Faux Snow

Well, now you know how to create ‘shadow Stories’. What next? How about learning how to create what looks like real snow falling from the sky?

Has there ever been a time where you wanted to add a little something extra to your winter pictures, but didn’t know how? What about making it look as if there is snow falling from the sky, even though you know it was not snowing that day?

Even though the idea may sound complicated, it is actually rather simple. For this how-to, I am going to be using an image of a deer in a snowy forest. You may notice that the entire bottom corner is already covered in snow, but once you see the final effect, it will look better.

Once the image has been opened in photoshop, create a new layer over the picture. The way to create a new layer is to look at the right hand side of the screen, where the layers are listed and go to the bottom and click on the new layer icon, shown by a flipping page icon. It is between the trash and the folder icons.

It will look as though nothing has happened, but if you look to where the layers are listed, you will see there is now two layers; one with the picture of a deer, and the other is a blank gray and white checkerboard look. If you see the checkerboard look it means that there is nothing there and it is just a placeholder. On the main work area, you will not notice any changes because the layer is empty.

Now that we have the new layer we need to fill the color in. To do this go up to edit in the top menu bar and choose fill. Then set the settings to use: black, mode: blending, and opacity: 100%.

Now you will notice that the layer has completely filled with black and is blocking the actual image.

Keeping the black visible, we are going to add noise to the picture. No, I am not talking about the music we listen to or random sound effects. In photoshop Noise is a bunch of little dots that are inserted into the layer that is selected. To add noise, go to the top menu bar and choose filter before selecting noise and finally choosing add noise.

Selecting add noise will open a new window over your workspace. You are going to select the slider next to amount and move it to around 150%. Between uniform noise and gaussian noise, you are going to want to select gaussian noise. Now, you may have noticed that there are multiple colors mixed into the noise. Because we are creating snow and not confetti, we will need to select monochromatic so that it is all black and white.

Now that we have the noise, we need to blur it slightly. To do this, go up to the top menu again, choose filter, and this time instead of selecting noise, you are going to select blur and then choose blur more.

Keep in mind that with blur more you will not be able to choose the values of the blurring. Now the noise will have a blurred look to it.

The next step is going to be to reduce some of the noise, so that it does not look as if a blizzard is hitting in your picture. To reduce the amount of noise, we are going to use levels. To get to levels, go to the top menu and select image before selecting adjustments and ending with Levels.

When you click on levels, a window will pop up containing a histogram. To reduce the noise you will want to move the white slider to 204, the black slider to 162, and the middle value to 1.00.

When you click ok, you will see that some of the noise has been removed.

Now you will want to change the blend mode of the layer. To do this, go to the right hand side of the screen where your layers are. Just above your layers you will see a box that should say normal. Click on the word normal and a menu should pop down. Choose screen from the menu.. By doing this, you are telling photoshop to remove the black part of the layer and to only show the white noise.

Now you should see the ‘snow’, but you may notice that it is stationary (not moving). To fix this we are going to add a motion blur. To do this go up to the top menu bar and select filter then go back down to motion and choose motion blur.

You do not want to give too much motion, but just enough to give the impression that the snow is falling. To do this enter -65 into the angle section of the window that popped up and set the distance to 8 pixels.
Now The snow looks as if it is falling, but it is still quite light. To fix the we are going to duplicate the layer to also create bigger looking snowflakes so that there is some variety. To duplicate the layer, right click on the layer listed on the right hand side of the screen and a menu should pop up. Choose duplicate layer.

Now you should notice that there is three layers open in your document. First we are going to rotate one layer of snowflakes to add some variety. To do this go up to the top menu and select edit and then choose transform and finally select Rotate 180°. This will flip the snowflakes and place them in a slightly different location.

Next we are going to crystallize the layer of snowflakes that you just rotated. To crystallize them, go to the top menu bar and choose filter, and then select pixelate followed by crystallize.

When you choose crystallize a window will pop up. The only thing you are going to do is to set the cell size to 10 and then hit ok.

Now you will notice that there is a good mixture of both bigger and smaller snowflakes. Still on the layer we have been working on, go to the top menu and select filter and then choose blur followed by motion blur.

You are going to use the same settings as before, except instead of the distance being 8 pixels, it is going to be 16 pixels. This will give more variation of the snow.

Now you could stop here and be done, but there is a few extra steps you could do. The few extra steps will brighten and increase the snow slightly. To start you need to merge the two snow layers. To do this, click on the uppermost snowflake layer and right click before choosing merge down This will only affect the top two layers.

Once you have merged the layers, you are going to duplicate them again. All you have to do is click on the layer listed on the right and right click and select duplicate layer.

Now you can see that the snow has brightened up. The next step is to change the opacity of the snow. To do this go to the top of the layers on the right hand side and you should see opacity and next to it the value is going to be 100%. You want to click where it says 100% and choose a value between 35%-40%.

Now you are done and it looks as if you braved the snow to get your picture.

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