Dealing with artifacts in skies is a common question among new Adjust users. If you’re an avid Adjust user, you may have already noticed that Adjust can often enhance and over amplify any existing noise or artifacts in the image sky – rendering an over-textured, uneven and very blotchy look. Often, Adjust can also introduce new noise or artifacts into the sky as well. We receive many questions regarding this over-amplified characteristic of Adjust. So today I have a couple of great tricks that I routinely use in my workflow to make sure that my skies are clean, crisp and clear…hopefully you will find these useful to your workflow as well. So, let’s look at a common issue that I’m sure we’ve all run into before…

So my original image (shown below) is pretty dull and boring and could use some POP…which is Topaz Adjust’s specialty!

Now one of my favorite presets in Adjust is the “Detailed” preset…and when applied to this image it gives the field a crisp, detailed enhancement.

However, the sky on the other hand now looks very harsh and is overlain with artifacts and uneven color. (as seen below)

Now there are a couple of ways that we can correct this. The first, and most popular, is to process your image in Adjust in two separate selections. To do this, you would use your Photoshop Quick Selection tool (or equivalent) to isolate the sky in your image. Then invoke Topaz Adjust and make the desired adjustments to your sky and click OK to process. After that, you can select the inverse and process that in Adjust. For more details please see our Selective Adjustments Question of the Week.

Another way to achieve these same results would be to create two separate layers and merge the two using a Layer Mask. This method offers a little more flexibility in the event of any necessary changes after the fact.

1. Duplicate your original image layer in Photoshop.
2. Select the bottom layer and invoke Adjust.
3. Make your adjustments – focusing on the field and then click OK to process.
4. Select the duplicated layer and invoke Adjust again. Make your adjustments, but this time focus on the sky.

Remember that you will be blending the two layers together,so be sure to keep in mind your previous adjustments….for example, you may not want one part of your image to have a completely different hue or saturation from the other, unless that is your desired effect.

5. Once your adjustments are made to your second layer, click OK to process and save back to Photoshop.
6. Back in Photoshop you will click on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of your Layers palette (it is the icon with the circle inside of the rectangle). This will add a Layer Mask to your sky layer.
7. Select a brush tool and set the brush color to black and then begin to brush through the field. This will bring in the field area from the bottom layer blending the two images.

Now, both of the methods described above work very well, however I want to show you another great technique that I use to avoid the Adjust-sky harshness while perfectly enhancing sky detail. This works best on images with clouds. So in this workflow you will notice two things: Both methods described above are incorporated and I also bring Topaz Detail into the mix. So let’s check it out…

1. Start by making a duplicate of the original layer.
2. Select the bottom layer and invoke Adjust.
3. Make your adjustments – focusing on the field and then click OK to process.
4. Select the duplicated layer.
5. Using your Photoshop Quick Selection Tool select the sky, but this time invoke Topaz Detail.

6. Increase the Medium and Large Detail sliders. This will enhance the clouds in a non-adrasive way.
7. Click OK to process your changes and save back to Photoshop.

So as you can see below you now have a better end result in your sky enhancement.

8. Back in Photoshop you will click on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of your Layers palette (it is the icon with the circle inside of the rectangle). This will add a Layer Mask to your sky layer.
9. Select a brush tool and set the brush color to black and then begin to brush through the field. This will bring in the field area from the bottom layer blending the two images.

And here you have your finished image with both elements equally and beautifully enhanced.

This post was originally posted on October 29, 2010
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