Photoshop tutorial: Add snow to a photo in Photoshop

Learn how to add realistic snow to a winter or Christmas image using adjustments, blending modes, gradients and some subtle blending.

Intro


It’s a well-known fact that water and camera equipment do not tend to mix well! Shooting during heavy snowfall will often result in water spots on the lens and – in extreme conditions – the cold wet weather can be destructive to your camera.

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If you’re looking to add a little falling snow to your winter images without risking your favourite lens, here’s a step-by-step tutorial by Tigz Rice. To follow along, all you’ll need is a wintery image like this shot of a mountain range.

Step 1

STEP 1

Open your chosen image in Photoshop. First, let’s create some atmosphere in the image. Add a Black and White Adjustment filter from the Adjustments panel. In the dropdown menu, switch filter type from Default to Blue Filter, which should also lighten the sky. Then, set the Opacity to 75% in the Layers panel.

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Step 2

STEP 2

Now let’s bring a hint of colour back into the foreground. Click on the Gradient tool and choose the Black and White gradient. Drag up from the bottom of the image whilst holding Shift to keep the gradient in a straight line.

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Step 3

STEP 3

For a realistic snow effect, let’s add in some haze. 

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Click on the foreground colour and select a mid-grey tone. Create a new layer and press Alt + Backspace to fill the layer with grey. Change the layer’s blending mode to Screen to allow some of the original image to appear through.


Step 4

STEP 4

Whilst holding Alt, click on the layer mask connected to the black and white layer and drag-and-drop the gradient mask onto the Grey layer.

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This will copy the gradient mask so that it affects both layers.


Step 5

STEP 5

Now we are ready to create some snow. First create a new layer and fill it completely with black.

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Step 6

STEP 6

Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and set the amount somewhere between 150 and 200. Choose Gaussian Distribution and tick the monochromatic box. Press OK.

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Step 7

STEP 7

Then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set the Amount somewhere between 2 and 4 until you have a preview that looks something like this.

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Step 8

STEP 8

Still on the same layer, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and slide in the black and white Input Level markers to create snow like speckles.

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The exact positions of the sliders will vary depending on your noise layer, but as a guide, the sliders should sit roughly in the same place on your Input Level curve as this example. Once you’re happy, press OK.

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Step 9

STEP 9

Set the blending mode of the layer to Screen and your layer should now look a lot more like snow falling over your image. Duplicate this layer so you have two versions. Rename them Foreground Snow and Background Snow.

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Step 10

STEP 10

Let’s bring some depth into the snow. Hide the Foreground Snow layer and select the Background Snow layer in the Layers panel.

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Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set the Amount to around 4% and press OK.


Step 11

STEP 11

Make the Foreground Snow layer visible again and press Cmd/Ctrl + T to bring up the Transform tools. Holding down Shirt + Alt, click and drag on one of the corner markers of the Foreground Snow layer to make the layer a little bigger - increasing the size of your foreground snowflakes. Press Enter to confirm your changes.

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Step 12

STEP 12

Adding some blur will also give the impression of falling snow. Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Choose the Angle you want your snow to fall at, and then keep the Distance at a default of 10 pixels. Press OK.

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Step 13

STEP 13

Soften up these snowflakes by going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur again. Set the Amount to around 2% this time and press OK.

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Step 14

STEP 14

Now you’ve got snow over your entire image, you may want to remove snow from certain areas of your image to make the snow seem more realistic. Let’s remove the Background Snow from falling in front of the trees at the bottom of the image.

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Click on the Add Layer Mask and use a soft black brush to brush over the snowflakes falling on the trees.

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Step 15

STEP 15

You may also want to add more snow layers to build up even more depth. Duplicate the Background Snow layer as many times as you need, changing the opacity of flipping the layer to create variation.

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Here I added a second foreground snow layer with even bigger snowflakes by repeating steps 12-15.


Step 16

STEP 16

Create a new group to hold all of your Snowflake layers and rename it Snowflakes. You can then copy and paste this to other images, modifying each layer to add variety.

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