Make your winter shots even more wintery
How to Create Realistic Snow Overlays with Photoshop
This technique for Photoshop combines snowflakes, bokeh and rain to create a realistic snow overlay which can be used on photographs.
If you want to skip the tutorial and download our pack of 6 Snow Overlays for Photographs, you can download them here.
Open your image in Photoshop. I am using this image from Unsplash which I have resized to 3000 x 2000 pixels to make it easier to work with.
Start by creating two new layers and fill them both with solid black. Layer 1 is simply a background layer used to hide the photo, Layer 2 is where we will start working.
On Layer 2 we are going to create some fine rain, go to Filter > Mezzotint and select the Grainy Dots option then click OK.
Next go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and use 95° for the Angle and 25 for the distance.
To filter out some of the rain and make it look more realistic, open the Image > Adjustments > Levels panel and 25, 1.00 and 255 for the Input Levels.
Set the Opacity of the rain layer to 80% and optionally name the layer ‘Rain 1’.
Create another new layer called ‘Rain 2’ and fill it with solid black.
We are going to make some heavier rain now, go to Filter > Mezzotint again and this time use Coarse Dots.
Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur again and use 85° for the Angle this time. Having two rain layers going in slightly different directions will give the impression of there being a strong wind in the photo.
Open the Image > Adjustments > Levels panel again and this time use 30, 0.9 and 150 for the Input Levels.
Set the Blending Mode of the ‘Rain 2’ layer to Screen.
To make the rain look more spread out and less uniform, grab the Eraser tool and with a soft round brush at 50% Opacity and delete some sections of rain.
Create another new layer called ‘Bokeh’ and fill it with solid black. On this layer we are going to create some blurry out of focus snow flakes that appear to be too close to the camera lens. Snow is very rarely captured in focus so this will add to the realism.
For the bokeh effect, we need to create a simple scatter brush to use. Select the default soft round brush at 50 pixels and then set the following options in the Brushes panel:
Set the foreground color to white, and use the scatter brush to fill the Bokeh layer with random dots. To achieve this effect you will need to click once with the brush then move the cursor slightly and click once again. It can be quite time consuming this way, but the result is much better than holding down the mouse button.
Go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur and use the settings shown below to complete the Bokeh effect.
Set the Blending Mode of the Bokeh layer to Screen and Opacity to 50%.
Once again, create a new layer and fill it with solid black. Name this layer ‘Flakes’. This final layer will be similar to the Bokeh layer, except in focus.
Use the same scatter brush from step 14 and create some more random white dots.
Go to Filter > Filter Gallery.. and choose Ocean Ripple. Set the Ripple Size to 1 and Magnitude to 5.
Go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur again and this time use these settings shown below for a more subtle blur effect:
Set the Blending Mode of the Flakes layer to Screen.
Finally, group all of the layers (excluding the original image) and set the Blending Mode of the group to Screen.
And here is the final result. The combination of flakes, bokeh and rain in different directions create the illusion of depth which produces a more realistic effect than most snow overlay techniques found on the web.
Download Snow Overlays for Photographs
This pack features 6 high quality overlays for adding snow to your photographs. They vary from intense snow storms to light flurries and can be toned down by using opacity or cranked up even more by layering multiple overlays on the same image. Supplied as both JPG and transparent PNG files.