Changing Lighting and Skies Tutorial

Name of Tutorial - Changing Lighting and Skies in Post Production
Level - Starter to Intermediate
Type - Post -production
Programs Used - 3Ds Max, Photoshop
Usefull Links -
Duration - 9 minutes 11 seconds

The Written Tutorial
1. References

This video interprets the use of skies and lighting within an image and shows by changing them how they can have a drastic effect.


As always, references are very important. We have used our own images in this case to show the different moods that they create. Unfortunately it has become a constant battle with architects and designers nowadays to experiment with these different skies and lighting methods. Hopefully this can change as it lets us put more of our artistic flare and enjoy creating images a lot more.

Select a few images that relate well with the image you'd like to complete

2.Lighting References

The reference paintings that were also used also express different moods by using skies and lighting. The use of the lighting within these manage to draw the eye in and make very similar atmospheres. Seeing these paintings really help to add to the inspiration for the image that is being created.

Find references for lighting that you wish to follow

3. Search Online

Search online for images of skies. Use search engines such as flickr and google images to do this but make sure that the images are high resolution otherwise they will appear stretched and pixilated. Also, don't go for skies that are too contrasting/ false looking as these won't work very well within the image.

Place the skies behind your image to see if it works

Sky 02

4. Adjusting Levels

It's a great idea when you've found a sky to play around with the levels. Connect a levels layer to the sky layer (use the 'create new fill or adjustment layer' button and select 'levels' once selected hold the 'alt' key and click the layer you wish to connect it to). Move the sliders in the levels pallet to create many different effects. The images of the sky can also be flipped (to do this right click on the image and select 'flip horizontal'. 

Play around with the Levels to create different effects

Flip the sky around to create new effects

5. Using Overlays

Once the sky is inserted, to create another effect you can use the 'screen' mode option. Use the levels pallet again again as well as the gradient tool to paint a vignette effect into the sky. You can add numerous skies to an image, in this video two pictures were used. By adding a new sky on top of the others it will hide the previous sky unless you change the opacity, this is very important.

Try different overlay modes

6. Lighting

To add lighting to the above sky you should create a mask (use the mask button). Make sure that the brush colours are reset to black and white; use the 'D' button on the keyboard to do this. You should paint using white for this will gradually paint in the sky that is below, bringing in lighter elements. Make sure a soft brush is used in this case (check the opacity of the brush is lowered) and paint in 'soft light' mode. Make sure its the mask that is being painted on not the image!

Paint in the sky below to create light

7. Rotate & Flip The Image

It's always a great idea to get different perspectives of the images you are creating. Use the 'R' key on the keyboard to rotate the image. As well as this it's also a good to flip the canvas; do this by selecting 'Image' then 'Image Rotation' and then 'Flip Canvas Horizontally'.

Rotate the image using the 'R' key

Flip the image

8. Black & White Filter

Once the sky is set in the image it can unfortunately shadow the main elements, in this case, the building and assets around it. The building has become lost in the sky due to the colour being similar. Fortunately it isn't hard to fix this! First of all you should make the image appear under a black and white filter, (use the 'create new fill or adjustment layer' button and select black and white) The black and white layer will show the dark areas and light areas so that you can see more easily where you should apply the light areas. Now create a new layer ( use the 'new layer' button) and select 'overlay' mode from the selection list. Use a soft brush and paint in white, (adjust the opacity to either fade out or strengthen the colour) and paint on the light where it is needed. Switch off the black and white mode if it becomes too distracting.

Create a Black & White Filter

Don't forget to flip the image back to the original state

The finished image