Hello Riverdog and welcome to the ArtRage forums
As to your 2 principle questions…
1: The palette knife would be my first choice and is ideally suited to this sort of blending. So I am curios as to what you mean exactly by “finicky” ?
There are many options one can set with that tool and hopefully a combination can be found to suit your needs. But, if you haven’t already, see what the included AR4 Knife settings can give. Maybe the ‘Harsh Chaos’ ?, as a starting point perhaps…
And don’t forget you can always “Duplicate” first any given layer to experiment on and discard if the results are not to your liking.
2: Not a problem!
Open the canvas settings panel and turn Off; ‘Canvas Lighting’.
Find your Sky layer in the ‘Layers Panel’, right click on it and choose ‘Export Layer’ and send it someplace easy to find again on your computer.
Back to the Canvas Settings panel again and turn the lighting back On.
Now go to File > ‘Import Image File To Layer’ and select the Sky layer you just exported and bring it into the painting.
One thing to note here is that the new imported layer will only be given a nominal paint thickness by AR on import. This may or may not be an issue if you wish to do more blending or painting on the new sky layer later.
So you now have to choices;
1:Turn Off or indeed Delete the original Sky layer if you are going to do no more work on it and you’re done.
2: Make sure the newly imported sky layer is immediately above the old sky in the layer stack.
Set the new layers ‘Bump Blend Mode’ to “Replace”.
Now merge the new layer down into the old layer.
Doing this will give the new layer the paint “volume” of the old layer and still no brush marks.
Now onto your other points that you yourself have noted about your painting; I concur
And I would also command you on your decision to, more or less, leave this work now, as is.
There is a subtle trap in all digital work and that is the ease with which one can keep going back into a painting to fiddle & noodle about with stuff, for ever!
Far better to note the errors in this work and move on to the next painting, where you can apply what you have learned from this time around.
Like this you build up “mileage” and a body of work you can look back on and note your progress as an artist.
Maker Of Replica Macoys
ArtRage 5.0.2 ~ 15" Macbook Pro + 22" HD Monitor ~ OSX 10.11.6 ~ 2 Core i7 2.6GHz CPU ~ 8GB RAM ~ Wacom Intuos4 M and a Spyder4Pro (to keep the colours true!)