Photoshop Tutorial: Adding Snow to your Winter Photos

Snow600 300x300 Photoshop Tutorial: Adding Snow to your Winter Photos Snow can be incredibly hard to capture! Often it is either falling too fast to be caught by the shutter, or it’s against a gray sky and impossible to see. Today I’m going to show you how to add realistic falling snow to a photo with Photoshop. You can control the amount of snow and the look, for exactly the mood you want to create. To get started, choose the right photo! You want a photo that has some snow in it already, and has an appropriate sky. I’ve chosen this one, taken a few days ago during what passes as a blizzard here in TN. In reality it was about a half hour of flurries, but we get excited around here for that! Step 1: Create your snow layer
  • Click on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel to create a new layer.
  • Fill this layer with black by first pressing D to change your colors to the default, then hold the Alt key and press the backspace key to fill with black.SnowTut1 Photoshop Tutorial: Adding Snow to your Winter Photos
Step 2: Add “snow”
  • In the Filter menu at the top of the screen, choose Noise, then Add Noise.
  • Set the amount at 115% or so, and choose Gaussian. Then check the Monochromatic box to get black and white noise instead of colors.
Step 3: Blur
  • In the Filter menu, choose Blur, then Blur More.
  • Now repeat the Blur More – you can do this quickly by holding your CTRL key and pressing F.
  • We will blur again later, but this is enough to create large enough “flakes” so that we can get rid of some in the next step.
  Step 4: Cut down on the snowSnowTut2 300x278 Photoshop Tutorial: Adding Snow to your Winter Photos
  • To get rid of some of the noise, we need the Levels dialog. Hold your CTRL key and press L to bring that up. This shows us the histogram of the image, or a bar graph that indicates how many pixels there are in each shade of black/gray/white.
  • First we want to brighten the noise. Click on the white slider below the graph and drag left until it’s just where the ‘mountain’ shows on the graph.
  • To remove a lot of the noise, click on the black slider and drag it to the right. You’ll see the little white dots start to disappear in some areas. Drag the black slider until the specks look more like snow should to you.
  • Click on OK. You may notice that it now looks like more snow than you thought. That’s ok.
Step 5: Blend the snow layer with the photo.SnowTut3 Photoshop Tutorial: Adding Snow to your Winter Photos
  • To let the photo show through the snow layer, we need to change the Layer Blend mode to Screen. The blend modes are just above the layers in the Layers Panel.
Step 6: Blur againSnowTut4 257x300 Photoshop Tutorial: Adding Snow to your Winter Photos
  • Go to Filter> Blur> Motion Blur. You want to set an angle that looks realistic for your photo – I find something around 60 degrees in either direction looks good, but if you have snow in your photo already, you want to match the angle as best you can.
Step 7: Duplicate layer and rename
  • Right click on the layer in the Layers panel, then choose Duplicate Layer.
  • In the dialog box that comes up, rename the layer Foreground Snow
Step 8: Crystallize both layers
  • With the foreground layer active (it should be already), go to Filter> Pixelate> Crystallize. Set cell size at 16 or so.
  • Change to the other snow layer (this will be snow in the background), and do the same, setting the cell size much smaller – I used 4.
Step 9: Motion blur again
  • Still on the lower snow layer, apply a motion blur like we did above (Filter> Blur> Motion Blur) and set the distance low, maybe 8.
  • Change to the foreground layer and do it again, using a larger distance setting – I used 16.
Step 10: Mask the background snow outSnowTut8 210x300 Photoshop Tutorial: Adding Snow to your Winter Photos
  • To keep the smaller background snowflakes from showing over the person, we’ll create a layer mask. Make the bottom snow layer active by clicking on it. Click on the Add Layer Mask icon in the Layers panel to create the mask.
  • Press the D key to reset your color swatches to the default to be sure your foreground color is black.
  • Choose the Brush tool and paint over anywhere you don’t want to see the smaller snowflakes. You can choose to leave some of them showing for variety, really whatever looks good to you!
And there you go! You can fine tune by:
  • Adding more motion blur if you think it needs it.
  • Creating a layer mask on the other snow layer and masking out any pieces that don’t look right (sometimes they just ‘land’ in a bad place).
  • Change the opacity of any of the snow layers.
  • If the snow isn’t showing up enough, duplicate a snow layer and it will get brighter. BeforeAfterSnowTut 214x300 Photoshop Tutorial: Adding Snow to your Winter PhotosClick to enlarge
When you have it the way you want it, go ahead and save! Don’t you feel powerful, now that you can make it snow?    Send article as PDF   
  • Monique1971

    Thanks so much for this tutorial! Definitly gonna try this!

  • Sandy_in_MD

    Thanks so much for the great tutorial!

  • Jane

    Great tutorial and I love the layout! Thanks!

  • Cherril

    Great tutorial – will definately try this out.. Thanks.

  • Anne Smithen

    I tried it out and it worked perfectly! However, as an advanced photographer, I would love to be able to create something similar to these photos in this Winter Wonderland Photo Essay. It just wouldn´t work out for me, so if any of you has some good suggestions for me, just feel free to share them!