Exercise files: If you purchased the SLR Lounge Cloud Pack, the cloud we are working with is in the following location: 00_SLR_Lounge_Cloud_Pack -> Clouds – Sunset – No Sun -> SLR-Lounge-Cloud-Pack-142.jpg

The foreground image that we are working with is in the following location: 00_SLR_Lounge_Cloud_Pack -> 02_Cloud_Pack_Samples -> 08-SLR-Lounge-Cloud-Pack-Samples.PSD


Note: While the SLR Lounge premium membership includes the exercise file(s) pertaining each particular tutorial in the Cloud Pack, it does NOT include full download to the Cloud Pack. This addon can be purchased in our store here.


In this tutorial we’re going to cover the basic editing of sky and earth images to make them match as perfectly as possible. In our previous tutorials, we’ve discussed using the quick selection tool to insert clouds, and using “Blend If” to insert clouds. Now we’re going to rewind a bit and talk about how to refine the colors of the two layers so that you have a seamless blend of the two images.


When it comes to daylight, the color (both temperature and tint / hue) can vary all throughout the day based on atmospheric or weather conditions. So when we are blending two layers, we may sometimes need to apply slight color and tone adjustments to our cloud layer, our foreground subject layer, or both, separately.

Alternate Method: Before getting into our preferred method, let’s talk about an alternate method. One way to match the color and tone might be to try and edit each layer separately in Lightroom or Camera Raw before blending them. However it is nearly impossible to get something truly perfect without first seeing what the layers look like together. Also, as powerful as Lightroom is, Photoshop is even more powerful for subtle color adjustment or replacement! This is why our preferred method for adding clouds to a sky is to add the clouds first, and then perform fine tuning to the colors and tones.


Open the above sample image in Photoshop, (sample image 08) and you will find two images already layered together, a very simple blend. They were blended using the Blend If technique and simple layer masking, as described in previous tutorials.

However, the hues and colors in the clouds don’t perfectly match the subtle colors in the foreground image. This is simply because “correct” color varies from day to day, on some days a sunset may be very rich with pink and purple hues, and on other days the sunset may be rich with yellows and oranges. This doesn’t mean that either the cloud layer or the foreground layer are “wrong”, just that they weren’t captured on the same day at the same exact time, obviously. So they will need subtle fine-tuning in order appear perfect.


There are two highly effective tools for adjusting color in Photoshop: Color Balance and Selective Color.

Color Balance is better for adjusting colors in the highlights, mid-tones, or shadows separately, while Selective Color is more powerful for fine-tuning individual colors themselves. (Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, etc…)

Both of these can be applied as Adjustment Layers for quick fine-tuning, or easy deletion. Make sure that you also have your Properties window open so that you can always see the adjustments of your selected layer. (Window -> Properties)

Screenshot 2015-12-19 09.59.07


Color Balance the easiest to understand, and one of the most handy tools any time you’re trying to blend two images together. It manipulates highlights, shadows, and midtones individually. Let’s use this to adjust the color of the bottom layer. Click on the small circle below your layers, as you see in the image below and select “Color Balance.”

Screenshot 2015-12-19 10.01.25

In the drop-down menu for Tone, there are Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows. For each of those you have separate sliders for Cyan/Red, Magenta/Green, and Yellow/Blue.


For this particular sample image of a beach sunset, the goal is to make the yellow-blue hues match. So we are going to adjust each slider until we find the most natural-looking blend. For these two layers, we are going to bring the Cyan/Red Slider down to -5 and the Magenta/Green layer up to +30. Or you may adjust the sliders to your own personal taste!


If you find that both layers are being affected as you move the Color Balance sliders, don’t panic. This is because the cloud layer we already added is not 100% solid, it is slightly opaque in order to create a more subtle, realistic blend of the clouds.

You may solve the problem quickly by using the gradient mask tool to hide the sky portion of the Color Balance Adjustment Layer. Just click on the mask of the adjustment layer (a mask is automatically created for every Adjustment Layer) and press “G” to bring up your gradient tool. You’ll want to blend from black to white (transparent), so if it’s not already in that direction, hit “X.”

Screenshot 2015-12-19 10.08.33 copy

Screenshot 2015-12-19 10.18.33 copy


Selective Color is an even more in-depth adjustment tool. Instead of manipulating Shadows, Midtones and Highlights, you’re able to select nine different colors or tones, and then adjust the properties of that individual color.

First, select the folder in the Layers panel titled “Group 1” because we want to apply the adjustment layer to the sky, not the foreground. Select the same Adjustments Layer icon that you did before, but instead, click “Selective Color.”


Note: Using Adjustment Layers, we can change many different things to make two images appear as one. There are Adjustment Layers for Brightness/Contrast, Levels, Curves, and many other things. Each can be applied and fine-tuned in the same manner.

For the Selective Color adjustments to the sky, we want to fine-tune the warm colors, so select Reds or Yellows and adjust the sliders within these.


Here’s one last handy trick: Try starting your adjustment layers with a bit “more” than you think is actually necessary, and then dial back the opacity of the entire adjustment layer. This is often more efficient than repeatedly increasing all the individual sliders of that adjustment, bit by bit.


That’s it! Now you’re able to combine the lessons you learned in this tutorial and the previous tutorials to convincingly add clouds to your images.