Making Gray/Grey Skies Blue


After living in the Seattle area for twelve years, I learned how to make a gray sky look blue. Days that I thought were sunny (a.k.a. not rainy) and felt sunny, didn’t always have a blue sky to reflect the absence of rain. The photo above is one that I wanted to hang on my wall, but I could NOT have a gray sky!

Here’s how (this will work in PSCS or PSE):

Use your magic wand to select the sky:

ScreenClip [9]

I’ve found that each photos is different, so you have to change the tolerance level until all of the sky has marching ants around it. Here are the settings I used for this photo:


You can see below that part of the upper left corner, where it was more blue, was not selected.


To incorporate this into the selection, select the Lasso tool:


Hold down the shift key and draw around that blue area as well as the outer edge of the photo. You can also take away areas that are selected that shouldn’t be by holding down the Alt key and using the Lasso tool. Now the photo looked like this:


Now, add a new layer by going to Layer>New>Layer.

Most of the time, when you look at a photo that has a naturally blue sky straight out of the camera (SOOC), the blue is darker at the top and lighter at the bottom. This is why we will add a gradient. I choose my first color by finding a blue somewhere in the photo (or another photo with a great blue sky). For this photo, I sampled the upper left corner of the photo:


I will need a little bit darker blue, so for the next color, I use the same color as the one above, but then move the selection directly right, so it’s just darker:


You can see I got a gamut alert on this color (triangle with an exclamation next to the darker blue), so I just clicked the triangle and it fixed it:


Make sure the darker color is your foreground color and the lighter blue is your background color:


Now select the gradient tool:


Here are the settings I used:


Make sure your new, blank layer is selected, then:


Last, I adjust my opacity a little bit on the sky layer, below it is set to 76% and looks very much like a sunny August day in Seattle:


Here’s our before and after again: