Planet Photoshop

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

If the idea of playing Mother Nature excites you, you'll love this simple technique for transforming an overcast day into a beautiful snow scene with powder-covered vegetation and falling flakes.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock (Image ID: 8436919 / Copyright: Jorge Casais)

Step 1: Open an Overcast Photo

Open an overcast photo with little or no detail in the sky.

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

Step 2: Add Ground Snow

Choose Select>Color Range. With the Select pull-down set to Sampled Colors and the Selection Preview pull-down set to None, hover over the photo and click on a bright spot in the sky. Notice the grayscale preview box near the base of the Color Range dialog. White areas represent where snow will exist and black areas represent an absence of snow. Move the Fuzziness slider to achieve a desirable quantity of snow. If cranking the slider to the maximum setting does not yield enough snow, activate the Add to Sample (+) eyedropper and click on a bright spot in the vegetation. After clicking, refine the Fuzziness amount.

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

Press OK. Click the Create a new layer icon at the base of the Layers panel to make a new layer. Choose Edit>Fill. Set the Contents pull-down to White and press OK. Choose Select>Deselect to eliminate the marching ants. To give the snow a less crisp appearance, choose Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. On a high-res file, set the Radius value around 2 pixels and press OK.

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

Note: If the snow is not intense enough, press Command-J (PC: Control-J) to duplicate the snow layer.

Step 3: Add Falling Snow

The scene is already looking quite good, but we can improve it by adding falling snow. To accomplish this, we'll use a set of free snow brushes from the good folks at Obsidian Dawn. Open a web browser and navigate to http://www.obsidiandawn.com/snow-snowflakes-photoshop-gimp-brushes. Be sure to read the Terms of Use, then download the Snow & Snowflakes Brushes. Place the SS-snow file (.abr) into a meaningful location on your hard drive and return to Photoshop. Activate the Brush tool and press D, then X to set the Foreground color to white. In the Options Bar, open the Brush Preset picker, slide over to its flyout menu and choose Load Brushes.

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

Navigate to the SS-snow brushes you recently downloaded and press Open to load these brushes at the end of the brush list. Re-open the Brush Preset picker and scroll to the bottom of the list. Click on the 2000 pixel snow2 brush.

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

Click the Create a new layer icon at the base of the Layers panel. Click once in the middle of the photo to create a square filled with snowflakes. To simulate that these flakes are close to the lens, we'll make them big and blurry. Press Command-T (Control-T) to activate Free Transform. While pressing Shift-Option (PC: Shift-Alt), grab a corner handle and scale the flakes up to a large, close-to-the-lens size.

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

Press Return (PC: Enter). Now let's add a little motion to the flakes. Choose Filter>Convert for Smart Filters, then Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Adjust the Angle and Distance settings until the foreground snow looks realistic.

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

Press OK. Now let's add one more layer of snow to represent the flakes falling farther from the lens. While pressing Command (PC: Control), click the Create a new layer icon. This makes a new layer below the current one. Return to the Brush Preset picker and choose the 2000 pixel snow4 brush.

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

Open the Brush panel and click on the words Shape Dynamics. Set the Angle Jitter to 10% so the flakes will all look slightly different.

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

Hover over the photo and click (don't drag) in various spots to create a tapestry of snowflakes covering the scene.

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

As before, choose Filter>Convert for Smart Filters, then Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Adjust the Angle and Distance settings until the flakes look believable.

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

Press OK. Here's the original sceneâ¦

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

â¦and here's the snow scene. Wow!

Transforming an Overcast Day into a Snowy Day

If you'd like to learn how to create your very own snowflakes brushes from scratch, take a look at this video tutorial on my website. (The tutorial is a 4-minute preview for non-members and free to all MSJPhotography members.)

Mark S. Johnson Photography
msjphotography.com

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