I was working on a larger project a few days ago that I’ll discuss here on this blog soon when I stumbled across a neat effect that I thought you’d like to know about. the technique I pulled off creates what appears to be snow in a photo. It’s pretty cool looking and somewhat adjustable, so if you ever have a need to add falling snow to a photograph in the future, you know where to look for instructions on how to do it. Right here.
In today’s post, I’ll quickly demonstrate how to add a layer mask to an existing layer in Adobe Photoshop, how to fill that mask with a pattern, how to adjust the Levels of the texture in the mask and then how to blur the resulting effects so the adjusted texture looks like white snow falling from the sky. The angle of the falling snow is adjustable as is the speed of the snow. The best part is, the entire process is quick and painless. This isn’t a tough one at all.
The Demo Photo
After experimenting with a few photos, I found that darker ones look better when it comes to this snow effect. It’s tough to see white on white, so I chose this darker blue on black on purple image to work with.
Adding a Background Layer & Layer Mask
The first two steps are very basic. Because I’ll be dealing with a layer mask in a strange way, I’ll need to add a background layer that’s filled with white before I do anything else. Then, I’ll add a layer mask to the image layer. This is what my Layers panel will look like after I’m finished with these two steps.
Adding a Pattern
Next, I’ll add a pattern to the layer mask. I’ll first click on the mask in the Layers panel to select it and then I’ll go to the Edit > Fill menu item and click.
After I do that, the Fill dialog box will appear. I’ll choose Pattern from the Contents drop-down and then Rough from the Custom Pattern drop-down.
If you’re following along and you don’t see the Rough pattern option, then you’ll need to click on the gear icon in the Custom Patterns drop-down and then click on the Erodible Textures option. Then, click the Append button in the confirmation box. This will load the pattern you need for this tutorial.
After I choose the pattern I want, I’ll click the OK button and this is what I’ll see over the image. Pretty weird looking.
What’s interesting about this is that the pattern, or texture, is applied to the mask itself, not the image. This gives us some options.
Adjusting the Levels
The next step I’ll take is to adjust the Levels of the mask. I’ll make sure the layers mask is selected in the Layers panel and then I’ll head to the Image > Adjustments > Levels menu option and click.
When the Levels dialog appears, I’ll push the black slider (beneath the histogram) to the right about a quarter of the way and then the white slider to the left about two-thirds of the way. Doing this will clean up a lot of the clutter in the pattern and will offer distinct white specks. If you’re doing this yourself, try experimenting with the sliders to see what type of snowflakes you can get. It’s this adjustment as well as image resolution that controls the size and clarity of the snow flakes. If I were working with a smaller image, the snow flakes would be much larger. Take a look at the flakes in the screenshots below.
Adding Movement & Direction to the Flakes
Now that I have actual snowflakes, I can add some movement and direction to them. I played around with a few filters and discovered that the motion blur one did the best job. So, again, I’ll make sure the mask is selected in the Layers panel and then I’ll go to the Filter > Blur > Motion menu item and click.
Once the Motion Blur dialog box appears, I’ll choose the Angle and Distance values that look best and then I’ll click the OK button to apply the changes.
And this will be the final effect.
Different Size Flakes
Now, I mentioned above that I could obtain different sized flakes by changing the size of the image itself. To show you this, I’ll reduce the image width from 4000 pixels to 1500 pixels. I followed the same steps I just laid out above and this is the result.
Here are the original snow flakes.
And here are the flakes with a bit of movement. Falling snow, if you will.
It looks sort of like snow from a Christmas cartoon, but hey, it’s snow.
And that’s it! Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this snowing effect in Photoshop down in the comment section below or in the Photoshop forum. Thanks for reading!