How to Add Snow in Photoshop

Create a Photoshop snow overlay

Let's add a snow layer to this winter scene

Julia_Siomuha/Getty Images

Taking a photo during a snowstorm is challenging. You and your camera will get cold and wet, and shooting is difficult because the lens wants to focus on the snowflakes instead of your subject. Sometimes, you get better results if you add the snow effect in Photoshop afterwards, and there are a couple of ways to go about it. You can download a brush that paints snow over the image, or you can create a snow layer to add a blizzard to the image.

How to Create a Snow Layer in Photoshop

There are a number of steps needed to create a snow layer in Photoshop, but with a little patience, you can add a light snow or a full-blown blizzard to your favorite winter images.

  1. In Photoshop, select the Layer’s Palette. In the bottom right of the dialogue box that pops out, select the icon that looks like a folded piece of paper to create a new layer. You can see it in the Layer Palette, but it doesn’t change the look of the photo yet. 

    Add a new layer

    You'll know it's the right icon when you hover your mouse over it and the words "Add a new layer" appear.

  2. Make sure the new layer is selected in the Layer's Palette, then, from the the Edit menu at the top of the screen, select Fill.

  3. Select the Contents drop-down menu and select Black. Select OK when done.

    Fill the layer with black
  4. Your entire image turns black because the "Snow Layer" is in front of the image. Don’t worry. We'll fix that in a minute by turning all that black into white snow with a few tricks.

    We filled the layer with black
  5. Next is to transform the layer from black to noise. Select Filter > Noise > Add Noise.

    Let's add noise
  6. This brings up the Add Noise dialogue box. Select and move the slider in back and forth and watch what happens. You're creating noise. There is no right answer as to how much noise to add here, so do what feels right to you.

  7. Select Gaussian and Monochromatic, then select OK.

    Play with the Add Noise slider box
  8. You can use the Filter menu to play around with that noise until it looks like snow. Select Filter > Blur > Blur More.

    Blur the layer even more
  9. Your photo probably looks like pavement now. But you're getting closer to the snow effect you want.

    Now my dog photo looks like pavement!
  10. Select Image > Adjustments >Levels.

    Find the Levels option in the Image menu
  11. In the Levels dialogue box, move the black slider in from the left and the white one in from the right until they almost meet at the point of the histogram where the light begins to rise on the right side. The noise should begin to look less like pavement and more like a starry night.

    Drag the levels to make snow
  12. In Layer's Palette over on the right side of the screen, select the Effects drop-down menu (where it says "Normal") then select Screen.

    Choose Screen in the Layers palette
  13. That should make your background image visible again. You should also have some fake-looking snow overlaying the image.

    Our dog is back with snow
  14. to make it look as if the snow in the image is falling, add some Motion Blur. Select Filter > Blur > Motion Blur to bring up the Motion Blur dialogue box.

    Choose Motion Blur from the Filter menu
  15. Now you can choose the angle of the snow and how much it's moving. Feel free to play around with this.

    Choose the angle and distance of the blur

    In this example, the angle is set to 300 so the snow is coming from the right. We also set a distance of 10 pixels, to make it look like a fierce storm, but lower number of pixels would lighten the storm a bit. A different angle would change the direction of the snow.

  16. If you want to add more snow, duplicate the layer. Make sure this layer is selected in the Layer's Palette, then select Layers > Duplicate Layer. You can name it if you want in the box that pops up, then select OK.

    Duplicate the layer we made

    An alternate way to duplicate the layer is to right-click it, then select Duplicate.

  17. To make the snow layers look less uniform, you we can trick the eye by moving the layers around, just a bit. Select one of your copy layers in the Layer's Palette, then select Edit > Transform > Rotate 180 degrees.

    Make the snow look random with Transform
  18. If you have multiple layers, this won't fix all of them. To solve that, select another layer, select Edit > Free Transform, then drag the layer around until it looks sufficiently random. Do that for each of your snow layers to give it a more natural look.

    Free transform

    Don't forget to select the Accept check mark at the top of the screen after every Transform. Photoshop won't let you move on until you do.

  19. If the snow obscures your subject's face in the image, you can erase a bit of it. Select a snow layer, choose the Eraser tool from the tools menu on the left, then wipe the snow away.

    Choose the eraser tool

This won't affect the subject's face because the subject is on a different layer.