The conditions of outdoor lighting and nature can be sporadic. Mother Nature may not always grant you the most ideal weather when on a photo shoot; a flat, cloudless sky reflecting nothingness into the water beneath it may not be something you want to put in your portfolio or share to Facebook & Instagram (as compared to a magnificent painter’s sunset). Enter sky replacement with Topaz ReMask!

Creative Sky Replacement with ReMask 4Knowing when the sky will be a beaut isn’t always easy to detect. Usually post-storm or pre-storm skies can produce interesting lighting as the sun sets, however there is no particular device (to my knowledge) that tells you when the sky will be brilliantly filled with vibrant colors.

Luckily, you can use masking tools, like Topaz ReMask, to replace a boring sky with a more interesting one!

Topaz user Gary Lamott has shared his method for replacing an average sky & water reflection using ReMask, Clarity and PaintShop Pro. So follow along and learn how to transform a plain sky into something worth displaying on your wall! (download example image to the right – photo for personal use only please.)

Step 1: Clarity

  • Open your image in a compatible host editor like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or photoFXlab. For this demonstration we will be using Corel PaintShop Pro.
  • Activate Topaz Clarity and press ‘Reset’ (on bottom right) to rid of any previous effects that may have been applied.
  • Expand the Architecture Collection and select the preset Cityscape II or another suiting preset. You may choose to adjust the selective parameters in the right panel. For this image the following adjustments were applied:
  • Medium Contrast: 0.47
  • Micro Contrast: 0.94
  • Green Hue: 0.07
  • Overall Saturation: 0.11


  • Select OK to return back to your host editor.

Step 2: ReMask

  • Back in PaintShop Pro create a duplicate layer.

Duplicate Layer

  • Activate Topaz ReMask 4.
  • Upon opening ReMask your image should be filled with Green, however if not, press Reset to Keep (bottom left corner adjacent to Menu).
  • From the primary brushes, select the blue (compute) brush (shortcut key: E).
  • Increase your brush size as desired and draw a line along the buildings, making an outline as shown:

Mask 1

  • Select the red fill tool (shortcut key: T) and fill the sky with red.

Red Bucket

  • Click on the Compute Mask button (or hit the Enter key) to compute your mask.

Mask 2

  • From this point, you can save your mask as a .tiff file for future use (go to Menu-> Save Trimap/Mask). When working with an extensive mask, it is always advisable to save it so you don’t lose your work (should anything happen). Just note that you’ll only be able to open this mask with the same image you were using prior to.

Step 3: Mask Refinements

  • In the top menu click the Keep view mode (shortcut key: 4). Next, switch your screen to Dual Screen mode by clicking the icon on the top right of the screen (shortcut key: 9).

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.14.40 PM

  • After you compute the mask you’ll notice a set of refinement options appear under the Adjustment panel. Increase the Recovery slider to recover the foreground. You may also choose to increase the Desaturation slider as desired.
  • If you see areas of gray in your mask, you’ll want to correct this. For areas of gray in the background (black), use the red primary brush (shortcut key: W) and dab or conduct short brush strokes until it turns to black.
  • Do the same for the foreground (white) with the green primary brush (shortcut key: Q) by dabbing it where there are areas of gray.
  • Just be sure not to break the blue line (refer back to your TriMap to ensure this). Should you accidentally break the blue line you can always brush it back in with the blue primary brush (shortcutkey: E).
  • You may also choose to work in Quad Screen mode (shortcut key: 0) when fine-tuning the mask. To change the background in Keep and Cut modes, click on the set of circles adjacent to the different View modes or press Cmd/Ctrl + B to invoke the color palette options. A black background will help us better detect any flaws in our mask.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.18.59 PM

  • Should you notice any sky bleeding through the trees, use the Color Range brushes to fix this. With the red color range brush (shortcut key: S), sample a selection of the sky, and then brush over areas where you see sky still bleeding through.
  • After you’re done with refinements, click OK to return back to your host editor.

Step 4: Background Replacement

  • Create a new image in PaintShop Pro (or other host editor) that has the same dimensions as your image.

New Image

  • Open up a background image of a new sky. Select it (ctrl/cmd + A) and copy it (ctrl/cmd + C). Next go to your new layer and paste that selection (ctrl/cmd + V).  Sky
  • Do the same for your masked layer, selecting it and pasting it to your new image layer.
  • Press ctrl/cmd + T to transform the image if needed and use the move tool to align both. Factory
  • Duplicate the sky layer (ctrl/cmd + J) and use the align tool to flip it vertically.
  • Change the layer’s properties in the layers palette to Overlay and the opacity to around 70%.
  • Once complete, save the image as a PainShop Pro PSD file (or other format).


Before Topaz: 

unnamed-1After Topaz:

unnamed-2With the help of Topaz Clarity we were able to bring out the tonalities and color that were void before due to the lighting conditions. And then, with ReMask we were able to extract the landscape and place a more appealing background behind the town of Exeter and into the reflection of the water.

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