How to add snow to your photo in Photoshop

How to Add Falling Snow to Photos with Photoshop

Learn how to add realistic falling snow to your winter photos with Photoshop. A step-by-step tutorial for Photoshop 2024 and earlier.

Written by Steve Patterson.

Nothing adds to a winter photo like falling snow. And while capturing falling snow with your camera can be tricky, adding the snow later with Photoshop is easy.

In this tutorial, I show you step-by-step how to create your own falling snow effect in Photoshop. And new in this updated version, I also show you how to avoid performance issues with Photoshop when adding the snow to larger images.

Here’s an example of what the final snow effect will look like when we’re done.

A falling snow effect created with Photoshop
Falling snow created in Photoshop.

Which Photoshop version do I need?

I’m using Photoshop 2024 but any recent version will work.

Let's get started!

Download this tutorial as a print-ready PDF!

The document setup

I’ll use this photo from Adobe Stock but you can easily follow along with your own image.

The original photo.
The original photo.

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Step 1: Add a new layer for the snow

In the Layers panel, the photo is on the Background layer.

Add a new blank layer above the image by clicking the Add New Layer icon.

Clicking the Add New Layer icon.
Clicking the Add New Layer icon.

Then double-click on the new layer’s name and rename it Snow. Press Enter on a Windows PC or Return on a Mac to accept it.

Renaming the layer Snow.
Renaming the layer Snow.

Video version of this tutorial

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Step 2: Fill the layer with black

We need to fill the new layer with black.

So go up to the Edit menu in the Menu Bar and choose Fill.

Choosing Fill from the Edit menu in Photoshop.
Choosing Fill from the Edit menu.

In the Fill dialog box, set the Contents to Black and click OK.

Setting the fill contents to black.
Setting the fill contents to black.

The image is temporarily hidden from view.

The result after filling the layer with black.
The result after filling the layer with black.

Step 3: Add noise to the layer

To create the snow, start by adding some noise to the layer.

Go up to the Filter menu, choose Noise and then Add Noise.

Selecting the Add Noise filter.
Selecting the Add Noise filter.

In the dialog box, select Gaussian and Monochromatic at the bottom.

Then set the Amount of noise to around 25 percent and click OK.

The Add Noise filter settings.
The Add Noise filter settings.

Photoshop fills the layer with noise.

The result with the noise added.
The result with the noise added.

Step 4: Scale the noise

The noise will eventually become our snow effect, but one problem is that it’s too small.

So lets scale the noise by going up to the Edit menu, choosing Transform and then Scale.

Choosing the Scale command in Photoshop.
Choosing the Scale command.

In the Options Bar, make sure the link icon between the Width and Height fields is selected.

Linking the Width and Height in the Options Bar.
The Width and Height should be linked.

Then change the Width to 400 percent. The Height will change to 400 percent as well.

Scaling the width and height by 400 percent.
Scaling the width and height by 400 percent.

Click the check mark in the Options Bar to accept it.

Clicking the check mark to close the Scale command in Photoshop.
Clicking the check mark.

The noise is starting to look more like snow.

The result after scaling the noise.
The result after scaling the noise.

Related tutorial: How to use Free Transform in Photoshop

Step 5: Crop away the extra space

But here’s what could cause performance issues with Photoshop if you’re working with a larger image. Since we scaled the width and height of the noise layer by 400 percent, our document size is now that much bigger.

Notice in the Properties panel that my document’s width is now 10800 pixels, and the height is almost 7200 pixels. This could cause problems when we start applying filters to the noise because Photoshop could run out of memory.

The document width and height are now four times larger.
The document width and height are now four times larger.

The good news is, we don’t need all of that extra space so we can just crop it away.

To do that, go up to the Select menu and choose All.

Choosing the Select All command.
Choosing the Select All command.

Then go up to the Image menu and choose Crop.

Cropping the image around the selection.
Cropping the image around the selection.

Go back to the Select menu and choose Deselect.

Clearing the selection outline.
Clearing the selection outline.

The document is back to its original size and we can start adding some filters.

The extra space has been cropped away.
The extra space has been cropped away.

Related tutorial: How to crop a single layer in Photoshop

Step 6: Convert the snow layer to a smart object

But before we add any filters, let’s first convert the snow layer into a smart object. That way the filters will be applied as smart filters, which means we can go back and change their settings if we need to.

With the snow layer selected, click the Layers panel menu icon.

Opening the Layers panel menu.
Opening the Layers panel menu.

Then choose Convert to Smart Object.

Choosing the Convert to Smart Object command.
Choosing the Convert to Smart Object command.

A smart object icon appears in the lower right of the thumbnail.

The smart object icon.
The smart object icon.

Step 7: Blend the noise with the photo

Still in the Layers panel, blend the noise with the image by changing the blend mode of the smart object from Normal to Screen.

Changing the blend mode to Screen.
Changing the blend mode to Screen.

The Screen blend mode hides the black areas on the layer and leaves only the white noise visible.

The noise is now blending with the photo.
The noise is now blending with the photo.

Related tutorial: How to blend two images in Photoshop

Step 8: Add motion to the snow

To make the snow look like it’s falling, go up to the Filter menu, choose Blur and then Motion Blur.

Choosing the Motion Blur filter.
Choosing the Motion Blur filter.

In the dialog box, set the Angle to the direction you want the snow to be falling from. I’ve set mine to -65 degrees so it’s falling from the upper left.

Then adjust the amount of motion using the Distance slider. Don’t set it too high or the snow will look more like rain. Lower values work better, so I’ll set mine to 10 pixels.

Click OK to close the dialog box.

The Motion Blur filter settings.
The Motion Blur filter settings.

The Layers panel shows that the Motion Blur filter was applied as a smart filter.

You can double-click on its name to reopen the dialog box if you want to try different settings. But I’m happy with the result.

Smart filters are listed below the smart object.
Smart filters are listed below the smart object.

Also in the Layers panel, we have a new filter mask (the white thumbnail) that’s taking up a lot of space.

The smart filter mask in the Layers panel in Photoshop
Smart filters include a filter mask by default.

We don’t need the filter mask for this effect. So lets delete it by right-clicking on it and choosing Delete Filter Mask.

Deleting the filter mask to make room in the Layers panel.
Deleting the filter mask to make room in the Layers panel.

Step 9: Reduce and brighten the snow

Next we’ll reduce the amount of snow and brighten the snow at the same time.

Go up to the Image menu, choose Adjustments and then Levels.

Adding a Levels image adjustment.
Adding a Levels image adjustment.

To reduce the number of snowflakes, click on the black point slider below the left side of the histogram and begin dragging it to the right.

As you drag, you’ll see the darker snowflakes begin to disappear, leaving only the brighter flakes visible.

Dragging the black point slider to reduce the number of snowflakes.
Dragging the black point slider to reduce the number of snowflakes.

Then to brighten the remaining snowflakes, click on the white point slider below the right side of the histogram and drag it to the left.

When you’re done, click OK to close the dialog box.

Dragging the white point slider to brighten the snowflakes.
Dragging the white point slider to brighten the snowflakes.

Back in the Layers panel, notice that even though Levels is an image adjustment, not a filter, Photoshop still applied it as a smart filter which means that you can double-click on its name to reopen the dialog box and change the settings if needed.

Levels is also added as a smart filter.
Levels is also added as a smart filter.

Step 10: Duplicate the snow layer

At this point, the initial snow effect is done. But let’s add some depth to it by adding a second snow layer, this time with larger flakes so they’ll look like they were closer to the camera.

In the Layers panel, make a copy of the Snow smart object by dragging it down onto the Add New Layer icon.

Duplicating the Snow smart object.
Duplicating the Snow smart object.

The copy appears above the original, along with a copy of our smart filters so we don’t need to reapply them.

The copy includes the smart filters.
The copy includes the smart filters.

Step 11: Rotate the second snow layer

Let’s rotate the copy so the new snowflakes are not just sitting on top of the originals.

Go up to the Edit menu, down to Transform and choose Rotate 180 degrees.

Choosing the Rotate 180 degrees command.
Choosing the Rotate 180 degrees command.

Rotating the copy doubles the amount of falling snow.

The result with the copy rotated.
The result with the copy rotated.

Step 12: Make the snowflakes larger with Crystallize

To make these snowflakes larger than the originals, go up to the Filter menu, down to Pixelate and choose Crystallize.

Opening the Crystallize filter.
Opening the Crystallize filter.

Increase the Cell Size at the bottom to somewhere between 10 and 20. I’ll go with 15.

Then click OK to close the dialog box.

The Crystallize filter setting.
The Crystallize filter setting.

If the flakes look too big, or not big enough, just double-click on the Crystallize smart filter in the Layers panel and try a different setting.

The Crystallize smart filter.
The Crystallize smart filter.

Step 13: Add motion to the snowflakes

The only problem with the larger flakes is that they don’t have any motion applied.

So go back to the Filter menu, back to Blur and once again choose Motion Blur.

Adding a second Motion Blur filter.
Adding a second Motion Blur filter.

Leave the Angle the same so the snow is falling in the same direction. But because these flakes are bigger, increase the Distance to around 20 pixels. Then click OK.

Increasing the Distance for the larger snowflakes.
Increasing the Distance for the larger snowflakes.

Step 14: Reduce and brighten the larger snowflakes

Finally, let’s reduce and brighten these larger flakes by adding one more Levels adjustment.

Go back to the Image menu, back to Adjustments and choose Levels.

Adding another Levels image adjustment.
Adding another Levels image adjustment.

Then just like we did before, drag the black point slider to the right to reduce the number of flakes, and drag the white point slider to the left to brighten the ones that remain.

Then click OK to close the dialog box.

Adjusting the black and white point sliders.
Adjusting the black and white point sliders.

And with that, we have our completed falling snow effect.

Falling snow added to the photo with Photoshop.
Falling snow added in Photoshop.

And there we have it! That’s how to add falling snow to your winter photos with Photoshop.

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