoshop will then begin importing your skies and will keep you updated with a little progress window while it works.
6. Click to apply a Sky to your photo
Once you’ve installed your skies, click on any of the little sky thumbnails to instantly apply it to your photo.
(Again, feel free to drag the bottom right corner to resize the Sky Picker panel. Or drag the slider at very the bottom to make the skies larger and easier to see.)
Keep clicking through the different skies until you find the one you like best. If your favorite option doesn’t look exactly right yet, don’t worry! You can adjust the settings to customize it.
Once you’ve selected the sky you like, simply click back over to the ‘Sky Replacement’ panel. There, you’ll be able to experiment with all the slider settings to customize the look of your Sky Replacement.
There are so many great settings you can adjust to control how the overlay looks on your image.
For instance, you can check the “Flip” box to flip the sky horizontally. (Which is a great way to make sure the lighting direction of the overlay matches the lighting direction in the photo.) You can also adjust the “Temperature” of the Sky Overlay, making it warmer or cooler to match the coloring in your image.
To see all the different settings in action and follow along as I explain what they do, click here to watch the free Sky Replacement lesson from my VIP Membership.
Having a problem with any of the above steps? Let’s take a look at a few things that could be going wrong.
– Problem: Can’t click ‘Sky Replacement’ in Step 1 because it’s greyed out.
If the Sky Replacement option in the Edit menu of Photoshop looks greyed out, it’s usually a problem with your layers. Or, to be more specific, an issue with which layer you currently have selected in your Layers Panel.
Photoshop needs to “see” what your image looks like in order to apply a sky. This means that your Background layer (or a duplicate of it) needs to be selected in your Layers Panel before Sky Replacement will be an option in the Edit menu. If you have other layers on top of your Background Layer, and any one of them are selected, the Sky Replacement option will be greyed out.
To avoid having to flatten your file and lose your work, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E (Cmd+Opt+Shift+E) to create a new merged image layer at the top of the stack in your Layers Panel. Then, with this new layer active, go back up to Edit > Sky Replacement again. It should now be a clickable option.
– Problem: Can’t open my folder of Skies in Step 5 because it’s greyed out.
When searching through your computer folders from the Sky Replacement panel, Photoshop only allows you to click on compatible image files or folders. This means that any files that aren’t compatible will be greyed out. If your sky folder isn’t clickable, it most likely means the file is still zipped and Photoshop can’t read it.
To unzip the folder, use the File Manager on your computer to find it. Then, right-click on it and choose ‘Extract All’ from the menu to unzip it. You can then go back into Photoshop and try this step again.
Experiencing an issue not listed here?
I’d be happy to help! Take a screenshot of your issue and send it to me via email at [email protected] Please include details on which step you’re stuck on and the problem you’re experiencing. I’ll gladly take a look and see if I can help you get back on track.
Have you used the Sky Replacement feature on one of your photos yet? What was your favorite part? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!
If you enjoyed these tips and want to learn all the ins and outs of editing in Photoshop, my VIP Membership is a great resource. As a VIP, you’ll get access to my online course The Photoshop Fanatic, plus a Marketing course for portrait photographers, and ALL of the editing products in my shop. (Including all the Sky Overlays mentioned in this post!)